Category: Strategic Management

Finding courage in a position of strategic disadvantage

Strategically at a Disadvantage?

At the end of last year I read a fantastic book by Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath*. This book did a superb job of showing me how a perceived underdog in the market can use this position to out manoeuvre their opposition and in some cases steal the market from right in front of them (delivering the  David sucker punch).  Gladwell not only highlighted the strategic advantage that can be had from being the underdog but he goes on to prove how a pedigree (if I can extend the metaphor) of success at lesser praised institutions (such as top universities and corporations) can strategically and psychologically prepare and position a person to successfully displace Goliath’s in any market.

Coupling this with the recent launch of Bold ,by Peter Diamandis**, who literally challenges us to change the world, to dream of billion-person impacts. The call to action is to embrace the exponential, embrace the odds of cascading impacts. This involves the active re-engineering of our thinking to move away from linear problem-solving,  linear-risk taking and linear-returns.

What does this mean? Peter Diamandis says “within the next 10 years, 40% of the current Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist”.  This means that a massive opportunity exists for us today if we able to change from what he amply calls “exponential stress” to “exponential opportunity“! What does this mean? Perhaps the challenge you currently face is not as bad as you think, but an opportunity to positively turn a position of strategic disadvantage into one of disruption.

This means believing that 4 in 10 Goliath’s will be laying dead on the ground! How are you preparing yourself to be the next David?

  • A great summary talk on the key concepts of the book are delivered in a 50 minute discussion by Gladwell at Google offices can be found here
    ** Key concepts of this book and relating principles are discussed by Diamandis and Ferris at the Four Hour Work week podcast found  here

A rising economic tide: It’s time to have a positive focus

Positive Focus is required to navigate a rising tide

Positive Focus is what we need in a time of economic challenge. All indications are that there is tremendous pressure on the global economy. This is true unless you live in the USA of course, where the economic spinsters are able to camouflage the frail situation.  The mood of the economic powerhouses in turn ripple down to the local organisations, who then logically start a process of contracting spending to protect their profits and minimise risk. This can often result in the adoption of a negative mindset towards growth, innovation and positive people management. Out come the old sticks and the old habits! It is easy to slip into controlling management, emotionless-engagement and to simply start counting our customers as numbers. What’s needed however is focus, not any focus, but positive focus.
In these tough times we have the opportunity to challenge the status quo of process, norms and what has ‘always been’. If the need (and it is a need) is to move into measures of austerity then lets take a “post-war” or “post-depression” view on our organisations.

How we can have a Positive Focus:

  • Eliminate waste. A ruthless focus towards waste within our organisations. The removal of waste in all aspects of resources, people (talent or time) and technology.
  • Identify our strengthsThis is a perfect time to reflect on what the organisation is good at, what it’s people are good at, and what our customers love about us the most.  This is the sweet-spot we should focus on. Cut the rest, mercilessly.
  • Invest. The greatest winners during tough economic times are those that invest with the future in mind. Protect your assets (again relating to people, process and technology), or simply put, the things that truly create value for your organisation.

These are simple steps but they are by no means easy; at best the are counter-intuitive; but the best companies never really follow the common actions of others.