Business Innovation: Hamsters Only Bounce Once

Hamsters only bounce once—next time I will read the fine print.  This was the lesson I learned today from my thirteen-year-old son as he tried to hold my nine-year-old son’s hamster—I keep wanting to insert a ‘p’ after the ‘m’, but my inability to spell will not affect the hapmster’s condition.

So, from hamsters to the Soviets—those too young to remember the Soviets, Google it.  I am reading a book about the latter years of Stalin’s reign.  In the book Nikita Khrushchev, while dedicating a school, reportedly stated the USSR needed highly productive, healthy scientists, engineers, and gold-medal athletes.

The implication of Nikita’s pronouncement was the country did not need any poets, philosophers, and priests.  It needed productivity that could be measured and quantified; success that could be timed with a stopwatch.

Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but those few paragraphs reminded me immediately of how individual American corporations are run.  After all, is not that what our firms do?  We measure and quantify and time.  Whether it is earnings per share or inventory or supply change.  We tend to think and act that business success is all about the numbers, that if we study them hard enough, we will divine how to move forward.

How well is that working?  The hamster wheel is no longer spinning.  How many new ideas have resulted from the approach of quantification?  Every company can measure.  It just so happens what they have been measuring is declining revenues.

Things that do not measure well include strategy and innovation.  Firms cannot increase innovation by twenty percent or execute strategy fifteen seconds faster.  Perhaps there is merit in placing less emphasis on quantitative efforts.  Is it possible that a more qualitative focus would improve the quantitative results?

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