Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Brefi Group Limited

Stockdale Paradox had slipped past me.

Admiral James Stockdale was tortured over 20 times and survived more than seven years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. He went on to be Ross Perot's running mate in the 1992 US presidential election.

Collins went for lunch with Stockdale. Having read in detail about how Stockdale survived appalling conditions, repeated torture and the uncertainty of whether he would ever be freed, Collins asked him the secret.

"I never lost faith in the end of the story." he said. "I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
After a pause to digest this, Collins asked "Who didn't make it out?"
"Oh, that's easy," he said. "The optimists."

"The optimists? I don't understand." (Collins) said, now completely confused, given what he had said earlier.

"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.'

Another long pause, as they walked. Then he turned to Collins and said, "This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

In their research into the difference between those companies that survived and those that failed, Collins' team realised that those that thought like Stockdale succeeded over those that thought like optimists.

A good message for companies struggling to survive a recession.

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