We have this notion that innovators come up with a big idea and then sell it with passion and influence. We imagine Steve Jobs, who was known for having a “distortion field” around him. He could walk into a room and convince everyone that the iPhone was going to change the world and as a result, because everyone was moved to believing it, it did in fact change the world.
The echoes of this great marble hall always bring me back to college. I’m sitting in the Philadelphia 30th Street Station, awaiting my Amtrak train to take me home, circled by ornate pillars and homeward-bound revelries on a Friday afternoon.
What an energizing whirlwind two weeks: keynoted for the Federal Reserve (the future of banking), spoke to CFOs in San Diego (the future of finance), facilitated our Outthinker Chief Strategy Officer roundtable in New York (the future of strategy), met with ABC TV in LA (the future of television), ran a workshop for a Fortune 500 real estate firm (the future of real estate), ran an Outthinker workshop for an apparel retail leader (the future of retail), then addressed a room of board members of public tech companies in Silicon Valley (the future of everything!).
At a barbeque this weekend, a friend fretted, “How does a large company retain its entrepreneurial spirit?” Part of the leadership team of a fast-growing, $5 billion, public company – historically one of the most innovative in its sector – he painfully understands this dilemma. The agility and speed helped you grow. But your growth requires installing rigid policies and processes which kills your agility and speed. What keeps you big kills what got you there.
“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
What is next to fall?
The talent barrier is already coming down. In the past, companies offered workers a straightforward bargain: give up what you want to do to do what we want you to do, and in exchange we will give you full-time employment, a title, and a hierarchy. Trade freedom for predictability.
Opportunities appear … then vanish more quickly today than ever before. In response, many businesses – from startups to Global 100s – are trying to accelerate their decision-making approaches. They are embracing a philosophy referred to with terms like agile, lean, and scrum.
It’s happening weekly now. Someone – a client, reader, expert I am interviewing for my next book – mentions the need for a more agile approach to strategy, an approach that allows us to react more quickly to unexpected opportunities and threats.
When Strategies Shift
In 2008, at the start of the economic crisis, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner was stepping off an airplane in New York City. As he approached the car that would take him into the city, the porter carrying his luggage commented that the stock market’s decline had continued that morning.
It’s been 15 years and I still vividly remember the moment when one of our very first clients killed off a multi-million-dollar idea. They were a leading global logistics company, getting excited about the opportunity to operate shipping ports. The conversation heated up, the possibilities … the brilliance … the potential!