Executing Strategy

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Finding a Lower-Risk Path to High-Impact Innovations

Pursuing a high-impact innovation strategy can have terrific payoffs — but it’s also extremely risky, and most companies won’t do it. Yet a comparatively less risky, proactive approach that strings together “lily pads” of capability-building investments, technical and conceptual advances, and market explorations into “enabling innovations” can bring companies closer to their goal and provide a long-lasting competitive edge.

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How Scenario Planning Influences Strategic Decisions

Anecdotal evidence suggests that considering various scenarios helps strengthen decision making. To test this idea, researchers offered a scenario-based workshop to executives to see how considering scenarios affected decisions. They found that though participants’ confidence in their choices never wavered, the strategic choices they made before the exercise often changed dramatically after viewing the scenarios, with a tendency to become more flexible and focused on long-term value.

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Managing Tensions Between New and Existing Business Models

Exploring new business models may be a good way to stay competitive, but doing so can create tensions internally, in areas such as organizational structure and competition for resources. Companies exploring business model innovation may not recognize the inevitability of these tensions and thus be poorly prepared to manage them. But understanding these issues may lessen some of the organizational challenges associated with business model innovation.

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Free Webinar: Foundations of Analytics Strategy

The 2016 MIT SMR/SAS Data and Analytics report, “Beyond the Hype: The Hard Work Behind Analytics Success,” finds that competitive advantage from analytics is declining — but that organizations achieving the greatest benefits have figured out how to ensure that the right data is being captured. In this webinar, the authors of the report explain how companies are making this transition and which are seeing the most success.

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Why Learning Is Central to Sustained Innovation

Many managers think they can create better products just by improving the development process or adding new tools. But it’s skilled people, not processes, that create great products. So-called “lean” organizations invest heavily and continuously in the skills of product developers, and rather than developing single products, they think in terms of streams of products. By making people the backbone of the product development system, companies can achieve a triple win: increased innovation, faster time to market, and lower costs.

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Keep Calm and Manage Disruption

Disruption can be averted, and many businesses manage through it by beating the new competition, joining them, or waiting them out. “To be sure, facing disruption is no picnic,” writes Joshua S. Gans, author of The Disruption Dilemma. “But it also isn’t the existential threat that so many see it as.” Many businesses are finding ways to weaken disruptive events, sometimes by investing aggressively in the new innovation after entrants had brought it to market or by acquiring the entrants and the actual disruption.

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Using Social Media in Business Disputes

An emergent defensive strategy is being used by both upstart players facing established competitors and by newcomers (such as Tesla, Airbnb, and Uber) facing government regulators. Called “lawsourcing,” the strategy advances legal and public relations goals through social media campaigns, online petitions, and boycotts to draw attention to disputes. These tactics are often framed in moral and ethical terms, and they are being initiated by even very small players.

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Mastering Strategy

How can executives develop their skills as strategists? One way is to learn from the masters. The book Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons From Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs (HarperCollins, 2015) explores insights drawn from the careers of these former CEOs of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple. In a Q&A, the book’s authors, David B. Yoffie of Harvard Business School and Michael A. Cusumano of MIT Sloan, explain how strategic thinking is a capability that leaders — even the superstars — develop over time.

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Aligning Corporate Learning With Strategy

Too many corporate learning and development programs focus on the wrong things. “The word ‘learning,’ which has largely replaced ‘training’ in the corporate lexicon, suggests ‘knowledge for its own sake,’” write the authors. “However, to justify its existence, corporate learning needs to serve the organization’s stated goals.” Understanding the strategic agenda of the CEO should be a top focus of learning leaders, who can then developing an agenda that is reflective of the CEO’s priorities.

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Integrating Supply and Demand

To compete in different strategic segments at the same time, companies need close coordination between the sales side of the company and supply chain operations. Just as importantly, joining the supply and demand sides of an enterprise presents an opportunity for efficiency and value creation. “A company may have an excellent sales and marketing team and a top-flight operations team and still deliver the wrong benefits to a customer,” the authors note. This article includes an online questionnaire for assessing the current stage of your company’s demand and supply integration, with suggestions for how to improve.

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When Consensus Hurts the Company

How do managers “decide how to decide”? Boards and management teams often try to gain consensus, but that’s not always the best course. Research offers insights into when consensus building is the right way to go and when it isn’t — and how leaders can determine the best form of decision making for a given situation. “By prompting a rule on how the decision will be made — by unanimity, majority or delegation — you can significantly influence what will be decided,” note the authors.

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Working Toward Totally Transparent Yogurt

Wood Turner has been working in sustainability for 20 years. In 2006 he left his work at a sustainability and brand strategy firm in Seattle to lead Climate Counts, a nonprofit incubated within Stonyfield which scores and ranks large companies on their efforts to address climate change. Now VP of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield, Turner continues his work on bringing climate-conscious practices into the core of business operations. In an interview, Turner describes the collaborative processes that make this strategy work.

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The Opportunity Paradox

How can companies capture new opportunities most effectively? When evaluating new business opportunities, there’s a paradoxical tension between strategic focus and flexibility. Managers tend to be opportunists or strategists, and while most managers focus their attention on opportunity execution, opportunity selection appears to matter as much. Sustained business success seems to depend not just on capturing one opportunity but also on stringing multiple opportunities together.

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Data Analytics Makes the Transition From Novelty to Commodity

Business is nearing a tipping point in which the use of data analytics is becoming routinely adopted. While widespread adoption of analytics will mean that it offers less competitive advantage to companies, it also means that the business environment overall will change. Information systems expert Sam Ransbotham identifies four key changes that businesses need to consider now.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Simon James.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/bearpark/6861722073

How to Compensate For Overoptimistic Project Leaders

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 2 min 

Would you know if a project was heading off the rails? Too often, members of project teams are crossing their fingers and providing only the most hopeful updates. After reviewing 14 studies into the ways in which individuals report (and misreport) the status of information technology or software projects, the authors identified five specific areas for leaders to look out for to avoid being blindsided.

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The American Red Cross: Adding Digital Volunteers to Its Ranks

The American Red Cross has become an excellent example of how to use social media to connect people during the three cycles of disaster: preparedness, response and then recovery. Its digital volunteers help calm people in the middle of events, and its community mobilizers help coordinate services afterwards. “We want to blur that line about who’s a Red Crosser and who’s not, to say, ‘actually, this is up to all of us,’” says the organization’s Wendy Harman.

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Reimagining Customer Service at KLM Using Facebook and Twitter

For KLM, social business arose as a spontaneous response to the Icelandic volcanic eruption that spewed ash into Europe’s airspace for days, halting all air travel and stranding thousands of passengers. Since the abrupt birth of the airlines’ social business strategy, e-commerce senior vice president Martijn van der Zee has made the company a model for using social in customer service.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Image News/Thinkstock

Is Hostility to Blame for Sustainability’s Leadership Gap?

When a conservative think-tank challenged Apple’s sustainability programs at a recent shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook didn’t back down, refusing to bow to its calls to suspend any activities that didn’t “add to the bottom line.” Apple’s shareholders rewarded him with resounding support. If sustainability is to increase its profile as a business priority, more executives will need to follow Cook’s lead.

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The Art of Selling with Social Tools

“Our lives have increasingly migrated online in recent years, so why wouldn’t [sales] reps want to connect with customers on the social media front as well?” That’s the logic of Hearsay Social, whose platform lets sales people keep track of what their customers are posting on Twitter, LinkedIn and even Facebook. Says Gary Liu, vp of marketing, “social media can be used very effectively to enhance real-world interactions.”

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