Lucky or Good?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is off-the-charts viral right now... at least in the United States.  And an all-black team of kids from Chicago just made it to the final game of the Little League World Series.  But to what end?

"I'd rather be lucky than good."

I agree.  Lucky circumstances have made many people into heroes, and have made many careers.  But as leaders it's our job to be good.  And often that means taking advantage of luck.

The ALS Association is a non-profit fighting Lou Gehrig's disease.  It has raised $80 million in just a few weeks thanks to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (compared to just a few million in the same period last year).  It's a run of extraordinary luck: the ice bucket challenge didn't originate with the ALS Association, and you can never predict what will go viral.

Major League Baseball has been concerned for years about the decline of interest in the sport among black youth.  Baseball has largely become a game comprised of white, Hispanic and Asian players (MLB even has an "on-field diversity" initiative to address this).  But a team of black kids from an urban area just grabbed everyone's attention with a sweet run to the Little League championship game.  And a black pitcher from the Pennsylvania Little League team - a cannon-armed girl named Mo'Ne - was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  It's raining luck in baseball land this summer.

Now we find out how good they are.

Whenever an organization finds itself in a run of luck, it has an opportunity to leverage that fortune into something more... something that lasts.  It may be that key competitors are particularly weak for a time, or that the tide is rising across the industry.  Or it may just be the right people in the right place at the right time.

When that happens, it's easy to simply reap the benefits.  Accept the donations, take the orders, enjoy the attention.  But right in the middle of that is when the good leaders lift their eyes from the immediate activity and think, "What can we do with this?"

  • How can we deploy the resources we're acquiring during this windfall to create long term, stable, profitable growth?
  • How can we use the attention we're getting to raise our visibility in the market permanently?
  • How can we become more selective in this rich harvest of opportunities, to improve our mix of customers and products and markets?
  • How can we use these fortunate circumstances to address the fundamental flaw in our industry?

It's great to be lucky.  Now how can we be good?