A hundred years before Uber popularized the “platform business,” an English teacher and a porcelain merchant were launching their own platform business in Canton, China, called Li & Fung. In 1906, Li To-ming and Fung Pak-liu started a trading company, exporting porcelain, fireworks, jade and silk. They eventually set up headquarters in Hong Kong.
Mine was not the best high school, but we had some perks. I got to take an economics class at Yale my senior year, my small cohort mostly went on to Ivy League colleges, and I got to leave school at 12:30pm.
An odd thing happened in a client’s boardroom recently. We were listing out the competitors we needed to keep an eye on as part of a scenario planning exercise. We had discussed the usual suspects – long-time direct – and even the more recent entrants – mostly technology start-ups that were now picking up speed. Then someone said, “What really scares me are the competitors we can’t see.”
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.