An Apple board member and Silicon Valley “coach” talks about why he believes Ron Johnson was booted from JC Penny.

The thing about Bill Campbell’s explanation is that it’s ridiculous. When I read it, I can’t help but think that if Ron Johnson had tried what Campbell suggests, then Campbell would be criticizing Johnson for keeping too much of the old business and culture and not making a big enough break from the past to truly implement a new model. Campbell is basically saying the innovator’s dilemma is bogus.

And it might be. And Campbell might be right. But we have only one data point! and no counterfactual. This is a huge problem with business (and macro, and all social science, and just about everything in life that isn’t physics). We try hard to come up with explanations for why things don’t work. The fact is, those explanations are almost always bogus and even if they happen to be correct, they’re not based on any “laws of nature” so they provide absolutely no true guidance about how to behave in the future. To much post hoc storytelling is a really bad thing. It gives a false sense of understanding.

-JD Cross

 

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