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How do you go about challenging the “sacred cow” beliefs that your company — or you yourself — hold?
In “Uncommon Sense: How to Turn Distinctive Beliefs Into Action,” a new article in the Spring 2012 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, authors Jules Goddard, Julian Birkinshaw and Tony Eccles from the London School of Business argue that winning strategies are grounded in distinctive beliefs that ring truer with customers and prospective customers than those of rival companies.
Being consistently and distinctively different means understanding your beliefs — or what the authors call your “uncommon sense.”
“In our experience working with companies, there are structured ways for rethinking your basic assumptions and beliefs, and for identifying potential new directions,” they write.
Here are seven steps the authors have used to start the process. The text is verbatim from their article.
- “Assemble a group of employees who are deeply familiar with how you do business — some who have been around a very long time, and some who are new to the company. Particularly useful are those who have worked for close competitors, as well as those who are known to be a little contrarian.
- Ask them individually to articulate their basic assumptions — about your business model (who the customer is, what the customer values, how you make money), about your management model (how people are motivated, how decisions are made and resources allocated, how objectives are set), and about the future of the industry.
- Their beliefs or assumptions can typically be separated into two groups: the beliefs or assumptions that almost everyone agrees about — the common beliefs; and those that only a few people identify — the uncommon beliefs (some of which are likely to look a bit odd, some plain wrong and others potentially profound).
- For the commonly held beliefs, consider how you would know if they were true. Don’t just presume that because everyone says “we are in a commodity industry” that this is necessarily a hard fact. What experiment could you do to verify or falsify this statement? The purpose of this exercise is to identify the “common nonsense” — the beliefs everyone holds that are actually not hard laws of nature.