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As this chapter illustrates, firms in unpredictable markets such as China need fully engaged leaders who monitor the competitive context for emerging opportunities and threats, set corporate priorities, build and maintain flexible hierarchies, and pursue golden opportunities while responding to threats.
This chapter discusses how entrepreneurs and managers can think more systematically about the challenges of scaling their organization in unpredictable markets.
Unpredictable environments periodically provide golden opportunities that allow firms to create significant value in a short period. This chapter introduces a framework to help managers and entrepreneurs systematically evaluate opportunities.
Partnerships are necessary in order to share risk and obtain resources for succeeding in an unpredictable environment. This chapter identifies concrete actions companies can take to manage the dynamics of important relationships over time.
This chapter describes how a flexible hierarchy functions and the steps necessary to develop it.
Most Westerners know very little about the entrepreneurs who are reshaping the second-largest and arguably most dynamic economy in the world: China. This chapter provides a brief overview of recent Chinese history and an introduction to several successful Chinese companies and the lessons they offer on managing in an unpredictable context.
In this article, Bob Zider, president of the Beta Group, a California-based firm that invests in commercializing new technologies, presents an analysis of present-day venture capitalists and shows why its practitioners have a lot more in common with investment bankers than you might think. The popular mythology surrounding the U.S. venture-capital industry derives from a previous era. Venture capitalists who nurtured the computer industry in its infancy were legendary both for their risk taking and for their hands-on operating experience. But today things are different, and separating the myths from the realities is crucial to understanding this important piece of the U.S. economy. Today's venture capitalists are more like conservative bankers than the risk takers of days past. They have carved out a specialized niche in the capital markets, filling a void that other institutions cannot serve. They are the linchpins in an efficient system for meeting the needs of institutional investors looking for high returns, of entrepreneurs seeking funding, and of investment bankers looking for companies to sell. Venture capitalists must earn a consistently superior return on investments in inherently risky businesses. The myth is that they do so by investing in good ideas and good plans. In reality, they invest in good industries--that is, industries that are more competitively forgiving than the market as a whole. And they structure their deals in a way that minimizes their risk and maximizes their returns. Although many entrepreneurs expect venture capitalists to provide them with sage guidance as well as capital, that expectation is unrealistic. Given a typical portfolio of 10 companies and a 2,000-hour work year, a venture capital partner spends on average less than 2 hours per week on any given company. In addition to analyzing the current venture-capital system, the author offers practical advice to entrepreneurs thinking about venture funding.
In this article, University of California at Berkeley professors Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian explain how a "versioning" strategy can enable a company to distinguish its products from the competition and protect its prices from collapse. This insightful article will be essential reading for any executive competing in the information economy. Many producers of information goods assume that their products are exempt from the economic laws that govern more tangible goods. But that's just not so. Information goods are subject to the same market and competitive forces that govern the fate of any product. And their success, too, hinges on traditional product-management skills: gaining a clear understanding of customer needs, achieving genuine differentiation, and developing and executing an astute positioning and pricing strategy. What makes information goods tricky is their "dangerous economics." Producing the first copy of an information product is often very expensive, but producing subsequent copies is very cheap. In other words, the fixed costs are high and the marginal costs are low. Because competition tends to drive prices to the level of marginal costs, information goods can easily turn into low-priced commodities, making it impossible for companies to recoup their up-front investments and eventually bringing about their demise. The best way to escape that fate, the authors say, is to create different versions of the same core of information by tailoring it to the needs of different customers. The authors draw on a wide range of examples to illustrate how companies use different versioning strategies to appeal to customers with different needs. The power of versioning is that it enables managers to apply tried-and-true product-management techniques in a way that takes into account both the unusual economics of information production and the endless malleability of digital data.
