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The Icarus Paradox.

Danny Miller. The Icarus Paradox. New York, N.Y.: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990. 256 pages. $19.95.

Success in a system leads to specialization and exaggeration of the things perceived as having been the means to the current end. This focus on a few "successful" areas (and neglect of other areas) can create a loss of balance that was all part of the structure that caused success in the first place. Success becomes a fetish, and a reluctance to try new things blocks creative adaptations to a changing world.

In the realm of quality leadership, the focus becomes so narrow that the team aims at perfection. Order becomes rigidity, and creative design becomes technical manipulation and overdetailing. In the growth movement, building becomes overexpansion. Hyperexpansion becomes careless and greedy acquisition. For innovation-directed businesses, inventing becomes a means to its own end. Good planning is lost in an accelerated race to be first out with new products that are either useless or too costly. What the client needs is forgotten.

Many successful businesses fail to realize that the whole configuration was what initially led them to success. It's the way all of the pieces fit together that caused positive outcomes.

The author offers numerous questions a system must ask of itself if it is to maintain focus without shifting into overchanging or underchanging. What type of customers do we prefer? Why? What assumptions do we make about customers and the competition? What aspects of our strategies have not changed for years? Why? Is the strategy too narrow? Too wide? How do we decide what strategies are wrong? What projects do we like? Why? What do we shy away from? Why? What strategies appeal to our capabilities and to what customers' want? Is our structure compatible with market needs?

Only by self-examination may a system decide whether it's going where it ought to. Only this sort of self-evaluation will maintain the direction and processes the system needs for success. The author offers a self-assessment questionnaire (100 questions) that tells the system its configuration and trajectory.--Richard M. Burton, MD, Medical Director, Qual-Med, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Burton, Richard M.
Publication:Physician Executive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1992
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