Bullets Vs. Cannonballs
There's an important distinction between "bullets" and "cannonballs" from business expert Jim Collins we may want to consider this fall.
On Oct. 23, 2001, Apple released its first iPod, a sleek device by traditional standards that had the potential to revolutionize the way people listened to music.
A year later, the iPod made up less than 3 percent of Apple’s net sales, but the loyal users seemed to love it. So, the company opted to take the next step in its music pursuits.
It negotiated deals across the industry and soon launched iTunes, allowing customers to purchase songs for 99 cents each. Apple then decided to make iTunes available for Windows users.
Soon, iPod sales more than doubled — and the music industry was forever changed.
Business expert Jim Collins shared the iPod example in his book “Great By Choice” to highlight the difference between what he considers “bullets” and “cannonballs” — and whether we’re coaches, executives or teachers, the distinction may be relevant to us this fall.
The iPod is what Collins considers a bullet, a somewhat low-cost, low-risk product that could still make a splash.
A cannonball, on the other hand, is a big picture, macro strategy often aimed at disrupting an industry. In Apple’s case, it was creating iTunes for Windows and going all in on its music pursuits.
•lower-risk strategies or tests that indicate what may work
•must fire enough to get reflective data
•have lower short-term reward
•can pivot or shift focus if they fail to connect
•macro strategies based on bullet effectiveness
•can be costly and even fatal if they misfire
•will often either take the organization to new heights or lead to its collapse
•little turning back once a target or objective is decided upon
Many of us have ambitious goals for the weeks and months ahead. But while we likely have the right intentions, we might want to further consider the bullets and cannonballs framework — and two key questions:
1. Are there strategies we can take to minimize our long-term risks and get a better sense of what will work?
2. How can we gather more relevant facts and data before taking action?
Our answers to these can be the difference between a bullseye for our team — and missing our mark entirely.