Saturday, February 2, 2013

Business Students Should Study History

Business schools should cull relevant history into snippets that form the basis of a course on strategies and leadership.  This history can be applied in business situations where there's a need to leverage an opportunity or confront a threat.

A great example is the strategy that Teddy Roosevelt used to influence the building of a 50 mile canal that would cross the Colombian isthmus of Panama and unite the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The 13,000 mile New York to San Francisco journey took months as ships navigated around the treacherous Cape Horn. A canal would save hundreds of miles and man-hours.  Even President Ulysses Grant had sent seven expeditions to study its feasibility.

Roosevelt tried to negotiate with Columbia, but Colombia eventually lost interest. Then, Roosevelt and Panamanian business leaders collaborated on a revolution. The Battle for Panama lasted less than a day as Colombian soldiers were bribed $50 each to lay down their arms and the U.S.S. Nashville cruised off the Panamanian coast in a show of support.  On November 3, 1903, the nation of Panama was born.  The rest is history. This is an example of an indirect approach to achieve a goal.

An indirect strategy might be the best approach in certain opportunity management, market penetration, market development and product development situations.  Holden International teaches about indirect strategy in managing sales opportunities in its book, Power Base Selling.

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