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Antony Mayfield

Antony Mayfield's Public Library

  • In the opening words of Strategy , Sir Lawrence Freedman’s comprehensive 2013 history of the discipline: “Everyone needs a strategy.” Companies still need to make choices about how to handle competition and serve their customers. But some of the tools big businesses applied in the 1980s and 1990s to help them form strategy are looking worn.
  • When Michael Porter laid out his concept of “five basic forces” that determine competition in 1980, and CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel explained how companies could identify their “core competencies” to support their competitive advantage in 1990, they were part of a flood of strategy fads and fashions. Since 2000, though, even if advice continues to pour out of publishers and business schools, the number of compelling new frameworks has dwindled.
  • In part, that is because over the past 15 years companies have found rigid strategic frameworks hard to adapt to a fast-changing environment. The rise of the smartphone and social media, rapid growth in developing markets, a financial crisis in the developed world and the fall of totalitarian regimes in the Middle East have prompted corporate leaders to concentrate more on flexibility and execution.

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  • Good implementation of even a poor strategy can lead to the discovery of better ones.
  • This is a compelling example of what organisational researchers call “bottom-up exploration” – employee deviations from official strategy that sometimes result in huge gains for companies. Apple isn’t the only Silicon Valley firm to have benefited from letting staff follow their muse: Google famously allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time on company-related personal projects, a policy that led to Google News, AdSense, and Gmail.

     

  • In a recent paper “Explaining the Implementation Imperative: Why Effective Implementation May Be Useful Even With Bad Strategy,” forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal, my co-author Eucman Lee (a PhD candidate at London Business School) and I develop a theory that explains why aggressively pursuing effective implementation may in fact be very sensible indeed. By effectiveness at strategy implementation, I mean the extent to which an organisation’s actions correspond to its strategic intentions. Thus, a company that seeks to pursue a low-cost strategy can be said to have successfully implemented the strategy if its costs indeed fall relative to its rivals; whether this leads to high profits or not depends on the appropriateness of the low-cost strategy in that particular industry.

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  • While this approach does test the agency in question and allow a more efficient pitch process, much is lost in an engagement like this. And it also means more work for the client in question. They have to spend hours crafting a brief, making sure they say all the right things using words that can faithfully sustain meaning and context in people’s brains without witnessing this directly. All projection, no discussion. [in fact, we have on more than one occasion been told we can not discuss the details of an RFP because it would be ‘unfair’ to the other agencies!]
  • I propose a different approach. One that, if I was feeling ‘headliney’, I might refer to as an RFW: a request for a workshop.

      

  • But three employees who have taken classes agreed to speak to The New York Times on the condition that they not be identified. They described a program that is an especially vivid reflection of Apple and the image it presents to the world. Like an Apple product, it is meticulously planned, with polished presentations and a gleaming veneer that masks a great deal of effort.

    “Even the toilet paper in the bathrooms is really nice,” one of the employees said.

  • Randy Nelson, who came from the animation studio Pixar, co-founded by Mr. Jobs, is one of the teachers of “Communicating at Apple.” This course, open to various levels of employees, focuses on clear communication, not just for making products intuitive, but also for sharing ideas with peers and marketing products.

  • In a version of the class taught last year, Mr. Nelson showed a slide of “The Bull,” a series of 11 lithographs of a bull that Picasso created over about a month, starting in late 1945. In the early stages, the bull has a snout, shoulder shanks and hooves, but over the iterations, those details vanish. The last image is a curvy stick figure that is still unmistakably a bull.

    “You go through more iterations until you can simply deliver your message in a very concise way, and that is true to the Apple brand and everything we do,” recalled one person who took the course.

  • Yes, the “everyone” bit is like motherhood and apple pie. It’s important, but it’s not a strategy.

     

    But dots (and we all know that @ signs are so last decade, don’t we?), dots are cool.

  • Because when people talk about “small pieces loosely joined” they are really talking about dots. Dots between the levels in a domain name make the Internet what it is, a network of networks. “blog dot mattedgar dot com” – speak them softly, but never gloss over them. With dots, we have an infinitely scalable, massively distributed, highly resilient system. Without dots, it would be one big centralised brittle of data.

  • Martin goes on to say that you only really know that you've made a real strategic choice if you can 'say the opposite of what that choice is, and it's not stupid'.
Apr 06, 15

This video, Transformers: The Pre-Make by Kevin B Lee appears to...
This video, Transformers: The Pre-Make by Kevin B Lee appears to be an artfully cut screencast, switching between Quicktime videos, YouTube, text notes and websites to talk about t…

  • Describing his innovative approach, Lee writes: ‘If the documentary genre is meant to capture life’s reality, then desktop recording acknowledges that computer screens and the internet are now a primary experience of our daily lives, as well as a primary repository of information. Desktop documentary seeks to both depict and question the ways we explore the world through the computer screen.’
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