by Patrick J. McKenna
The following is a whymsical little piece that I compiled for a professional newsletter
You will most certainly remember the age-old tale of the tortoise and the hare.
As I remember it being told to me . . . once upon a time (as all good fables begin), a tortoise and a hare decided to resolve an argument by engaging in a short road race. They agreed upon a specific route and commenced their competition. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead, decided to enjoy his surroundings, rest under a shaded tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise plodded on, overtook the hare, and crossed the finish line, emerging as the undisputed victor. The hare woke up to realize that he had lost the competition.
The moral of this famous fable is that slow and steady wins the race. This is the version of the story that we have all likely grown up with. There is however, a more fascinating extension to this short story . . .
It would seem that the hare, devastated at losing what had appeared to be an effortless race, did some serious soul-searching. Upon reflection, he realized that he had been defeated largely because of his own overconfident and negligent attitude toward his competitor. He reasoned that if he had not been so quick to assume an easy victory, there is no way that the tortoise could have beaten him. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. The tortoise agreed.
This time the hare went all out, ran without stopping, complete from start to finish. Needless to say, he trounced his competitor.
The moral of our continued story is that fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. If you have two partners in your firm, one slow, methodical and dependable and the other fast and still reliable at whatever he or she does, the fast and reliable partner will consistently outperform their methodical peer. It's good to be slow and steady; but it is even better to be fast and reliable.
Our strategic fable doesn't end yet.
The tortoise now took his turn at some serious reflection. He soon realized that there was simply no way that he could ever beat the hare in a road race the way it was currently designed. He thought for a while and came up with a plan. He challenged the hare to another race, but on a slightly different and surprisingly (at least to the hare) longer course.
The hare quickly agreed and a new race was started. In order to be consistently fast, the hare took off and ran at top speed until he came to a broad and deep river. The finish line was a couple of miles on the other side of this river. The hare, unable to swim, had no choice but to continue his long run around the outside bank of this river.
In the meantime, the tortoise trundled along, finally reaching the river, swam to the opposite bank, continued walking, and managed to finish well ahead of the hare.
The moral of this portion of our story . . . first, recognize your core competency and then find a way to change the rules of the game to suit your unique skills. Always work to your strengths.
But our story still isn't concluded.
By this time the hare and the tortoise were becoming fast friends. They had developed a degree of respect for each other's distinctive capabilities. Upon reflection they realized that their last race could have been run far better, if they were both willing to run it together, as a team effort.
So as a true team effort, this time when they started off, the hare carried the tortoise all the way to the riverbank. There the tortoise took over and swam across with the hare sitting on his back. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they reached the finish line together, but on this occasion in record time.
The moral of the story now . . . It is good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies; but unless you are able to work in a team and harness each other's strengths, you will always perform below par because there will always be a situation at which you will do poorly while someone else will do well.
There are yet a few more lessons to be gleaned from our expanded fable.
You will note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after experiencing a failure. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his setback. The tortoise concluded that he needed to completely change his strategy. Our tortoise was already working as hard as he could, and thus working smarter was now what was needed for him to win.
Finally, the hare and tortoise both learned a further valuable lesson. When we stop competing against a rival and choose instead to compete against the situation, we can often perform far better.
Thus, this fable of the hare and the tortoise teaches us: that fast and consistent will always beat slow and steady; we must always work to our strengths; pooling resources and working as a team will always beat individual performers; never give up when faced with failure; and finally compete against the situation, not against the rival . . . and you will live happily ever after!
Copyright 2003 -- Patrick J. McKenna - Edge International