In this article, Michael Porter, the C. Christensen Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, explains how clusters foster high levels of productivity and innovation and lays out the implications for competitive strategy and economic policy. Economic geography in an era of global competition poses a paradox. In theory, location should no longer be a source of competitive advantage. Open global markets, rapid transportation, and high-speed communications should allow any company to source any thing from any place at any time. But in practice, location remains central to competition. Today's economic map of the world is characterized by what Porter calls clusters: critical masses in one place of linked industries and institutions--from suppliers to universities to government agencies--that enjoy unusual competitive success in a particular field. The most famous examples are found in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, but clusters dot the world's landscape. Porter explains how clusters affect competition in three broad ways: first, by increasing the productivity of companies based in the area; second, by driving the direction and pace of innovation; and third, by stimulating the formation of new businesses within the cluster. Geographic, cultural, and institutional proximity provides companies with special access, closer relationships, better information, powerful incentives, and other advantages that are difficult to tap from a distance. The more complex, knowledge-based, and dynamic the world economy becomes, the more this is true. Competitive advantage lies increasingly in local things--knowledge, relationships, and motivation--that distant rivals cannot replicate.
This fictitious case written by Andy Blackburn, a Boston Consulting Group vice president based in San Francisco, explores the question of how PC companies can make money in the increasingly price-competitive consumer market. The senior staff of Praxim, a multibillion-dollar maker of desktop computers, face some tough questions: Is it possible to make money selling personal computers to consumers? And if so, how? What resources need to be mustered? Where should they be directed? After years of strong profits, Praxim is being dragged down by increasing competition in the consumer segment of the PC market. In response, CEO Jack Thompson has hired a new manager for the consumer division, Linda Marcus, luring her away from a leading packaged-goods company. Linda wants to make Praxim into a trusted brand by putting Praxim's people into retail stores at peak selling times, setting up an 800 number to answer consumers' technical questions in plain English, and bundling extensively. But the other members of the senior staff are skeptical. The vice president of the commercial division argues that PCs are a commodity and urges Linda to concentrate on cutting costs. The chief technology officer wants Praxim to concentrate on developing the next killer app so that it can charge consumers a premium for new technology. The CFO thinks Praxim should cut its losses and mostly give up on the consumer segment. Mindful that continued losses in the consumer segment will pull down Praxim's share price and put his top executives' stock options at risk, Jack is at a loss. Should he try to make money selling PCs to consumers? Can he keep the doubters on his staff from defecting if he goes ahead with Linda's plan? In 98603 and 98603Z, Geoff Moore, Donna Dubinsky, Larry Keeley, George Quesnelle, Scott Ward, and Philip Pifer give Jack their advice.
In this article, authors James Anderson, professor at the Kellogg Graduate School, Northwestern University, and James Narus, associate professor at the Babcock Graduate School, Wake Forest University, illustrate several ways in which suppliers can figure out exactly what their offerings are worth by creating and using what they call customer value models. Field value assessments--the most commonly used method for building customer value models--call for suppliers to gather data about their customers firsthand whenever possible. Through these assessments, a supplier can build a value model for an individual customer or for a market segment, drawing on data gathered from several customers in that segment. Suppliers can use customer value models to create competitive advantage in several ways. First, they can capitalize on the inevitable variation in customers' requirements by providing flexible market offerings. Second, they can use value models to demonstrate how a new product or service they are offering will provide greater value. Third, they can use their knowledge of how their market offerings specifically deliver value to craft persuasive value propositions. And fourth, they can use value models to provide evidence to customers of their accomplishments. Doing business based on value delivered gives companies the means to get an equitable return for their efforts. Once suppliers truly understand value, they will be able to realize the benefits of measuring and monitoring it for their customers.
Harry Denton, the CEO in this fictional case study, has been caught off guard. As the head of Delarks, a venerable department-store chain in the Midwest, he has engineered a remarkable turnaround in only a year. Sales have rebounded, and Wall Street is applauding. But when Delarks's head of merchandising defects to a competitor, Denton is shocked to realize that many of the layoff survivors, in fact, have had it with him and with the company. The last straw was the recent closing of the Madison store, which Denton announced without warning to anyone--not even the company's head of HR, Thomas Wazinsky, a supposedly trusted adviser. The rumor mill says that many employees are considering leaving before Denton can inflict the next blow. And senior managers are not immune to the fear and anger. Even Wazinsky, one of the few links to Delarks's proud past, confesses to Denton, "I'll bet you're thinking of firing me." Denton has to act--and fast. He calls a "town meeting" for the 600 employees of the St. Paul store. The plan: rally the troops. Instead, Denton is routed. Angry questions are hurled at the CEO, and he is forced to beat a hasty retreat through the back door. In 98510A and 98510Z, Bob Peixotto, Jim Emshoff, Richard Manning, Gun Denhart, and Saul Gellerman offer advice on how to revive morale at the successful but troubled company.
