Chapter 6. Phase III: Select

Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them—and then the opportunity to choose.

C. Wright Mills

Killing Off Bad Ideas So Good Ideas Can Thrive

At a three-year product strategy meeting at Apple during the early 1990s, the McKinsey hired guns presented something I now refer to as the “99-idea slide” as the final summary of a strategy presentation. It was chock-full of information, presented in a visually compelling way. It showed all the viable product strategies we could pursue. With its combined richness and graphical simplicity, the 99-idea slide wowed all of us.

Shortly after the presentation, the meeting broke up. Apparently, we were “done” with our strategy process, and we had an impressive PowerPoint deck to show for it. I was befuddled. I wondered what I was missing. Maybe other people had a larger view or perspective—some special awareness—that helped everything make sense. It didn’t seem like we’d actually made any decisions, but perhaps we had and I had missed it. The 99-idea slide was impressive, but I wasn’t sure what it meant for the work I was leading. Was someone going to tell me what the implications were? Or was it assumed that I already knew?

As it turned out, it wasn’t just me; we were all unclear. Not one of the participants knew how to put the strategy into ...

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