In 1968, Olympic fans and athletes watched in bemusement as a college sophomore jumped over the high bar backward. Until that day, every gold medal winner, indeed every Olympic athlete, who had competed in the high bar had gone over forward. Dick Fosbury literally turned his back on that tradition … won the Olympics … and forever changed the way the competition is played. Within eight years, 90% of high jumpers were using what came to be called the “Fosbury Flop.” Today, the Fosbury Flop is just the way you do things.
Sometimes they don’t know it themselves. When they do, they hide it. But they are out there. Executives, managers, and business owners who want to stem innovation. If you no longer want your organization to try new approaches, if you believe that the best path to growth is to keep doing what has been working for years, this guide is for you.
The word “strategy” too often brings to mind images of uptight executives in boardrooms, with heavy binders and spreadsheets, debating critical choices. Experts will tell you strategy is “a plan of action designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Strategy is a science, and it’s serious.
In a glass-walled boardroom overlooking the Hudson River wrapping around downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty in the distance, our guest lecturer flicked on one of the strangest slides I’ve seen. Juxtaposed against a sleek, modern room were two medieval paintings. One of a fortress. The other of a ship.
This month, Harvard Business Review featured a compelling piece – “The Age of the Continuous Connection: When You Can Interact with Your Customers 24/7 You Need a New Business Model” – by Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch, co-directors of Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management. The piece inspires some exciting new strategies to stay ahead of the competition. But we think it only scratches the surface of what is possible.
The folks at Fast Company and Forbes this month released their annual “most innovative companies” lists. Like many of us, I look forward to these lists every year. By championing those companies bold enough to challenge the status quo, they inspire all of us to do something different. By sifting from masses of companies the few that we should admire and emulate, they bring clarity to our innovation efforts.
After a flight home long enough to empty my inbox and complete three important pieces of work, I found myself in a quiet house, family sleeping upstairs, with time on my hands. So, I stretched out on my couch and indulged in a movie.
Four of the smartest people I know were blindsided this year. All had reached the upper echelons of their companies, had become trusted strategic advisors to their CEO, and were on a clear track to CEO-ship themselves.
The future matters. Just ask anyone, or any organization, who thinks they don’t have one. All of your greatness today – your people, products, partnerships, brands, operations, capabilities, culture, customers – will not matter for long unless they are working together, as part of a strategy, to create your future.
For years I’ve sat on the opposing side of hierarchy. That rigid concept in which orders are barked down from above and complied to from below has robbed our corporations, governments, and social institutions of freedom. Many of the management thought-leaders we, at Outthinker, admire argue the same. Gary Hamel, for example, wrote “The real damper on employee engagement is the soggy, cold blanket of centralized authority.”