Join me for a FREE Portals of Perception event on Nurturing Emergent Communities. In this interactive global Zoom event, I will be hosting Grace Boda, Jeff Vander Clute, and Anne Stadler.
Inquiries we will explore include:
- Why are communities so fundamental to guiding our future?
- What qualities are central to co-creative communities?
- What practices support collective intelligence? How can we facilitate greater wisdom and mutuality of purpose?
Helping groups of people discover their emergent possibilities, unleash their collective intelligence, and produce ever higher levels of integration and inspiration is fundamental to creating thriving communities.
Strategic planning is an oxymoronic term. While vision and strategy are a “back from the future” inquiry, planning is the endeavor to move from today to the future. Although we need both approaches, they are not the same activity and thus require different mindsets.
In many companies a “strategy” effort is not strategic at all. Rather it is a financial-led, bottom-up planning exercise. Though these endeavors represent an important discipline, it is disingenuous at best and a dereliction of duty at worst for those who understand this key distinction to claim that conducting this annual cycle of bottom-up financial engineering means you have engaged in a strategic exploration that will shape the future of your organization.
To engender true strategic explorations, we develop Horizon Three stories of the future. These include inquiries about:
- Market value pools
- Customers’ and stakeholders’ needs and aspirations
- Shapeshifting trends and their plausible developments
- Technological and process innovations
- Competitive differentiation vectors
- Critical dependencies that enable each story of the future
- Control points, outcomes, and value each story will create
Our consulting service is itself a surprising case in point. During the pandemic we discovered that strategic efforts with leadership teams became even more effective in virtual workshops than in person. Our clients and their aspirations, new technological solutions, and innovative developments in our methodology produced transformational results.
8 Key Questions for Evaluating Your Strategic Innovation Opportunieies
Effective virtual collaboration tools and the rapid evolution of our process choreography enabled us to produce a highly energized engagement modality. Our process evolved as we shifted the breakout format and composition, created many new connections between and among people, and cultivated collective ideation and formulation on a digital canvas. This approach empowers people, unlocks their creativity, and facilitates surprising breakthroughs.
As a result, our clients’ teams have produced a rich portfolio of strategic and innovation possibilities. Because most situations operate within resource constraints, we evaluate these potential business opportunities in context, one next to the other.
1. Does this opportunity create differential value for the business, our customers, and our stakeholders?
It’s not enough to stop at an assessment of the value for the business. You also must consider the perceived value to your customers and stakeholders.
2. Is this opportunity uniquely “ownable” by us?
What gives you the ability to develop and own this service solution better than anyone else? You cannot create differential value unless you offer unique products or services that are difficult to replicate. What evidence leads you to believe that investment in this opportunity will enable your company to provide something that your competitors cannot?
3. Does this opportunity support multiple stories of the future?
As you explore a variety of possible future scenarios, does an investment in this opportunity present itself as core to many/most of them?
4. Will we be able to build a sustainable moat around this opportunity?
Though doing this is not always possible, to the extent your company is successful – such as by the type of innovation and/or through its intellectual property – other companies will find it exceedingly difficult to replicate your achievement. Think about Google: no other company will be able to catch up to its “search” capabilities.
5. Does this opportunity offer a larger “prize” than others?
Given the TAM (Total Available Market) segments you believe are capturable, and considering the potential growth opportunities, which investment will offer the greatest reward?
6. Will this opportunity excite the imagination of our workforce?
The importance of this question should not be underestimated. Will this opportunity unlock the excitement, energy, and passion that will enable your team to see it through to implementation?
7. How confident are we that we will be able to implement this opportunity?
The ease of implementation is a key element of the analysis as you evaluate your ability to deliver the anticipated impact. Determining where on the easy-to-difficult continuum of implementation the opportunity falls will enable you to forecast more accurately the likelihood of success.
8. Is this opportunity congruent with our values, brand experience, and form?
Will this innovation and growth opportunity build on your brand attributes? Will success in this space be consistent with your aspirational values? Will customers be able to distinguish the resulting product or service as one that is consistent with others your company provides?
For example, in the late 1990s the most popular midsize sedan was the Ford Taurus. It had a recognizable rounded shape on the front and the back. Then the Ford engineers decided to “refresh” the form and shaped a different quasi aerodynamical shape at the back of the Taurus. However, the change did not match the brand experience customers associated with the Taurus. Shortly afterward, Toyota’s re-design of its Camry to include a rounded front and back took its place as the most popular sedan. Ironically, by subsequently mimicking Ford’s mistake itself, Toyota Camry lost its position to the Nissan Altima. In contrast, Volvo had a different experience: when it rounded the “squareness” of some of its models, people still could recognize the boxy vehicles they associated with the Volvo brand.
Note that congruence to the company’s form is a double-edged sword: sometimes you need to break out of the past. When you do, however, be sure to incorporate some elements of your company’s lineage into the new creation.
Now it’s your turn. Turn the key. Reflect on your strategic growth opportunities holistically. To create the future of your business, build on your strengths and identify the best possible product or service ideas that emerge from this multi-lens evaluation. Apply the 8-inquiry framework to discover which options are optimal. Then determine the priority investments that will unlock the future to which you aspire.
© Aviv Shahar