Vijay Govindarajan has a great mental model that distills strategy and innovation into a simple 3-box model: Manage the Present, Selectively Abandon the Past, and Create the Future. People think they spend much more time creating and building the future than they actually do. According to Vijay we spend an overwhelming majority of our time simply managing the present state of affairs, instead of executing on a vision of the future.
This isn’t to say we don’t think about the future and how we would like it to be. As Dan Gilbert reminds us in Stumbling on Happiness, we spend a great deal of time envisioning the future and fantasizing about what will make us happy – the car, the job, the house, the spouse, whatever. [Gilbert also describes why we often make mistakes about what we think will make us happy but he gives solutions – go read it. Awesome book.] Vijay’s point is that we spend precious little time actually doing anything concrete to achieve that envisioned future – that basically the present can be so demanding of our time it consumes our attention with tasks instead of truly strategic execution. This all makes sense but I was particularly intrigued by Vijay’s suggestion that we also need to be selectively abandoning the past. I posted about this recently after listening to Jim Collins on “Start your stop-doing list.”
We have a bunch of QuickTalks featuring Vijay and we’re scheduling to produce more with him shortly. Enjoy!