Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, sets out a principle that since all things are small in their beginnings, it is not simple to recognize the complexity of future implications. Further, he suggests that once a particular event takes on momentum, it can exponentially multiply unintended consequences so rapidly that it may be unmanageable. Gladwell has supported his principle with many interesting stories that have been reported in hindsight – after the fact. These stories are effective in that they are attention-grabbing. However, applying the tipping point principle in hindsight is problematic. Today’s business leaders have so many complex problems to solve that examining the possible unintended consequences of each is problematic, if not impossible.
Gladwell’s tipping point principle is not so much an answer as it is a dilemma. It is not an answer because leaders seldom, if ever, have the privilege of working on just one problem at a time or of making decisions with perfect or reliable information. He builds his tipping point principle using only three of the sixteen core leadership skills. This is not a criticism as much as it is recognition of a limitation.
In combination with Gladwell’s principle, S-3L explains how to turn everyday business dilemmas into strategies that enhance problem-solving, decision-making, and unintended consequences – in real-time, not in hindsight.
Many leaders, in hindsight, realize that their decisions hindered their goal. But hindsight is not interesting when the unintended consequences are at a tipping point.
To find out more about what today’s leader should know, visit Leading for Greatness, S-3L on this Web site.
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