What if You Said “No” to More Good Ideas?

What if You Said “No” to More Good Ideas?

Everyday it seems we hear complaints from business decision-makers about overlapping and overwhelming priorities. Everything seems to be a priority, and the pressure is on to get it ALL done, whether it’s truly mission-critical or not.

Is it time to eliminate more goals and focus your company on the few that are truly important?

In a survey by the strategic consulting giant Booz & Company Inc.*, companies with “(E)xecutives who say their companies have very few (one to three) firm-wide strategic priorities are the most likely to say their companies have above average profitability and revenue growth (compared to those having more firm-wide strategic priorities or no list of priorities at all).”

Covey’s Four Disciplines of Execution suggests that pursuing more than 2-3 Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) actually reduces the probability of success. Covey’s solution is to cut through the whirlwind and weed out the unimportant goals to allow laser-like focus on the few most important priorities.

That’s what Apple does. Apple’s COO, Tim Cook, recently described their goal-setting approach in the following way, “(W)e are the most focused company that I know of, or have read of, or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose. The table each of you are sitting at today, you could probably put every product on it that Apple makes, yet Apple’s revenue last year was $40 billion.”

Focus and identification of trade-offs is critical for business success, and saying “no” is as important as saying “yes”. What good ideas could you cut so your company can focus on the few important ones?

* UPDATE: As of 2014, the new brand for ‘Booz & Company’ is ‘Strategy&’