The Stockdale Paradox

What is the Stockdale Paradox?

a cartoon of a thinking business

Neil Addley, the founder of JudgeService, discusses how businesses can use the Stockdale Paradox to keep their heads above water during the difficult times.

James Bond Stockdale was a US vice-admiral who in September 1965 was captured and held imprisoned for over seven years in Hanoi, Vietnam. He was regularly tortured and beaten whilst a prisoner of war, but was eventually released in February 1973.

James Stockdale was interviewed by Jim Collins, who was researching for his book at the time, “Good to Great”.

Stockdale shared with Collins, that what got him through his imprisonment, was his ability to accept his reality whilst also having complete faith that eventually he would return home. He said he would turn it into the defining moment of his life that in retrospect, he would not trade.

Collins asked who it was that failed to survive the capture, and Stockdale said it was the optimists.

He explained that the optimists always hoped to be out by Christmas, or Easter and that when another Christmas passed, they were so heartbroken that they were not yet free, they suffered from broken hearts, and eventually died.

Collins called this psychological duality of brutal realism and unwavering faith that everything will work out – the Stockdale Paradox.

How can we use the Stockdale Paradox now?

Neil suggests that perhaps governments all over have suffered from optimism failure by inferring to the public that we will be out of this pandemic by a certain amount of time. Firstly, we had the original lockdown, then we hoped we would be back to normal by Christmas, no we have optimism for a vaccine to be ready soon…

“Where I would urge caution, is that there is no point in following blind optimism, I hope that the country gets up and running again as soon as possible, and we need to look after the economy as well as public health/mental health.

“However, we should take on the Stockdale Paradox and accept that we will get through this, but on the same token, realise everything isn’t going to be back to normal by next week.

“The most important thing is to keep talking to our teams, be honest about it and assure them that although it isn’t going to be the easiest of years, we need to have faith that in two or three years time we will have come out of this pandemic and be better prepared for what comes next.”

The automotive industry has seen incredible progress in terms of gearing themselves up to deal with the pandemic and now it feels like they are prepared for further lockdowns, but planning for the short term too is important right now.

If you want to learn more about the Stockdale Paradox you can watch Jim Collin’s video below for a more in-depth review.

What practical steps can I take to overcome this uncertain time?

Once you have the theoretical knowledge to be able to overcome a difficult time or even a crisis within your business, it’s important that you then implement some practical solutions which can help you on your way.

This time around, dealerships have been given permission to continue with:

  • Online car sales
  • Click and collect
  • Delivery
  • Mot’s and services

This means that it is vital for car dealerships to have the proper infrastructure and processes in place to move into these sales channels.

Training is an exception to the furlough scheme. So utilise it. As face-to-face communication has been extremely restricted, it’s crucial that your team have super polished and high-quality telephone skills. Whether this is over the phone or using video conferencing. This may be the only point of contact you have with your customers during the sale of a vehicle. Customer service has never been so important.

JudgeService are experts in consumer insight and customer reviews. We are trusted by over 1000 dealers in the UK alone. If you want to know just how well you are performing under new circumstances and where you can improve, our survey insight service, ReAct, will tell you.

Want to find out more about how JudgeService can help you overcome these strange times in the automotive industry? Visit our website and request a demo here or email now!