Radical Strategy Innovation

November 21, 2002

in Strategic Foresight

Charles Handy is one of the really primo strategy thinkers. The thread I picked up on was how top managers – manage – and yet fail to have the skills to look beyond. The classic solution is to bring in consultants – outside perspective -. Great we all need it. AND I WOULD NOT TURN AWAY ADDITIONAL WORK!

Then I open Fast Company. I always read Gary Hamel Now’s the Time to Change the Game” and think. My offering has to be better than his! In the FC article I see similar words around the Handy dilemma, reading as he introduces learning journeys and the need to inspire “viscerally” led solutions from within! So I will take his advice from the article to heart! His advice! My response! Flippant comments!

1>>> Radical innovators challenge the dogmas and the orthodoxies of the incumbents. The first thing the CEO should challenge is his strategist and outside advisors! Ask them how do we create tomorrow’s strategies today? Ask yourself — What dogma does this strategist carry? How orthodox are his perscriptions? What strategic business model does he or his organization use? Then get rid of every “strategy” provider that isn’t network and community centric. For the first rule is. Go fishing where the others are not fishing! Don’t let Strategos, McKinsey, BCG etc near your business for insights. Insights come when your whole community (customers, employees, partners, shareholders, other stakeholers, etc) accelerates learning. Then search out individuals with dreams to help you make change using methods that inspire from the ground up. Make sure they come with an offer that includes a free beta testing capability worth 20 -200 times what you are paying them! Cause then you know you will be getting leverage! As an individual I can give you 20 times now tracing to my network and affiliations. Then wrap this in to a community and grow the organism.

2>>> Radical Innovators spot the trends the are already changing but have gone unnoticed. Well we followed his first rule in one above (look where your competitors aren’t). Sorry real radical innovation is in sythesizing disparate threads find collaboratively creative solutions at friction points. Spotting suggests someone is a watcher. Collaboration suggests methods within your community that accelerate the emergence of new concepts that lead to action. Your role is to create compelling friction points that give your community “an innovation voice”! Of course in this section he really pisses me off. “I’m not a big fan of …… scenario planning, because I don’t believe that you can predict the future.” Scenario planning is not about predicting the future! Scenarios are about synthesizing new threads, discovering potential, accelerating learning, asking better questions, often in real-time, yes testing hypotheses to creat alternate environments in which we MAY have to execute our decisions. I think Gary’s problem is not knowing how to create relevant context for scenarios with participants. THEY are NOT PREDICTIONS! Merely a tool to help answer the unaswerable…. until you know, really know…. What must we collectively do next?

3>>> Radical innovators learn to live inside the customer’s skins. Looks good doesn’t it. In fact I’d trace my most successful marketing programs to just this statement and the need to go after unarticulated needs. So what’s the problem? It’s a given. In our world of radical strategy, accepting the above is to accept the industrial paradigm. It suggests we… the organization are providers of value rather than the co-creators in value. The emergent exchanges that create real value are multivariate experiences. The current renewed passion for deep ethnographic reseach is a result of the dash amongst large corporates for the “unarticulated need”. I admit I’ve seen some fantastic stuff as a result. So while I am finding it difficult to frame my complete objection here. I have a suspicion that these current passions are microed into the shower or bath, when perhaps the real elements that will reframe them are a paradigm shift away. Mentally, although not in time. Now if you have read my posts whether on swarms, smart mobs, or COMsumers you will see an underlying belief that collaborative responsive highly connective networks are important to framing the fullfillment of unarticulated needs. So as a strategy organization we should start thinking much more systemically about how to respond. For me the experience is enhanced when everyone is a customer and th community is the brand and vice versa.

4>>> Radical Innovators think of their companies as portfolios of assets and competencies. There is a fundamental assumption here. It is that the company controls assets that actually make a difference. (Brand, customer relationships, databases etc noted) These are fundamentally information assets and increasingly valueless when held by companies and not within markets. SMART MOBS can take this asset away or make it transportable and mulitply them 1000 fold. The radical innovative leaders for tomorrow won’t think of themselves as managing organizations but facilitating markets – value creation across markets / networks. And here we seemingly have a dilemma, and a real challenge. For networks aren’t more effective when they compete. They require collaborative skills.

Then the closing — guess what? He promotes “Wisdom in markets markets with peer review and alternate forms of funding. However I struggle with the suggestion that The goal is to build systems (Internal) that mimic the marketplace, where ideas, talent, and capital can find one another quickly. This sounds like consultant speak for spend lot’s of money. Guess that is the problem. There are not many companies out there that would live in an open source world or provide that degree of transparency with their customers. When you spend your money. Remember you are not really after an innovation system. What you want is to be the leader of and in healthy markets! At the moment beyond eBay I can’t think of many. Like Gary I believe you need an effective migration path and a systematic approach customised to context. Then like me. Test what he is telling you. Is it radical enough? Then cut his budget by 20%, offer us 10% and pocket the rest! You need some heretics on board!

Ah it’s old: A para from The COMsumer Manifesto. “As information transfers to COMsumers, organizations are thrown back into the world of goods and services. Information will no longer be a scarcity around which organizations compete. This is a world where information is freely available or priced at fair market rates. Businesses will no longer be able to maximize their profits by mining the closed, proprietary data mines they have accumulated. This is a world where information is freely available or priced at fair market value rates. Thus organizations will find themselves with new product and service development demands. The challenge for organizations will be to look to other scarcities that help to develop the value of their products and sustain their position.”

As a final note and thanks to Gary for stimulating my thinking – one of my favorite stategy quotes from him is: “Great strategy is always subversive!” Without “Competing for the Future” other books and all the HBR articles my life would have taken a very different path!

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