Brad Feld put up an great blog post (here) discussing the role of "The Formula" in guiding organisational and individual decision-making. The Formula is a beguiling notion, the idea that sticking to what you know works and has been successful in the past holds deep appeal. For example think Hollywood's interminable sequels and rejigging of former hits (Feld uses Aaron Sorkin's TV dramas as to illustrate his point). The trouble with The Formula is that with constant repetition, it becomes commoditised, losing effectiveness and the introduction of new players and copy cats signifies the relentless drop to the lowest common denominator.
The Formula is everywhere, it is not just organisations that refine and perfect an approach to the market, repeatedly returning to what has been effective in the past both for themselves and their competitors. As individuals we constantly revert to what has worked in the past and delivered success, in part this is because we are programmed to replicate successful endeavours. For example, when given a new promotion, many individuals will continue with the behaviour that got them the promotion in the first place, when in reality, their new role calls for a completely different set of behaviours.
The Formula appeals to our desire to simplify and control the complex world around us. However, whilst it can deliver results in the short and medium term, in the long-run it inevitably paves the way for steady yet noticeable decline. This is the problem that organisation's big and small have the face up to and deal with if they want to really innovate.