What is Multidexterity?
Both CEOs have demonstrated versatile maneuvering and unconventional thinking that put them ahead of their peers.
They are what we call multidexter leaders who see strategy as a multidimensional game where brains and people matter more than seniority or “years of experience”.
They are not biased by conventional boundaries in established industries which we know limit the creativity of organizations and the markets where they do business. For these leaders, a dollar is a dollar and they are ready to go and get it wherever they can leverage their resources and people.
Multidexter leaders are difficult to come by and even harder to predict. They are jacks of all trades but masters of none. They take their companies in multiple directions and get involved in many things at once, but just at the right level of depth where they don’t get emotionally attached to the process nor fall in love with things that can become obsolete like technology, people and products.
They are expert generalists, who leave the details of execution to the real experts. They are not in search of intellectual wins, but of good old earnings.
Multidexter leaders are not formal strategists, but empirical practitioners who follow their guts when they see a good opportunity and run experiments until they crack the code. Their management style is not based on complex theories and frameworks but in practical common sense. They move along multiple paths and change direction as needed based on their continual assessment of the space.
Their thinking is, by nature, at odds with those of formal strategy gurus. “When it comes to strategy, ponder less and do more” is Jack Welch’s advice to aspiring CEOs.
In his view, executives must be quick on their feet when making strategic decisions and should never stop their work by trying to absorb overly complex information and facing paralysis due to over analysis.
In Winning, he sends a clear warning: “You just should not make strategy too complex. The more you think about it, and the more you grind down into the data and details, the more you tie yourself in knots about what to do”.
As a business executive, you need to learn how to be comfortable making decisions with information that is just good enough, then implement the strategy with a feedback loop that facilitates adjustments as we go.
Some critics may argue that the bias to action observed in multidexter leaders like Welch and Bezos leads them to make a handful of expensive mistakes here and there, because of the high speed with which they make decisions, and there’s probably some truth in that.
But if you look at the stories of success and failure in your industry, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that making a well thought out decision that turned out to be bad is way better most times than not making a decision at all.
With that, the one mistake that you’ll seldom see these multidexter leaders make is not making a decision.
For driven executives who aspire to become multidexter leaders like Jack Welch and Jeff Bezos is that we wrote our book, Strategy for Executives, which can now be downloaded for free here.