Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Secret of Success

Strategy or Intuition

What Is the Road to Success?

Success is what we all strive for in life. But what finally is the secret of success? Many thinkers, book authors, philosophers and all kinds of advisors have gone to great lengths to explore how to have success. Yet one of the latest and most polemic theories finds more and more supporters: In the end, success is largely based on simple luck.

In my own understanding, there are two major pillars along the road to success: on the one hand there is strategy, based on a sound analysis and a planned understanding of past situations or benchmarks of analogies; and on the other hand, there is intuition, based on feelings, emotions and personal convictions. When breaking down any decision- making process in the light of a quest for success, either strategy or intuition plays a key role – or both.

Success is something determined by the future, which in turn is (according to commonly established understanding) impossible to predict in an accurate way. Therefore, any attempt to achieve a desired outcome at a forthcoming point in time has to consider uncertainties and probabilities. Taking this into account, success might be described as “the ability to foresee future developments and act accordingly in the interest of a project, a product or a service” – at least in an economic or entrepreneurial sense.

Strategists would now argue that any planned approach greatly reduces the risk of failure by learning from past mistakes. Consequently, this method tries to minimize future uncertainties with statistical, empirical and scientific measures. On the other end, supporters of the emotional approach would claim that most of mankind’s greatest achievements were and are still based on the intuition of individuals in the pursuit of an idea or a vision that they truly believed in with their heart. And in the end, both are right.

When investigating into the true secret of triumph stories, apparently all applied a mixture of both strategy and intuition. And when looking at chronicles of failures, the same insight prevails. No matter how large the trust in facts and figures or the confidence in personal intuition is, all decisions are based on complementing elements of the opposing pillar. Accepting this as a given fact, one questions pops immediately into the mind: Which one is more successful, strategy or intuition? And the answer of course can only be: Nobody can say!

Strategy and intuition are ways to foresee the future – but as we all know, the future is unpredictable. The two approaches are based on a diverse understanding of how the world works, they apply differing methodological tools, and they cannot be assessed in the same manner. Having said that, they simply deny to be weighed against each other – much in the same way that apples and pears cannot be compared.

The extent to which degree any success or failure can be attributed to strategy or intuition is just as subjective as the individual methodology. And since both are applied to an unknown extent in a decision-making process, there plainly is no way to define beyond doubt their specific contribution. Just by taking any example from personal experience, it becomes obvious that no one can clearly state on what percentage fell on either strategy or intuition.

It becomes clear that in the context of success, there is no recipe for right or wrong. Every individual needs to find out what his/her personal preference for either strategy or intuition is and act upon it. However, an awareness of the role and the potential influence of the respective other pillar should always be held up – sometimes, it is just the unexpected that might prove to be the decisive factor for a positive outcome.

So whether it is called foresight, coincidence or simply luck, we must accept one thing: nobody really knows what will happen in the future.

Andreas Hauser

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Destination Report: Yemen

The Souq of Sana'a

Possibly the most gratifying and intriguing experience to be had in the Arab World are the markets: whether called souqs or bazaars, they express the very essence of commercial interaction and heated negotiations. The mixed odors of spices, incense, food and perfumes alternate with the lively colours of dresses, gold, nuts, fruits or cloths.

The old town of Sana'a, the fairy tale capital of Yemen, boasts possibly the most intense and traditional souq of them all. The bustling life at most day and night times is simply overwhelming. The variety of goods on offer are dazzling and never fail to stun tourists and visitors alike.

Any attempt to capture the sensuousness must invariably be doomed to failure. However, no passionate photographer would be able to resist the temptation. So here are some impressions as a glimpse into souq life at its best, in the old town of Sana'a.

The Entrance to the Main Souq Street in Old Sana'a

Dates in All Forms and Colours

Sacks Full of Spices and Pulses in Tiny Alleys

A "Supermarket" in the Traditional Yemeni Sense

Headscarves for Men -- For All Tastes and Likings

Spice Heaven in Large and Small Sizes

Selling Incense, Wood and Perfumes on 2 sqm

Evening Atmosphere with a Bite to Eat

Mind that this is only a tiny fraction of the kaleidoscope of sights and impressions that Sana'a has to offer it is definitely worth a visit.

Andreas Hauser