The two targets problem can be summarized as, “If you greedily chase two rabbits, both will escape.”
Chuang Tzu observed that when an archer shoots they have all their skill. If the archer is greedy, they will shoot for gold or a brass buckle and they will start to see two targets. The prize will divide them. They think more of the prize than of shooting.
When we think about strategy, it is not uncommon for greedy individuals and firms to have two or more targets. If the targets are too far apart from one another, there will invariably be a problem. For example…
Titanic – arrogance and too few lifeboats.
Barings Bank – gambling and no audits.
Swiss Air – greed and reduced passenger demand post 9/11.
Enron – greed and acting like a hedge fund.
Arthur Anderson – greed and fraudulent auditing.
One Tel, HIH, ABC Childcare – greed and bad accounting.
Aussie Cricket Captain Steve Smith – winning and cheating.
Lao Tzu’s thoughts on two targets: “Sitting sit. Standing stand. Don’t wobble.” If we have the right strategy and we execute it well, we have little need for other targets.