In this eye-opening article, Thomas W. Malone and Robert J. Laubacher of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology look at how a new kind of organization could form the basis of a new kind of economy--an e-lance economy--where all the old rules of business are overturned and big companies are rendered obsolete. Drawing on their research at MIT's Initiative on Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century, the authors postulate a world in which business is not controlled through a stable chain of management in a large, permanent company. Rather, it is carried out autonomously by independent contractors connected through personal computers and electronic networks. These electronically connected freelancers--e-lancers--would join together into fluid and temporary networks to produce and sell goods and services. When the job is done--after a day, a month, a year--the network would dissolve and its members would again become independent agents. Far from being a wild hypothesis, the e-lance economy is, in many ways, already upon us. We see it in the rise of outsourcing and telecommuting, in the increasing importance within corporations of ad-hoc project teams, and in the evolution of the Internet. Most of the necessary building blocks of this type of business organization--efficient networks, data interchange standards, groupware, electronic currency, venture capital micromarkets--are either in place or under development. What is lagging behind is our imagination. But, the authors contend, it is important to consider sooner rather than later the profound implications of how such an e-lance economy might work. They examine the opportunities, and the problems, that may arise and anticipate how the role of managers may change fundamentally--or possibly even disappear altogether.
Fast, Global, and Entrepreneurial: Supply Chain Management, Hong Kong Style: An Interview with Victor Fungby Joan Magretta Victor Fung
In this interview, Li & Fung Chairman Victor Fung explains both the philosophy behind supply-chain management and the specific practices that Li & Fung has developed to reduce costs and lead times, allowing its customers to buy "closer to the market." Li & Fung, Hong Kong's largest export trading company, has been an innovator in supply-chain management--a topic of increasing importance to many senior executives. Li & Fung has also been a pioneer in "dispersed manufacturing." It performs the higher-value-added tasks such as design and quality control in Hong Kong, and outsources the lower-value-added tasks to the best possible locations around the world. The result is something new: a truly global product. To produce a garment, for example, the company might purchase yarn from Korea that will be woven and dyed in Taiwan, then shipped to Thailand for final assembly, where it will be matched with zippers from a Japanese company. For every order, the goal is to customize the value chain to meet the customer's specific needs. To be run effectively, Victor Fung maintains, trading companies have to be small and entrepreneurial. He describes the organizational approaches that keep the company that way despite its growing size and geographic scope: its organization around small, customer-focused units; its incentives and compensation structure; and its use of venture capital as a vehicle for business development. As Asia's economic crisis continues, chairman Fung sees a new model of companies emerging--companies that are, like Li & Fung, narrowly focused and professionally managed.
In this article, Timothy A. Luehrman explores how option pricing can be used to improve decision making about the sequence and timing of a portfolio of strategic investments. In financial terms, a business strategy is much more like a series of options than like a single projected cash flow. Executing a strategy almost always involves making a sequence of major decisions. Some actions are taken immediately while others are deliberately deferred so that managers can optimize their choices as circumstances evolve. While executives readily grasp the analogy between strategy and real options, until recently the mechanics of option pricing were so complex that few companies found this method practical to use when formulating strategy. But advances in both computing power and our understanding of option pricing over the last 20 years now make it feasible to apply real-options thinking to strategic decision making. To analyze a strategy as a portfolio of related real options, this article exploits a framework presented by the author in "Investment Opportunities as Real Options: Getting Started on the Numbers" (HBR July/August 1998). That article explained how to get from discounted-cash-flow value to option value for a typical project; in other words, it was about reaching a number. This article extends that framework, exploring how, once you've worked out the numbers, you can use option pricing to improve decision making about the sequence and timing of a portfolio of strategic investments. The author shows executives how to plot their strategies in two-dimensional "option space," giving them a way to "draw" a strategy in terms that are neither wholly strategic nor wholly financial, but some of both. Such pictures inject financial discipline and new insight into how a company's future opportunities can be actively cultivated and harvested.
