Monday, March 20, 2023
Home Success Stories 4 Ways to Avoid the Formula Trap

4 Ways to Avoid the Formula Trap

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the popular movie Bohemian Rhapsody, Ray Foster, the head of Queen’s , spoke with Freddie Mercury about their previous record’s success and expressed his desire to repeat that success with their next record. Freddie stops him and plays an opera recording, illustrating his desire to do something different. Ray pushes back, stating, “ work. We like formulas.” In response, Freddie argues, “Formulas are a complete and utter waste of time.” The band goes on to create the song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” one of the best-selling rock singles of all time, recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the number one song of all time.

Like Ray, we like formulas. In , we rely on formulas to provide a pseudo guarantee of future success. If someone did it and it worked, we try to replicate it to achieve the same results. However, formulas have flaws. Formulas don’t work in all contexts and situations. They can create a false sense of security and produce results that may be counterproductive. Business leaders should be cautious when adopting a formula, regardless of its prior success.

Related: How Can Entrepreneurs Enhance Their Creativity?

Consider this scenario. You are leading your team to create a company strategy to help differentiate you from the competition and catapult growth. You review various best practice approaches and select one the team will adopt. Everyone goes through the process, resulting in a perfect strategic plan. Or is it? Typically, outcomes are less than stellar, with plans either being ineffective, unadopted or simply collecting dust before the next round of meetings. Why?

This is the problem with formulas. If you use a boxed cake mix to bake a cake and follow the directions to the letter, you get a cake. But you get the exact cake everyone who used the same mix gets. It is no different, no better. What makes plans, strategies or approaches stand out is what makes them different. Formulas may provide the framework, but the value comes with unique insight and customization.

Therefore, you can’t rely on formulas alone. Too many organizations continue to fall into the trap of relying on formulas to generate success, growth and . However, there are four ways companies can avoid the formula trap.

Formula correlation does not equal causation

A best-selling author once claimed creative companies, such as Animation Studios, all have centralized restrooms. He argued this was the formula for creativity. By locating the toilets in the middle of a company’s offices, it led to more chances of encounters among employees from different departments who might not otherwise interact with one another. While most would agree that Pixar is a successful company, the bathroom correlation does not prove causation. Most experts attribute Pixar’s creativity to its nurturing peer culture, which allows employees to get candid feedback on their unfinished work.

Related: 3 Ways to Know If Your Growth Strategy Is Actually Helping You Grow

Formula context is highly influential

McDonald’s is famous for using a formula of granting geographically nonexclusive licenses to franchisees. Because it is perceived as a successful formula, many new franchisers have adopted this same practice. However, has shown that granting nonexclusive licenses increases the likelihood that a new franchiser will fail.

Prospective franchisees fear their exclusivity will suffer if another unit of the same opens nearby. New franchisees need franchisees to grow, and the non-exclusive formula isn’t well suited to an up-and-coming brand. McDonald’s itself followed an exclusivity policy in its early years while still growing.

Formulas have a limited shelf life

When became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, he implemented a formula known as the “ offense.” With that offense, Walsh led the 49ers to championships during the 1981, 1984 and 1988 seasons. While the team went on to win two more Super Bowls, the “West Coast offense” benefits declined after other teams began implementing similar formulas with their teams.

Related: 5 Rock-Solid Leadership Strategies That Drive Success

Formulas have hidden risks

Research on technology startups in Silicon Valley found that the commitment management model, which focuses on hiring employees based on cultural fit and developing strong emotional bonds with those employees, has been the most successful. Startups using this formula are less likely to fail and more likely to go public than those who use other approaches. However, the same study found that switching that structure to another after launch triples the likelihood of .

As with so many things, the successful use of formulas is found in moderation. Be selective about which formulas you choose as a foundation and take special care in customizing and adapting them to your organization’s distinct context. Formulas can help improve performance but cannot generate revolutionary and differentiating outcomes at face value.

Most Popular

1 dead, 6 in hospital after serious crash on Hwy 89

Descrease article font size Increase article font size First responders say an Alliston, Ont., woman died and six others were injured in a crash on Highway...

SIU investigates reported injury during arrest after driver hits police K9 vehicle in Peterborough

Descrease article font size Increase article font size Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating injuries sustained by a man during his arrest early Saturday in Peterborough,...

Bird flu vaccine could soon be on standby in case of future outbreak: experts

Some of the world’s leading makers of flu vaccines say they could make hundreds of millions of bird flu shots for humans within months...

Donald Trump’s protest calls get muted reaction from supporters

Former President Donald Trump’s calls for protests ahead of his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even...