The history of the successful Swedish furniture retailer IKEA illustrates the role that adaptation and experimentation play in the development of an innovative strategy.
The IKEA Group, the world’s largest furniture retailer, has been written about extensively. IKEA’s success is generally attributed to its highly innovative strategy. Through global sourcing of products and customer selfservice in the areas of furniture delivery and assembly, IKEA achieves a low-cost position that enables it to charge low prices. Meanwhile, IKEA’s use of Scandinavian design and an innovative retail environment increase customers’ perception of receiving good value.
By examining the history of IKEA, the author concludes that, while founder Ingvar Kamprad initially had a general vision, many important specifics of IKEA’s strategy were developed through experimentation and adaptation to market circumstances rather than through preplanned strategy formulation. In academic literature, this approach to strategy is known as logical incrementalism.
The author suggests that IKEA’s experiences in strategy development demonstrate the importance of (1) starting with a clear vision but refining it over time; (2) experimenting constantly and being willing to make mistakes; (3) seeking to turn problems into opportunities; and (4) learning from other people’s ideas.