Managers can separate the real opportunities for synergy from the mirages, say Michael Goold and Andrew Campbell of the Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, by taking a more disciplined approach to synergy. Corporate executives have strong biases in favor of synergy, and those biases can lead them into ill-advised attempts to force business units to cooperate--even when the ultimate benefits are unclear. These biases take four forms: 1) the synergy bias, which leads executives to overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs of synergy; 2) the parenting bias, a belief that synergy will be captured only by cajoling or compelling business units to cooperate; 3) the skills bias--the assumption that whatever know-how is required to achieve synergy will be available within the organization; and 4) the upside bias, which causes executives to concentrate so hard on the potential benefits of synergy that they overlook the possible downside risks. In combination, these four biases make synergy seem more attractive and more easily achievable than it truly is. As a result, corporate executives often launch initiatives that ultimately waste time and money and sometimes even severely damage their businesses. To avoid such failures, executives need to subject all synergy opportunities to a clear-eyed analysis that clarifies the benefits to be gained, examines the potential for corporate involvement, and takes into account the possible downsides. Such a disciplined approach will inevitably mean that fewer initiatives will be launched. But those that are pursued will be far more likely to deliver.
In 1994, Continental Airlines was headed for a crash landing--it was quickly running out of customers and cash. Today, the airline is one of the great turnaround stories of the decade. What explains its reversal of fortune? A simple strategy, executed fast, right away, and all at once, says Greg Brenneman, president and COO of the company. There's no time to think too much during a turnaround, he notes in this outspoken first-person account, and that happens to be a very good thing. More specifically, he describes the five lessons he learned during this dramatic turnaround. At the beginning, there was so much wrong with Continental that he felt as if any one misstep could bring the whole effort down. But in a time of crisis, when time is tight and money is tighter, you can't afford to mull over complex strategy. With Gordon Bethune, Continental's chairman and CEO, Brenneman devised the Go Forward Plan, a straightforward strategy focused on four key elements: understanding the market, increasing revenues, improving the product, and transforming the corporate culture. He admits that the plan wasn't complicated--it was pure common sense. The tough part was getting it done. "Do it now!" became the rallying cry of the movement, and the power of momentum has carried Continental to success.
Based on 22 years of breakthrough research, this article by Teresa Amabile, MBA Class of 1954 Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, provides insightful guidelines for any executive who wants to nurture and stimulate one of the most powerful competitive weapons in the realm of business today: creativity. In today's knowledge economy, creativity is more important than ever. But many companies unwittingly employ managerial practices that kill it. How? By crushing their employees' intrinsic motivation--the strong internal desire to do something based on interests and passions. Managers don't kill creativity on purpose. Yet in the pursuit of productivity, efficiency, and control--all worthy business imperatives--they undermine creativity. It doesn't have to be that way. Business imperatives can comfortably coexist with creativity. But managers will have to change their thinking first. Specifically, managers will need to understand that creativity has three parts: expertise, the ability to think flexibly and imaginatively, and motivation. Managers can influence the first two, but doing so is costly and slow. It would be far more effective to increase employees' intrinsic motivation. Take challenge as an example: Intrinsic motivation is high when employees feel challenged but not overwhelmed by their work. The task for managers, therefore, becomes matching people to the right assignments. Managers can make a difference when it comes to employee creativity. The result can be truly innovative companies in which creativity doesn't just survive but actually thrives.
In this article, co-authors B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore, founders of the management consulting firm Strategic Horizons, preview the likely characteristics of the experience economy and the kinds of changes it will force companies to make. First there was agriculture, then manufactured goods, and eventually services. Each change represented a step up in economic value--a way for producers to distinguish their products from increasingly undifferentiated competitive offerings. Now, as services are in their turn becoming commoditized, companies are looking for the next higher value in an economic offering. Leading-edge companies are finding that it lies in staging experiences. An experience occurs when a company uses services as the stage--and goods as props--for engaging individuals in a way that creates a memorable event. And while experiences have always been at the heart of the entertainment business, any company stages an experience when it engages customers in a personal, memorable way. The lessons of pioneering experience providers, including the Walt Disney Company, can help companies learn how to compete in the experience economy. The authors offer five design principles that drive the creation of memorable experiences. First, create a consistent theme, one that resonates throughout the entire experience. Second, layer the theme with positive cues--for example, easy-to-follow signs. Third, eliminate negative cues, those visual or aural messages that distract or contradict the theme. Fourth, offer memorabilia that commemorate the experience for the user. Finally, engage all five senses--through sights, sounds, and so on--to heighten the experience and make it more memorable.
