As we’re all aware, in today’s world simply sticking to your knitting is tantamount to a slow fall backward. Sticking to your knitting, may be viewed as staying the course and following a prescribed strategy. Yet I think ‘sticking to your knitting’ is in the process of being, well, redefined.
In Experimentation Is The New Planning, Fast Company addresses part of this dilemma. Dave Gray discusses the difference between Deliberate strategy (your knitting) and Emergent strategy. Deliberate, or traditional, strategy development is what I think of as a closed loop approach.
Gray describes it this way: “Deliberate strategy is goal-oriented. It asks, “What do we want to achieve?” Emergent strategy is means-oriented. It asks, “What is possible, with the means we have at our disposal?
The core emphasis is on the use of experimentation. By continually managing a portfolio of experiments (think: R&D), companies are continually practicing exploration, discovery as to their markets’ needs.
The key benefit is that having a portfolio of ‘ideas’ available allows new strategies to emerge. Such ‘organic’ strategy development is, I might argue, a contemporary definition for sticking to your knitting. Deliberate strategy ‘dictates’ an approach, rallying an organization’s resources to suit. Working from an experiment portfolio, the organization is already (at least partly) positioned to act since the experiments were derived out of existing capabilities.
Experiment Through Startups
A different approach built along the same idea as experimentation is highlighted by Maryfran Johnson (September, 2012). Ms. Johnson, Editor in Chief of CIO Magazine & Events, discusses how some companies are effectively experimenting through targeted investment in Startups. The idea being that, “Startups are a good way to experiment at the edges of your priorities and position your company as an innovator,” according to William Hsu, MuckerLabs.
Working with Startups is not without risks. They’re prone to failure, bankruptcy, and acquisitions. However, with careful due diligence, they can offer a really ‘big bang.’ Tracey Rothenberger, CIO of Ricoh, discussed how a startup enabled them to dramatically improve field service. Teaming up with a new, small vendor, “They had some incredibly good technology, and it gave us a good couple years…before our competitors had it.”
As I read through a number of articles and commentary this week, all coincidental in their timing, the notion of strategic development through experimentation came across loud and clear. Its not just a single-point success story, but a number of organizations, leaders, finding success this way.
So, the question might then be, “Are you experimenting, developing (however small) a portfolio of ‘ideas’ for future growth?” If not, why not?