China produced a growth genius at a critical time in its history. That of course was Deng Xiaoping who held key leadership roles from 1959–1989. He steered a course of authoritarian civil control mixed with economic freedom. As a result, the country both grew, and avoided a Soviet-style collapse. I’m a great communist hater, but Deng has something to teach us about our growth companies nonetheless.
He famously said that his growth strategy was to ‘cross the river by feeling stones.’
That means that you don’t have to have it all figured out. It means that when you take a misstep, you regroup and try again. It means that sometimes you say ‘ready, fire, aim’ and see what happens. And when (not if) you screw up, you have a laugh and shake your head and try again.
The future is not assured. No consultant can fix that with their strategic plan. But if you’re brave and curious, you can cross the river by feeling stones.