Structural stupidity in strategy
Four fast-tracks to strategic failure
Jonathan Haidt, the social psychologist, professor, and social critic, recently described "structural stupidity."
As he put it, “you have very smart people, highly educated, highly intelligent, but you put them in a situation in which dissent is punished severely. And what happens? They go silent. And when—when the moderates, or when anyone is afraid to question the dominant view, the organization, the institution, gets stupid.”
Strategy-making is both institutional and social. It takes big organizations to do big things. And it takes many people working in synch to make those big organizations go.
So there’s an intersection between Haidt’s observation and strategy-making. There are at least four related structurally-stupid pitfalls in organizational culture that lead to poor straetgy-making. I've lived and worked in all four at varying times and so I’ve seen each in person. Chances are you have too.
The man with the plan. The single point of failure model. Today this is on display through Vladimir Putin's distinctly distant leadership style. Strategic decision is made by one person and one person alone. No consultation. No discussion. There is no hierarchy, there is no ladder, there's just one person at the top. That's it. The upside is speed and unity in moving out on orders, but the more-massive-downside is the likelihood for error and miscalculation is exponentially greater. Simply put, you cannot alone do big and great things. You cannot alone orchestrate a large changes in human affairs.