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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.

A bus picked a few of us up, before lunch, to head to the Educational Center for the Arts where I, as part of the visual arts program, learned the power of contour.

You are standing before a model or still life, brush in hand. But before you fill in the details of hair color or texture, you must rapidly draw a contour. Stepping back, taking in the big picture, you rapidly carve out the “white space” around what you are drawing. The resulting scribble becomes your map plotting the lines within which you fill in the details.

As organizations evolve into a new 21st century form, driven by more rapid change, digital models, and purpose-driven enterprises, the contour of the organization of the future is emerging. As Gary Hamel wrote, “The outlines of the 21st-century management model are already clear.”

Nearly every organization today claims to prioritize innovation and growth. And yet the organizational norms of the 20th century persist, blocking what leaders say they want most. As the environment demands greater agility, we see pressure building from within. Innovation wants to get out. But it is being stopped.

Forward-looking organizations are recognizing the blockages to internal innovation and starting to remove them. Their new approaches reveal the organizational contour of the future.

If you understand this contour, you can start adapting. What will it take to start moving your organization into 21st-century form?

To understand this, we interviewed over 150 internal innovators asking each to describe what organizational barriers to innovation they face. We tabulated their answers, revealing seven most commonly cited barriers. We then looked at new approaches some organizations are adopting to remove these barriers. The result is a framework for the organization of the future:


We are moving from organizations run by managers to those led by intrapreneurs, who act proactively without guidance to see, select, and rally the resources to pursue new opportunities. Narrowly defined, stable roles become replaced with broader, ever-changing ones.


From top-down to distributed strategic decision-making. Instead of decision-making being monopolized by a few at the top, it will be dispersed. This will require strategy to become simpler statements of purpose rather than prescriptive plans, so everyone can understand what matters.


From scientific to design-led conversations. Strategic conversations will shift from boardrooms to hallways and evolve from pursuing “What is right?” to “What is possible?”


From proving to trying, from valuing results to prioritizing learning. Strategic planning holds a bias toward killing off new ideas, because it asks innovators to “prove it.” To escape this trap, organizations will start putting learning over proof, which means experimentation over plans.

Business models

From one business model to an ecosystem of business models. The premise of the “disruptive innovation” rests on the assumption that organizations operate one business model. But smart organizations are evolving into an ecology of multiple business models. Try to define what Amazon’s or Alphabet’s business models are and this fact becomes plain. Organizations are realizing that planting a field with one strain of crop is more vulnerable to disease than a diverse ecosystem.


From rigid hierarchies to agile teams. For decades our organizations have been structured into divisions and departments. But a new unit of organization is emerging as the most important. Whether you call them teams or tribes or squads, the principle is the same: a small, multi-disciplinary group is more appropriate for the 21st century than a pyramidical army.


From central planning to platforms. Corporations are simply centrally planned structures that seek to effectively distribute people, capital, assets, and ideas. We have long given up central planning to run our economies. New microeconomic realities are enabling corporations to similarly abandon central planning and evolve into open platforms that empower people and ideas to compete within open markets for capital and assets.

Are you part of the 21st century organization?

Put these seven elements together. Imagine what they imply for future leaders of YOUR industry. What will that future, 21st-century, agile, dynamic, innovative entity look like?

Will it be you?

“8Ps” of StrategyOpportunity
for Disruption
Recommended Leverage Points
Position- The farmers, individual and corporate, that you are targeting.

- The need of the agricultural industry that you seek to fill.
3- What technologies do you control that can help you tap into market
segments that you previously thought unreachable?

- What are the potential business alliances you could think about with key players in the segment to serve your customers with integrated solutions? (Serving customers with more integrated solutions example: serving farmers with fertilizers, crop protection and other).
Product- The products you offer, and the characteristics that affect their value to customers.

- The technology you develop for producing those products.
8- What moves are your organization taking to implement Big Data and analytics to your operations? What IoT and blockchain applications can you use?

- What tools and technology could you utilize or develop to improve food quality, traceability, and

- How can you develop a more sustainable production model to accommodate constraints on arable

- What is the future business model needed to serve new differentiated products to your customers?
Promotion- How you connect with farmers and consumers across a variety of locations and industries.
- How to make consumers, producers, and other stakeholders aware of your products and services.
8- How are you connecting your product with individual and corporate farms who could utilize it?
- How could you anticipate market and customer needs to make customers interested in accessing your differentiated products?
PriceHow consumers and other members of the agricultural supply chain pay for access to agricultural products.7- What elements of value comprise your pricing? How do each of those elements satisfy the varying needs of your customers?
Placement- How food products reach consumers. How the technologies, data, and services reach stakeholders in the supply chain.9- What new paths might exist for helping consumers access the food they desire?
- How are you adapting your operations and supply chain to accommodate consumers’ desire for proximity to the food they eat?
- How could you anticipate customer expectation to make products more
accessible to customers/agile supply chain?
- Have you considered urbanization as a part of your growth strategy?
- How your food satisfies the needs and desires of your customer.
- How the services you provide to agribusiness fulfill their needs.
9- Where does your food rate on a taste, appearance, and freshness
- Could the services you provide to companies and farms in the agriculture industry be expanded to meet more needs?
- What senses does your food affect besides hunger? How does your
customer extract value from your food in addition to consumption?
Processes- Guiding your food production operations in a manner cognizant of social pressure.8- How can you manage the supply chain differently to improve traceability and reduce waste?
- How can you innovate systems in production, processing, storing, shipping, retailing, etc.?
- What are new capabilities to increase sustainability (impact on the environment, or ESG) components?
People- The choices you make regarding hiring, organizing, and incentivizing your people and your culture.- How are you leveraging the agricultural experience of your staff bottom-up to achieve your vision?
- How do you anticipate new organizational capabilities needed to perform your future strategy (innovation, exponential technologies needed, agile customer relationship, innovative supply chain)?
- How do you manage your talents to assure suitable development with exposure in the agrifood main challenges/allowing a more sustainable view of the opportunities/cross-sectors?