An unknown future and the need to adapt because of changing circumstances has never been more real to us than in this year. How then do we plan for success? We need to challenge our thinking to look at new and different ways that could work for us. It’s why I’m interested in exploring Frans Johansson’s ideas and research in his book Click Moments.

Pathways to success are not guaranteed

From 1996 in America, a sure-fire way to make double the income than the average citizen was to become a lawyer. This was not a secret. So guess how many people decided to become lawyers?

From 2007 to 2010 131,000 people entered the legal profession. At the same time the industry shed 90,000 positions. The problem was a combination of an oversupply of lawyers and reduction in requirements with legal services now being provided on-line or some tasks being outsourced out of the country. As a result in 2010 only 68% of graduates found jobs practicing law.

The very fact law had been a reliable path to success started a chain reaction that ended up preventing the very success they were seeking.

This is Johansson’s point: The faster the world changes, the faster people or organizations can catch up with you.

The speed of change has not only increased because of technology but because people across cultures and industries are ever more interconnected, even more so given the global pandemic. This means others can easily copy and adopt successful practices, quickly diminishing advantages. At the same time however, there is a greater frequency of encounters with diverse people and situations which otherwise would not have happened, in turn igniting innovation.

We see patterns

Our brains are wired to seek order and patterns. This ability supports our memory, language use and facial recognition among other advantages. The problem of course, is that it sees patterns that aren’t there.

What happens is that we make connections and work out logic after the fact. It all makes sense in retrospect. This is so common that it has a name. It is called post-hoc rationalization. Duncan Watts describes this phenomena in detail in his book aptly titled, Everything Makes Sense Once You Know The Answer.

Johansson argues that humans can’t handle the idea that the world is random, despite the fact that it is. He uses the example of the strange and wonderful world of Rock, Paper, Scissors Championships. That’s right, not your common or garden variety of choosing who is going to take the garbage out, but full on, intense, competitive, World Championships.

The proven way to win is in fact to be random, that is to play any of the three at any time all the time. However, whole strategies are worked out based on different combinations, or what best to start with. So even though we know that serendipity matters, even if we know that luck plays a part, we still need a rationale to act.

It’s the doing that matters

What Johansson is getting to is that the intricate details of our strategy are not nearly as important as getting moving. He quotes Herb Kelleher, founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, one of the most successful companies in history, “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.”

Therefore the purpose of the strategy is not so much to dictate or predict the right path but to motivate us to act.

What I glean from this is that whilst working out our plan we mustn’t be so married to the process that we don’t start getting on with it. Action creates its own momentum and as we do we learn and grow which informs our thinking to be able to keep on doing giving us a greater chance of success.

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