Three rugby referees share best practice during their World Cup preparation course
- The first referee says: “I whistle for every foul”.
- The second referee says: “I whistle every foul I see”.
- The third referee says: “When I whistle, it’s a foul”.
This story, which you can easily transfer to your professional world, distinguishes three conceptions of reality:
- The first arbiter is a positivist. For him, it is possible to objectively break down a complex reality into distinct elements, and then, thanks to principles and laws, to fully understand, improve and even predict its evolution. This is the position of René Descartes.
- The second arbiter is an interpretivist. He accepts his human subjectivity, which introduces an element of inability to grasp the entirety of reality, but also a form of interpretation linked to beliefs and social conventions. Here we find the notion of bounded rationality, which earned Herbert Simon his Nobel Prize in economics.
- The third arbiter is a constructivist. He postulates that reality is socially constructed by human beings, and that this representation can deviate significantly from objective reality. This posture corresponds to the postmodern philosophy of Jean Baudrillard.
You’ll find these three approaches in corporate strategy:
- The Cartesian posture is that of the classic tools of strategy, from matrices to competitive forces, from the experience curve to SWOT. It’s a systematic, analytical and rational approach, in which strategy is conceived like an architect designing a building.
- The posture of bounded rationality is one that takes into account the impact of culture and experience, recognizing that companies develop their strategy on the basis of their past successes and failures, and that their future trajectory is an extrapolation of the path they have already travelled. Implicit thought patterns mean that some strategic elements are over-interpreted and others downplayed, without you really being aware of it.
- The constructivist posture reminds us that many strategic elements considered as data are in fact constructs. Key success factors are most often the result of established competitors’ strategies. Growth rates are the result of investment decisions. Management styles are collectively accepted conventions.
In our Worlds© approach, the implementation of a new strategy depends first and foremost on the alignment of modes of thought and action with that strategy.
This is what we call the World of Performance, your Desired World. This Desired World needs to be analyzed in relation to the current World, which already exists and which dictates current decisions and actions, often for a long time.
In the deliberate construction of this Desired World, we can ask ourselves which referee we are closest to.
- Is our Desired World objectively the most relevant for executing this strategy, regardless of the residual biases of our current World (referee 1)?
- Is it the best we can come up with, given our history, our management team and the constraints we face (referee 2)?
- Finally, will it be effective precisely because we’ve made the effort to make this Desired World explicit, and that it will help us to “bend reality” like Steve Job. Our entrepreneurial will is, in the final analysis, the essential thing… (referee 3)
The rules of rugby are so complex, and the players and coaches know how to play with them so well, that the referee plays a major role in the success of the match. He needs to combine 3 approaches:
- Aim for maximum rationality by knowing precisely all the rules and the way the players are going to play them,
- Be willing to make choices, because if he whistles for every foul, there’s no game.
- And if he has any doubts or makes a mistake, to stick to it so as not to lose the thread of his match and ensure the credibility of the whole.
For the manager in charge of a strategic plan, a merger or a transformation, it’s the same thing. He is the referee of the transformation, his transformation.
We help them to build the most effective Desired World, starting with an initial approach based on inputs, benchmarks and measurements. We then lead a co-construction process with the management team, giving them the tools they need to be aware of their current personal and collective Worlds. Finally, we train the creators and transmitters of this Desired World to embody it with maximum authenticity, showing them that, in the final analysis, they are the arbiters of this Desired World, and that responsibility always remains in their hands.