A new science called evolutionary psychology--sometimes called Modern Darwinism because it is based on the theory of natural selection--is drawing widespread support and sparking fierce controversy. The reason: evolutionary psychology asserts that human beings today retain the mentality of our Stone Age ancestors. We are, in other words, "hard wired" for certain attitudes and behaviors. If that is so, what are the implications for managers? In this article, Nigel Nicholson, a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School and dean of the school's Division of Research, explores this provocative question. Of course, evolutionary psychology is still an emerging discipline, and its strong connection with the theory of natural selection has sparked significant controversy. But, as Nicholson suggests, evolutionary psychology is now well established enough that its insights into human instinct will prove illuminating to anyone seeking to understand why people act the way they do in organizational settings. Take gossip. According to evolutionary psychology, our Stone Age ancestors needed this skill to survive the socially unpredictable conditions of the Savannah Plain. Thus, over time, the propensity to gossip became part of our mental programming. Executives trying to eradicate gossip at work might as well try to change their employees' musical tastes. Better to put one's energy into making sure the "rumor mill" avoids dishonesty or unkindness as much as possible. Evolutionary psychology also explores the dynamics of the human group. Clans on the Savannah Plain, for example, appear to have had no more than 150 members. The message for managers? People will likely be most effective in small organizational units. As every executive knows, it pays to be an insightful student of human nature.
In this fictitious case study, HBR editor Regina F. Maruca explores the challenges of managing employees in the alternative workplace. Allison Scher is threatening to quit. Penny Ryan wants to run the team. The manager of these off-site workers, Craig Bedell, feels blindsided by their conflict. And the whole mess has Maggie Pinto, the head of HR, wondering if she should cancel the companywide rollout of the telecommuting program. How did this situation get to the boiling point so quickly? Craig doesn't really know. From his vantage point--inside the office--his department is doing the best work it has ever done before. And the flexible work arrangements, designed on a case-by-case basis, have increased productivity and boosted morale at the same time. Or so Craig believed--until a few days ago, when the E-mail messages started to come. There was trouble between Penny and Allison. How serious was the situation? It was hard to tell. Craig responded with E-mail and voice-mail messages of his own. Couldn't it all be put on hold until Monday, when the team would come together for its biweekly meeting? Then he got the final E-mail from Allison--the one in which she threatened "to seek alternative employment." Is the breakdown in communication irrevocable? Can Craig, who learned how to manage during a time when people showed up at the office every day, adjust to the conditions of telecommuting? Four commentators offer their advice on how the company can patch up the short-term problem and lay the foundation for a successful future. In 98405 and 98405Z, Robert M. Egan, Wendy Miles, John R. Birstler, and Margaret Klayton-Mi offer their advice on how the company can patch up the short-term problem and lay the foundation for a successful future.
In this article, Timothy A. Luehrman presents a framework that can bridge the gap between the practicalities of real-world capital projects and the higher mathematics associated with formal option-pricing theory. His step-by-step approach maps out the exact relationship between a project's characteristics and the five variables that determine the value of a simple call option on a share of stock. By going through these steps, executives not regularly steeped in finance can discover value hidden in their projects that their standard discounted cash flow analysis would overlook. The analogy between financial options and corporate investments that create future opportunities is both intuitively appealing and increasingly well accepted. Executives readily see that today's investment in R&D, or in a new marketing program, or even in a multiphased capital expenditure can generate the possibility of new products or markets tomorrow. But for many, the leap from the puts and calls of financial options to actual investment decisions has been difficult and deeply frustrating. The calculations required to value real options have been dauntingly complex, and practical how-to advice on the subject has been scarce and mostly aimed at specialists, preferably with Ph.D.s in finance. Luehrman's methodology is designed to be used by general managers, not technical specialists. It deliberately sacrifices absolute precision in order to generate a number "good enough" to provide executives with valuable insight into their most important and complex investment decisions.
