Tuff And Goldbach, Detonate

by: Brenda Jubin

In Detonate (Wiley, 2018), Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach, both principals at Deloitte, explore "why-and how-corporations must blow up best practices (and bring a beginner's mind) to survive." The general thesis may not be original, but the book brings together so many insights that it's a decidedly worthwhile read.

Here I'll summarize three points the authors make.

First, force your opponents to make a choice. "[A] truism in poker is that you can't learn anything about your opponents if you don't bet. … If you want to get information about your opponent, you need to force them to make a decision." Businesses, they contend, should "stop asking, and start observing, simulating, and inferring." A very funny cartoon illustrates their point.

Second, don't try to design a whole system at the outset. The "mother of all snow forts" is a case in point. A snowstorm that leveled Boston in 2006 prompted one of the authors and his sons to design an elaborate snow fort, with an access point where they could drop into the fort from a second-floor bedroom window and "an offshoot tunnel that went right up to the kitchen window from which they could supply the fort with hot chocolate and something slightly stronger for the adults…. After a morning's worth of design and a table full of drawings, they truly had something magnificent. Then they did nothing." The task was too daunting. The authors ask what would have happened had they just started digging instead of spending all their time planning. They might have created something magnificent, or perhaps not much more than an igloo. But it would at least have been something rather than nothing. The point of the story: "focus on a minimally viable move to get going, trusting that something good will come of it even though you may not have the end game in mind." Another cartoon illustrates the futility of over-systematizing in the planning stage.

Third, focus on the core rather than the periphery. Although there is a rationale for tinkering around the edges, the authors want to shift "the core from the inside." They "don't think you can blow up playbooks effectively and permanently from the periphery."

Detonate challenges assumptions, tradition, and apathy. It is a business book, yes, but some of its principles reach far beyond the corporate world. I thoroughly enjoyed it.