The Parable of the Japanese Steel Executives – Don’t Even Try To Do Everything; Do! One! Thing! Very, Very Well
Let’s call this the parable of the Japanese Steel Executives.
I remember an interview years ago with Walter Mondale, then the Ambassador of Japan. He was touring the largest steel plant in Japan, and he asked his hosts, the leaders of the company, what they thought of Bethlehem Steel. After 30 minutes of Japanese deference and politeness, they paused and asked Mr. Mondale why Bethlehem Steel was branching off so far afield from steel with their investments/holdings. Mr. Mondale said that it dawned on him at that moment that the Japanese steel men loved steel – while the American steel men chased after profits. Mondale’s conclusion: the men that loved steel would end up winning the steel wars against the men who chased profits.
Or, in other words – don’t try to do everything, just do! one! thing!, and do it very, very well.
I thought of this as I read the always helpful/educational/useful Farhad Manjoo this morning. He writes about the demise of the HP Tablet, and the absolute dominance of the iPad. (Yes, I have one – – yes, I love it!).
He states that there is actually an opening for a “competitor” to the iPad. No, not quite a competitor. Anyone who can afford a Tablet will opt for the iPad. It is simply that much better than all the pretenders. Instead, there is an opening for those who wish they could afford an iPad, and can’t. The idea is a less expensive, “partial” tablet (my phrase). He describes such a lower priced gizmo, and suggests that Amazon just might be able to make it work. But it won’t be a competitor to the iPad, it will instead open up that next market “down” from the iPad users.
Here’s the line that grabbed me:
In the tablet market, doing more stuff with a worse user experience isn’t as good as doing less but doing it better.
(Read the full article, Do Less, Do It Better: A recipe for Amazon’s rumored iPad competitor).
Doing less, but doing it better. Now this is a formula for success, regardless of your endeavor. Do your one thing; keep to that one thing; and do it better than anyone else.
So, what is your one thing? And, how good are you at it? Define it carefully. Get better at it. Become the best. There’s your agenda for the next few months/years.