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如何跨越现实和梦想之间的鸿沟

Tom Kelley/David Kelley 2013年10月16日

通常的情况是,大家都知道应该做什么,但却迟迟不能付诸行动,最终卡在现实中,陷入困境。然而,事实上,要想突破这种困境,实现创造性的突破,只需迈出第一步,而不要顾虑中途可能出现的任何小挫折。简单点说,一点一点来。不管现实和理想之间的距离有多遥远,一旦开始行动,我们就能一点一点地缩小这个差距。

    我们当中有许多人在想要行动和采取行动之间摇摆不定。前方未知的道路充满变数,令人望而却步。有时境况仿佛与我们处处作对,我们发现自己寸步难行。

    鲍勃•萨顿和杰弗里•普费弗教授将企业文化中的这种犹豫称为“知行差距”,也就是我们知道自己应该做的事与我们实际做的事两者间的差距。当空谈取代了行动时,“知行差距”可能会导致公司的瘫痪。

    了解到知行差距之后,我们会发现它在生活中无处不在。比如,我们曾在伊士曼柯达公司(Eastman Kodak Company)亲眼见到它的存在。20世纪90年代中期的一个寒冷的春天,艾迪欧公司(IDEO)的一个小组来到纽约州罗契斯特市,参观柯达管理团队。在那里,我们发现这个领袖团队具有渊博的专业知识,他们至少在理性上知道,摄影的未来将是数字化。

    回顾往事,商业史学家很容易将柯达失败的原因归结为管理层太过天真。但事实并非如此。实际上,我们必须加快速度,才能跟上柯达的首席执行官乔治•费舍尔那活跃的思路。没人能说柯达缺乏数码摄影的知识。实际上他们在1975年就发明了数码相机,随后研发了全世界首个百万像素级传感器。柯达占据先机,本应获得长久的优势。那么为何所有的这些知识和先动优势转化成为果断的行动?

    首先,传统阻碍了创新。柯达辉煌的过去太过诱人。实际上,柯达已经在过去的一百年中占领了消费者摄影行业,在一些市场的占有率甚至高达90%。相比之下,数码化的冒险似乎风险过高,而柯达也并没有给愿意在全新的领域赌上自己职业生涯的管理层提供足够的“软着陆措施”。面对数码市场强有力的全球竞争对手,柯达知道前路荆棘密布,对失败的恐惧让它的管理层裹足不前。

    柯达深陷于知行差距的沟壑之中,它们依然牢牢依附于20世纪给他们带来巨大成功的化学胶片业务,没能对21世纪的数码时代进行充分的投资。我们在柯达看到的并不是是信息的匮乏,而是将愿景转化为有效行动的缺失。身为美国曾经最强大的品牌之一,柯达最终迷失了方向。

    在竞争中落后的公司没有哪家是因为完全的原地踏步才失败的。不过有时候我们的努力会由于投入变革的程度不足而付诸东流。“我会试试的”更有可能会变成三心二意、半途而废的承诺,而非果断的行动。斯坦福大学设计学院(Stanford d.school)教务主任伯尼•罗斯通过一个实验验证了自己的这个观点。他的学生说,实验虽然简短,传达的信息却意味深长。他抓着一瓶水,让学生们试着把它从他手中拿走。面对这位头发花白,在斯坦福设计项目组(Stanford Design Program)工作了50年的老教授,学生们在抢走水瓶时往往会犹豫。他们最初的尝试毫无所获。面对着高大魁梧的年轻人和位高权重的首席执行官的争夺,这位八十多岁老人的手抓得越来越紧。

    之后,伯尼订立了新规则。他让大家不要试着把水瓶抢走,而是直接夺走。下一个人跨步上前,成功地抢下了水瓶。是什么改变了?按照伯尼的解释,“试一试”的想法隐藏了一个微妙的借口。仿佛今日只是试试罢了,真正的行动会在将来不确定的某一刻开始。而为了达到目标,冲破你面前的阻碍,你必须专注于马上解决问题。或者按照另一位充满智慧、经验丰富的老师尤达所言,把它看作星球大战(Star Wars)中的卢克•天行者,“要么做,要么不做,没有尝试一说。”  

    Many of us get stuck between wanting to act, and taking action. The uncertainty of the uncharted path ahead can be daunting. Sometimes it feels as if circumstances are conspiring against us, and we find ourselves riveted in place.

    In corporate cultures, that hesitation can translate into what professors Bob Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer call the "knowing-doing gap:" the space between what we know we should do and what we actually do. The "knowing-doing gap" can lead to company paralysis when talk becomes a substitute for action.

    After learning about the knowing-doing gap, we began to see it everywhere. For example we witnessed it first-hand at Eastman Kodak Company. On a cold spring day in the mid-1990s, an IDEO team travelled to Rochester, New York for an audience with the Kodak executive team. We found a group of leaders with deep expertise who at least intellectually understood that the future of photography was digital.

    Looking back, business historians may be tempted to suggest that Kodak's leadership was naïve. But that was not the case. In fact, we had to race to keep up with CEO George Fisher's agile mind. And no one could say Kodak lacked knowledge of digital photography. They had actually invented the digital camera in 1975, and later pioneered the world's first megapixel sensor. Kodak had a head start that should have yielded lasting advantage. So why didn't all that knowledge and first-mover advantage turn into decisive action?

    For starters, tradition got in the way of innovation. Kodak's glorious past was just too alluring. Kodak had essentially owned consumer photography for a hundred years, with market shares in some segments as high as 90%. By contrast, digital ventures all seemed so risky, and Kodak wasn't providing enough "soft landings" for managers willing to take career risks in those new areas. Facing strong global competitors in the digital market, Kodak knew that it would struggle, and fear of failure transfixed the management team.8

    Caught in the knowing-doing gap, Kodak clung too closely to the chemistry-based business that had been so successful for them in the 20th century, under-investing in the digital world of the 21st. What we saw at Kodak was not a lack of information but the failure to turn insight into effective action. As a result, one of the most powerful brands in America lost its way.

    No company that falls behind the competition is guilty of standing completely still. But sometimes our efforts fail because of the level of commitment to change. "I'll try" can become a half-hearted promise of follow-through rather than decisive action. Stanford d.school academic director Bernie Roth demonstrates this idea with a brief exercise that his students say delivers a lasting message. He holds out a water bottle and asks them to try to take it from him. Facing grey-haired Bernie, a 50-year veteran of the Stanford Design Program, students usually hesitate as they try to grab it from him. Their initial efforts yield nothing. His grasp just grows more ironclad as the strapping 20-year-olds and powerful CEOs try to wrestle the bottle away from the octogenarian.

    Bernie then reframes the exercise. He says to stop trying and just do it -- take it from him. The next person strides forward and successfully wrenches the bottle away. What changed? As Bernie explains it, a subtle excuse lies in the idea of "trying." It's as if today is for attempts, and the real action will happen at some vague future moment. To achieve your goal, to topple the barriers that stand in your way, you have to be focused on getting it done now. Or as Yoda, another wise-and-seasoned master, put it to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, "Do or do not. There is no try."  

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