Andrew Grove’s book Only the Paranoid Survive, published in 1999 while he was CEO of Intel, taught me a lot that keeps coming back to me in the midst of today’s economic woes.
Grove was not about you and me or even him being paranoid–rather he urged that companies cultivate a paranoid world view alongside their more optimistic world view, to anticipate and prepare for what he called “strategic inflection points.”
These are turning points in which your company is slammed by external events not of your making and out of your control. Sound familiar? If you are frightened today, it’s not paranoia–it’s reality.
But if the recession doesn’t kill you, you’ll emerge much stronger.
I recommend cultivating paranoia as a core strength of your company. It’s a great strategy when you are planning, re-evaluating products and services, cutting back on costs, revising your target filter and other steps in the whale hunters process, and especially if you have chosen to respond to an RFP, now that those are becoming even much more prevalent.
When I work with teams preparing an RFP, I am struck by the optimism that they express. “I can’t believe that they wouldn’t choose us over XYZ Company.” or, “They will be in trouble in six months,” or, “We are so much better, it is inevitable that we will win this deal.”
When you are writing a business proposal in response to an RFP, it is important that your team believe in your ability to win. But it’s even more important to assign a “paranoia team” that is constantly calling out the ways in which you can lose and the reasons that you may lose. A foolish optimism is completely misplaced.
If you’re a bit frightened of what lies ahead in this apparent recession, that’s not paranoid. That’s reason. But cultivating a little deliberate paranoia about specific changes that you observe will make you stronger and more cognizant going forward. And insisting that a paranoid perspective exists somewhere on your team will greatly increase your odds of winning a whale with an RFP response.