Make disruption part of strategy

The fact nobody had ever done it before didn’t deter Jonah Staw. In 2003, the former Frog Design executive launched LittleMissMatched, its product a pack of six mismatched socks for eight dollars. Consumers accustomed to buying matching pairs could now buy socks in sets of three. The concept was disruptive – and an immediate success, especially with twin girls. “All of us have well-ingrained orthodoxies, patterns of perception, that are almost at the subconscious level, and they’re reinforced by our education and our experience” says Luke Williams, a former colleague of Staw’s at Frog and the author of Disrupt. “But if you’re really thinking about disruptive thinking and doing things differently and taking things in a new direction…we need a new definition of competition.” Actively challenging your thinking on a regular basis is part of the new management skillset, argued strategy guru, Gary Hamel, in The Future of Management. “Sometime over the next decade, your company will be challenged in a way for which it has no precedent,” he predicted. “How do you build organisations that are as nimble as change itself? How do you mobilise and monetise the imagination of every employee, every day? These challenges can’t simply be met without reinventing our 100-year-old management model.” One of the world’s leading thinkers on business innovation, Vijay Govindarajan, says that to prepare organisations for the long-term – he calls it Box 3 thinking – leaders must abandon traditional strategy practices in favour of new ones. “Box 3 strategy is not about linear extrapolation from the past; it’s about trying to anticipate non-linear shifts.” As Williams points out, the nature of competition has changed dramatically, and organisations are scrambling to catch up. For management professor, Rita McGrath, one of the overarching themes for 2012 is the need for business leaders to consciously and aggressively compare existing assumptions with unfolding reality. “Most of the time, today’s strategies are a response to constraints from the past,” says McGrath, author of Discovery-driven Growth. “Relax the constraints, and all sorts of new possibilities become feasible.”

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