How did the startup Harry’s appear out of nowhere to disrupt an $18 billion market and topple entrenched giants Gillette and Schick from their perches? How did some retail newcomers like The RealReal and incumbents like Walmart maintain growth and valuations while so many like Lord & Taylor, Brooks Brothers, MUJI, and J.C. Penney have dropped into bankruptcy like flies this year?
Last week I got to spend five and a half hours with one of the most influential strategic thinkers alive today, Gary Hamel. He has written five global best-selling books, published 17 papers in Harvard Business Review, and has taught at London Business School for 30 years.
With technology’s modern pace of change, how can companies (and humans) best adapt? In March, I had the pleasure of leading a workshop with Tracey Zimmerman, President of Robots & Pencils, to answer this very question and offer a few potential solutions for today’s executives.
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.
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.
Among the many myths that corporate types have about startups (whether standalone or of the corporate variety) is that there is some kind of alchemy involved. Sort of “Steve Jobs arrives on a clamshell and the world is changed forever!” They think growing new businesses requires some instinctive DNA that founders are born with and that other mere mortals will never possess.
Understanding investor psychology can be baffling and frustrating for the managers of publicly traded corporations. For instance, despite what many would regard as a stellar track record of proven performance, CEO Mark Fields was fired at Ford. Apparently, the company’s success at making vehicles like its 150 truck the ride of choice for wealthy Americans (even besting longstanding luxury brands such as BMW and Audi) combined with Field’s determination not to be left behind by potential disruptions in the mobility business just weren’t enough.
A study by one of my former professors at London Business School found that “Only 55% of the middle managers we have surveyed can name even one of their company’s top five priorities.”
My wife is from New Orleans, so when we recently got a chance to see the original, we had to stop.
We were driving through France with our kids, on a four-day tour from my family reunion in Germany to our AirBNB in Barcelona, when we realized we’d pass through the “original New Orleans”: Orleans. This is the first town that Joan of Arc helped free from an English siege during the Hundred Years’ War, when England was taking over large swaths of France.