I ONCE GOT A call from an $11 billion operating arm of a big manufacturing company. They explained that their main competition, a large producer of aircraft engines, was eating their business for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The market share was roughly 85/15. Something was clearly amiss. Could it be that their new business and client presentations needed work? Would I come and take a look?

I flew out to the client, sat in on a couple of key presentations, and wound up stunned by an apparent paradox: how could such intelligent, competent men and women—top managers, division heads, talented engineers—be so patently inept? I came up with a long laundry list of things I thought might help turn the situation around, got the OK ...

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