Monday, September 21, 2009

The Strategic Fumble

Last night I wrote about how the concept of the interception translates symbolically into strategic business decisions. Throughout the day, a few of my colleagues and friends have inquired whether the fumble represents the same concept.

I believe that the fumble would symbolize a fundamentally different business mistake. Within football, fumbles usually occur when a player holding the ball is hit in a particular way, causing him to drop the ball onto the ground. Within business, this would translate to competitive pressure forcing a company to make a strategic misstep. The interception usually stems from a self-made mistake, whereas the fumble comes from external actions.

An example that comes to my mind is the recent mistakes made by the U.S. automakers. In particular, during the late 1990s and early 2000s the Detroit-based automakers blindly imitated both their domestic and international competitors by dedicating the majority of their production capacity and marketing funds to over-sized Sports Utility Vehicles. Although Japanese companies sold similarly large automobiles, they also continued to focus design, research, and development on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

Like in football, it's usually easier to recover from a fumble than an interception because the offense has a fair chance of picking up the ball.
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