What strategy did the winners use to win, he asked.
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Randomness is the right answer.
His point: executives spend so much time logically, thoughtfully planning their next moves. But often what wins is a byproduct of serendipity and chance.
What happens to car companies as they carefully analyze their competitive set, asked Johansson. He flashed images of Audi and Volvo cars that had become indistinguishable. Logical planning leads to sameness, he suggested, and sameness is not the path to the breakthrough ideas demanded by today’s turbulent environment.
“Randomness and serendipity are what make us stand apart.”
On your way home, he urged the conference attendees, stop in an airport newsstand and buy five magazines you would never have bought. Read them on the flight home and seek to detect trends, patterns. Along the way you may also learn some things about wedding planning or maybe it will be knitting.
“Innovation matters because the world is changing so fast,” said Johansson. “The uncertain is what drives success.”
Johansson, well known on the current speaking circuit, is Sweden raised, born to a Swedish father and an American mother of African American and Native American descent. He credited that heritage with helping him see diverse assemblages of dots – but he insisted this is a learnable skill.
“Why is innovation so difficult? We rely too much on logic. What’s the alternative? Not relying on logic. The world,” said Johansson, “is not necessarily logical.”