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Strategic Disruption

(updated 2020)

All bets are off and it’s all because of technology. Technology has the uncanny ability to simultaneously lend itself to severely divergent lines of thought. Technology increases efficiency, decreases the ideological shelf-life and, in general, annihilates breathing room. It sounds like a destructive force; but, if you successfully employ its genius, technology promises to be the most constructive tool in your tool belt. It’s our modern fire, giving rise to limitless unforeseen necessities and novelties, alike.

Recently, I attended a capital markets conference. Here, speakers discussed historical trends and premises that “we all knew to be true,” but more importantly, economist posed a problem set: if GDP has rebounded, why don’t we feel like we’ve rebounded from the great recession? Why don’t the indicators reflect what “we all knew to be true?” The underlying problem is that what “we all knew to be true” was never the pure unfettered truth, it was simply an assumption prevalent in every financial and economic model. We were so busy relying on faulty assumptions and dissecting our models that we never foresaw the arrival of “the new truth” – blindsided.

In the past, we simply dug ourselves out of the proverbial depression/recession hole. The philosophy: if we simply employed human capital, (physical and intellectual), we give our best honest effort; and who could ask for anything more? The problem: our best is no longer good enough, we’ve been disrupted. For the very first time in human history, simple human effort is no longer the driver of productivity. Capital/Resources are neither scarce nor limited. We’re effectively living outside of the box, where the problem set is more complex. Technology is the new driver of productivity, and it’s everywhere.

The current truth is that our old models, assumptions, and expectations don't work for today. There’s no “new truth” playbook, and the schools of thought and infrastructure for employing capital/resources effectively in this new environment are tentative, at best. The time is ripe for exploring different approaches and radical alternatives.

When disrupted, disrupt.

To disrupt, think outside of your box; way outside.

Not only did we theorize about creativity and innovation we walked away with real and practical tools to use in our organizations. The Power of Creativity

Strategic planning usually involves the exploration of trends and developments in one decisive industry. The technological, financial, and operational impacts are considered with this industry specific filter. The challenge is to not only think cross-functional, but to also think cross-industry/cross-channel. What are the possible intersections and points of divergence? What may a small nimble and unencumbered start-up explore that paradoxically an established organization cannot risk exploring? Here’s the blind spot(s) for the incumbent and opportunity for the entrant.

This isn’t new. It should be part of the SWOT analysis that feeds into the strategic plan. What’s new is expanding the analysis beyond consideration of the usual players. Disrupt the strategy as usual and get outside of the box. The HBR article Big Bang Disruption  discusses how producers of portable navigation units failed to foresee the impact of smartphones and free navigation apps. Products from popular producers, like Garmin and TomTom, literally became irrelevant overnight. Become your own best competitor; do the thinking for them and mitigate the potential threat through adoption, adaption, or acquisition.

No, this is not entirely new, and I’m not suggesting that I’ve stumbled upon some magic formula. However, there’s certainly room for us to expand our strategic considerations and to think more dynamically. If we’re not periodically stretching ourselves to peer outside of our box, to assess the current environment, to consider a wide range of possibilities, and to prepare for the worst-case scenario, we risk being yanked outside of the box, against our will, unprepared, and clueless. Your choice.