Foundational thinkers are often politely dismissed on the excuse that “abstract” insights are difficult to apply to concrete situations. I will make use of Drucker’s paramount distinction between “doing things right and doing the right thing” to counter that popular belief using a concrete example: sales. But before tackling the sales example, let me make use of another foundational thinker of similar caliber, Russell Ackoff, to reinforce Drucker’s distinction. In Ackoff parlance, “doing things right” results in more efficiency, or improving a certain solution, while “doing the right thing” is a matter of effectiveness, or questioning the problem statement.
Now let’s move on to the sales example. In sales we are taught that the customer is king. And as long as the customer knows what he wants and what his problem is, this is great. But in many cases, particularly in today’s increasingly complex world, the customer doesn’t know what his problem is and may not even know what he wants. Continue reading