A Model of Strategic Thinking

The following historical account originated on M-Pol in a discussion about “goals” and the balance between retention and recruitment. It starts with a question from Dick Amyx.

Okay. Now, will someone please explain to me why numbers are important; how high a number is high enough; and all that goes along with that? --Dick


--------HISTORICAL NOTE---------

This was all worked out (by me) around 1967. Dick's question is still appropriate, but the answer is context-dependent and nuanced. (That's the difference between ideological statements and sound analysis.)

  1. The simple answer is “Size is never a goal; it is a measure of success.”

  2. The 1960's context was a smaller and poorer society. With a small membership, the overhead cost was (relatively) high per member and certain economies of scale were not available.

  3. A back-of-the- envelope calculation and some estimates indicated that US Mensa at ca. 16,000 was not large enough to sustain itself at a desired low dues rate because of the overhead, so we needed to grow to about 25,000 to reach a comfort point. That is not to say that we had to grow at a certain rate, so long as we continued to grow.

  4. Recruiting needed to be sufficient to replace drop-outs and provide an additional increment for growth to the comfort level. The key statistic was not the number of new members recruited but how low we could reduce the drop-out rate. Retention, not recruitment, was the important number. Higher retention both reduces the minimum replacement requirement and makes growth easier.

  5. This analysis was ignored in the Werba administration. Arbitrary recruiting goals were set at budget time — never achieved — and funds were spent on advertising that was ineffective.

  6. A similar mistake was made when surveys of members' views were conducted. The model employed (as reported in a contemporaneous InterLoc and paraphrased here) was: “We can find out what most of the members want and ignore the ‘fringies’” Big mistake! To expand the appeal of Mensa one has to reach for the outliers; the majority must not be offended, but they can take care of themselves. The rule should be: “Don't offend the majority but diversify the appeals to the many minorities.”

With the correct qualitative model, the quantities will work out for themselves. Retrospectively, the numbers will be interesting measures of how good one's policies have been.


Created: 30 Nov 04
Revised: 24 Jan 05