Developing Strategy

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Stories That Deliver Business Insights

Companies are gaining value from ethnography, the in-person study of how people actually use a product or service. Through its attention to the details of people’s lives, ethnography can be a powerful tool to help executives gain insights into their markets. Ethnographic stories can also be indispensable in helping executives rethink their assumptions about what customers care about and about overall strategic direction.

Image courtesy of Adriana Cisneros

The Art of Strategic Renewal

What does it take to transform an organization before a crisis hits? How can leaders initiate major transformations proactively? The key often lies in strategic renewal — a set of practices that can guide leaders into a new era of innovation by building strategy, experimentation and execution into the day-to-day fabric of the organization. It’s not easy: leaders find it much easier to resist change than to embrace it.


Strategic Choices in Converging Industries

As industries converge and seemingly unrelated businesses suddenly become rivals, managers must understand the new challenges and the long-term implications. A six-year study of convergence in the telecommunications, information technology, media and entertainment sectors by the authors shows that savvy companies choose one of four strategic paths: they become a technology pioneer, a market attacker, an ecosystem aggregator or a business remodeler.


Why Making Money Is Not Enough

The authors, who include Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group, argue that that “it is possible to build and lead companies that retain a deeper purpose.” Tata calls for companies to launch “corporate lifeboats” — such as new business experiments in next-generation clean technologies and serious business initiatives in the underserved space at the “base of the pyramid” — to transform their operations for sustainability.


Google Glass

Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing

Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing, enabling retailers to interact with consumers through multiple touch points and expose them to a rich blend of offline sensory information and online content. In response to these changes, retailers and their supply-chain partners will need to rethink their competitive strategies.


How to Change an Organization Without Blowing It Up

Too often, organizational change occurs all at once, on a large scale, and often in response to crisis. Yet we know from a great deal of experience that such transformation attempts often fail, fostering employee discontent and producing mediocre solutions with little lasting impact. Continuously pursuing smaller-scale changes — and weaving them together — offers a practical middle path between large-scale transformation and small-scale pilot projects


The Role of the Chief Strategy Officer

The Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) is a comparatively new but increasingly important role in many organizations. This article proposes a typology of four CSO archetypes – Internal Consultant, Specialist, Coach and Change Agent – who carry out a variety of responsibilities in the CSO role. By understanding how the duties of the CSO can vary significantly from organization to organization, boards and CEOs can make better decisions about which type of CSO is necessary for their leadership teams.


Dethroning an Established Platform

Increasing numbers of companies, whether providing hardware devices, traditional software or software in the cloud, are trying to become platform masters by releasing application programming interfaces that allow others to build software and hardware products or complementary services on top of their offerings. But what can you do when a competitor has already established a leading platform? Learn from Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Gmail and Facebook — and how they overtook earlier market leaders.



Are CEOs Getting the Best From Corporate Functions?

At too many large companies, corporate functions like HR and IT don’t get enough strategic direction from the CEO. The result of this undermanagement is mixed performance. While some corporate functions fulfill their roles highly effectively and win praise from the heads of operating units, most do not. Without sufficient guidance, corporate functions can become — often unintentionally — self-serving.

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A Question Every Manager Should Ask (Hint: It Has to Do With Megatrends)

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The single best question companies should ask themselves is what megatrends are coming around the corner. That’s according to MIT Sloan’s Michael A. Cusumano. Two megatrends that stand out in the industries he studies: “the rising importance of industrywide platforms as opposed to stand-alone products, and the rising importance of services or service-like versions of products,” he says.

Courtesy of Under Armour

Which Strategy When?

Markets are changing, competition is shifting and businesses are suffering or perhaps thriving. Whatever the immediate circumstances, corporate managers ask the same questions: Where do we go from here, and which strategy will get us there? To figure out when it makes sense to pursue strategies of position, leverage or opportunity, managers must understand their company’s immediate circumstances, take stock of their current resources and determine the relationships among the various resources.

Courtesy of Novartis.

What Every CEO Needs to Know About Nonmarket Strategy

Nonmarket strategy recognizes that businesses are social and political beings, not just economic agents. Smart executives engage with their social and political environment, helping shape the rules of the game and reducing the risk of being hemmed in by external actors. These executives realize that in a global economy, sustained competitive advantage arises from tackling social, political and environmental issues as part of a corporate strategy — not just pursuing business as usual.


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Collaborative Strategy: A Q & A With Nilofer Merchant

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Nilofer Merchant's The New How: Building Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy outlines how strategy with input from all employees is better than strategy from a few people at the top. It also outlines how to make it happen. "The bottom line is we don’t have the time in this economy to have a smallish group of people setting strategy or innovating or leading," she says.

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The Management Lessons of Las Vegas

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In uncertain economic times, when even the acknowledged experts don’t know what’s coming next, it’s important to think twice about what everyone else takes for granted. That’s one of the reasons the book Learning from Las Vegas might resonate with managers.

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Strategy As Love, Not War

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MIT Sloan School professor Arnoldo C. Hax, a well-known strategy expert, thinks companies need a different approach to thinking about strategy.

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