“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less."---General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army
A rose is a rose is a tulip? No, that’s not right. A rose is a rose is ... well, by any other name, I think it’s still a rose. Right?
We’re pretty famous in this country for euphemisms, aren’t we, particularly for unwelcome issues. Eternal rest, cement shoes, adult entertainment ... I think you catch my meaning.
There are also a lot of ways that the entrepreneurial mentality has been described. We first read about “constructive paranoia,” a phrase popularized by Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive. It’s hard to argue with his mantra: “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” He expanded upon this theorem in an Esquire interview in 2000 saying, “A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation.”
In short, nothing stays the same. The only thing that changes is change itself and as others start to get up in your grille, you need to be hyper-alert so your organization doesn’t become yesterday’s news. Grove was a man of action, and driven by his “constructive paranoia”, believed “you have to pretend you're 100 percent sure. You have to take action; you can't hesitate or hedge your bets. Anything less will condemn your efforts to failure.”
Then there's Jim Collins with the concept of "Productive Paranoia”, outlined in his latest book, Great by Choice. Like Mr. Grove, Mr. Collins believes things are always changing. The leaders of the 10x companies he describes are always asking, “what if”? He, too, believes that successful executives must be hypersensitive to changing conditions: “The 10x winners in our research always assumed that conditions can -- and often do -- unexpectedly change, violently and fast.”
Persistently successful companies don’t wait for the storm to strike, they prepare. They manage conservative balance sheets, hoarding cash in ways that most of wish we had done prior the onset of the unexpectedly harsh Great Recession appearing from the nether mist in late 2008. Mr. Collins challenges us in his book to adopt a culture of productive paranoia: “Regarding the biggest threats and dangers facing your enterprise, how much time before the risk profile changes?”
Now comes along Muhtar Kent, the intense CEO of Coca-Cola. He was recently interviewed in a Fortune article, and described his entrepreneurial passion as being "constructively discontent." When asked what he meant by that, he said, “Not fast enough, not innovative enough, not entrepreneurial enough. It's all about an entrepreneurial mentality."
You’ll note that these concepts are rooted in “paranoia” and amplified by more positive terms like “constructive” and “productive,” to reflect that it’s all for the good ... but these phrases aren’t really actionable. They identify an enduring state of mind required to be a successful entrepreneur, with paranoia at its root, but what about after that?
So, I’m going to take it up a notch with my own concept: Destructive Enrichment, which is the next step after you get your black belt in paranoia. It’s meant to signify that it’s time for action, the most difficult aspect of change underlying the entrepreneurial struggle.