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Doctrines Define Destiny

Posted on June 16, 2021

For purposes of strategy development & execution, we define doctrines as what you believe to be true about your markets, your organization and your opportunities. These fundamental beliefs serve as the foundation of your organization. And more than anything else, your doctrines will define your organization’s destiny.

Doctrines precede, and almost always supersede, your vision and strategy. They are the pillars on which organizational direction rests. And while doctrines are deeply embedded in the intuitive core of your team, they are too often poorly defined and ineffectively communicated.

A few examples of meaningful doctrines in action below:

  • “Human flight is possible.” Wright Brothers, four years before building the world’s first airplane
  • “People are intimidated by the blank page…very few consider themselves writers, but lots of people are willing to share their thoughts freely as long as you limit the expectation to a sentence (140 characters).” Twitter execs explaining micro-blogging to potential investors during its startup phase
  • “Today’s hardware stores couldn’t compete with a large, discount warehouse home improvement center.” The Home Depot founders, right after getting fired from Handy Dan Hardware and right before launching their first Hope Depot store

These doctrines proved fundamental to future success. It is no accident that these doctrines all articulate a contrarian position. Great doctrines usually do. Conventional wisdom would have said that micro-blogging was incomplete or worse–that it was dumb. Almost everyone alive in 1899 knew that human flight was impossible. And large warehouse home improvement stores hadn’t been tested, were completely unproven and would almost surely fail to deliver the service level that traditional hardware stores could provide. And yet…

In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel describes the value of taking a contrarian position. Thiel says that the place where organizations find maximum success is when they are right about something that very few others believe to be true.

Correct > Incorrect. But—Correct about the Unconventional > Correct about the conventional

As you define your core doctrines, make sure that you aren’t just capturing conventional wisdom but are instead pushing your thinking forward, uncovering secrets and clearly defining the beliefs that make your organization unique.