Drawing on a rich set of company examples, Thomas H. Davenport, a professor at the University of Texas's Graduate School of Business, provides a fresh, high-level perspective on enterprise systems that will help senior executives think rationally about their large-scale investments in this technology. Enterprise systems present a new model of corporate computing. They allow companies to replace their existing information systems, which are often incompatible with one another, with a single, integrated system. By streamlining data flows throughout an organization, these commercial software packages, offered by vendors like SAP, promise dramatic gains in a company's efficiency and bottom line. It's no wonder that businesses are rushing to jump on the ES bandwagon. But while these systems offer tremendous rewards, the risks they carry are equally great. Not only are the systems expensive and difficult to implement, they can also tie the hands of managers. Unlike computer systems of the past, which were typically developed in-house with a company's specific requirements in mind, enterprise systems are off-the-shelf solutions. They impose their own logic on a company's strategy, culture, and organization, often forcing companies to change the way they do business. Managers would do well to heed the horror stories of failed implementations. FoxMeyer Drug, for example, claims that its system helped drive it into bankruptcy. Using examples of both successful and unsuccessful ES projects, the author discusses the pros and cons of implementing an enterprise system, showing how a system can produce unintended and highly disruptive consequences. Because of an ES's profound business implications, he cautions against shifting responsibility for its adoption to technologists. Only a general manager will be able to mediate between the imperatives of the system and the imperatives of the business.
Managing Global Innovation is an 8-chapter book written by Yves L. Doz and Keeley Wilson of INSEAD and published in 2012 by Harvard Business Review Press. In today's global economy, existing knowledge is the catalyst for innovation, but gathering and using this knowledge depends on global factors which can create barriers to access. The authors provide a practical framework for the successful management of knowledge and innovation by optimizing the "innovation footprint," a framework designed to improve communication and receptivity and facilitate collaboration. The book is divided into four parts that address both theory and practice at each stage of the framework as well as the inherent challenges to innovation. The authors' detailed, practical guide for building and leveraging a global innovation network is based on extensive field research conducted worldwide. In Chapter 3, How a Site Creates Value and Why the Size of the Network Matters (35 pages), the authors discuss the challenge of creating an optimized innovation footprint where a company maintains individual sites that add value to the innovation process but do not exceed their own operational costs. The authors present a model for evaluating individual sites based on the type of value the sites create: substitution, complementarity, or discovery.. Real-world examples of various types include GE in India, Novartis, and Fuji Xerox. The authors then explore how to determine the optimal footprint size based on company and knowledge factors, including strategic direction, organizational capability, and corporate culture.
Managing Global Innovation is an 8-chapter book written by Yves L. Doz and Keeley Wilson of INSEAD and published in 2012 by Harvard Business Review Press. In today's global economy, existing knowledge is the catalyst for innovation, but gathering and using this knowledge depends on global factors which can create barriers to access. The authors provide a practical framework for the successful management of knowledge and innovation by optimizing the "innovation footprint," a framework designed to improve communication and receptivity and facilitate collaboration. The book is divided into four parts that address both theory and practice at each stage of the framework as well as the inherent challenges to innovation. The authors' detailed, practical guide for building and leveraging a global innovation network is based on extensive field research conducted worldwide. Appendix 2, Knowledge Is Increasingly Dispersed (7 pages), further explores the fourth key point of Appendix 1 with a description of the factors that drive companies beyond their home markets to find the information necessary for innovation. Pointing to several corporate examples, the authors consider the emergence of new global markets, an increased need for the incorporation of technologies outside of a company's specialization, and the trend of developed countries graduating fewer students in science, engineering, and technology than in lesser developed areas. the cal shift away from developed countries in the number of students who study science, engineering, and technology. They also consider the impact of external issues, especially environmental threats, regulations, and standards, and the repercussions of moving business centers outside of primary locations.
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