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The Bohr Model

In Junior High School I was a science geek (still am, for that matter). I had the chemistry sets, the electronic sets, and was into construction and engineering sets of all types. In fact, now late into my fifties, I still have a massive collection of Meccano that I still “play” with occasionally.

I clearly remember the day in Junior High School when we learned about the Bohr Model of the atom. To me, it was the most magical theory in the world. It was simple, yet it explained almost all of the chemistry that we had learned in school up to that time. I thought it was a marvel of human thinking, and still do. As I went on to High School, and then University and Graduate School, the Bohr Model was one of my guideposts when it come to thinking about science problems.

There was one problem though; as I got further and more advanced into my science studies, I learned more and more about how the Bohr Model of the atom had serious deficiencies, and in many ways got some of the major things we now know about the atom quite wrong. The Bohr Model was not the perfect theory that my Junior High self thought that it was.

The reality is that most models are not perfect. That does not mean however that they are not useful. After all, the imperfect Bohr Model of the atom got me through a lot of science courses quite successfully. As George Box once famously said, “all models are wrong, but some are useful”.

The same is true for business models and business strategies. Like the Bohr Model of the atom, all business models are wrong, but some are useful. Too often small business owners, and particularly new entrepreneurs, spend a lot of time, energy, and effort on choosing the perfect strategy. By definition, an optimal business model or strategy does exist, but the reality is that even the best model or strategy is wrong on many aspects. Furthermore, the best business model will likely be supplanted by a new model or strategy as the business manger learns more (and tries more, and experiments more).

While it is laudable to seek perfection, it is more successful to implement what you know and understand, and “get on with it”, than waiting for perfection. Furthermore, I still think the Bohr Model is cool!


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