The Clarity Paradox

Posted by Tom Locke on December 15th, 2012 filed in Business, Education, Life

Following up on my last submission regarding the determination of the highest point of contribution, I would like to share another observtion made by Greg McKeown, contributor of  “The Disciplined Pursuit of  Less” for the Harvard Business Review blog network.

It is his contention that the reason successful people and organizations don’t automatically become/remain successful is due to what he calls “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.

Supporting this claim are the companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”

Both McKeown and Collins believe that this is true for both companies and careers.

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