How and why “six key elements are essential to every vision’s success”
Andrea Kates and I am among those who agree with Thomas Edison that “vision without execution is hallucination.” In this book, she provides a brilliant analysis of an approach that can unlock the potential of sustainable business growth and prosperity. Over a period of 15 years during which she was involved in 250 strategy projects, Kates formulated what she calls the “Business Genome,” an approach whose core DNA consists of six separate but interdependent elements. They are product and service innovation, customer impact, process design, talent and leadership, “secret sauce” (i.e. the recipe of differentiation and competitive advantage in a new world of unprecedented transparency), and trendability. No news there. They are merely words buzzing around unless and until they are integrated smoothly and then engaged effectively “as a strategic lever to move a company today to a dynamic future.”
Kates recommends and explains a four step process: sort through the options and assess hunches, match the given genome (different with each company) that have already achieved the given objectives, “hybridize” the company by adopting (“grafting”) what works for others, and adapt and drive after breaking old habits and fostering new traditions in the business. As she explains with meticulous care, the companies that thrive in months and years to come will embrace the new realities of speed, transparency, global reach, and customer dynamics that have rendered obsolete most (if not all) traditional, conventional business models and their assumptions and premises about how to establish and then sustain a competitive advantage.
It should be noted that the title of Kates’ book refers to “your next,” not to “the next.” Companies are like snowflakes in that they share common elements and yet no two of them are exactly the same. Hence the importance of the fact that the business genome approach can be adopted by almost any company, whatever its size and nature may be. Cultural resistance that all change initiatives is usually the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” This resistance probably cannot be avoided and is very difficult to overcome. That is why, Kates explains, it is imperative to recognize the emergence of patterns and trends, in some instances paradigm shifts, within the business universe. Understanding them is both an art (i.e. envisioning what is only beginning to take shape) and a science (i.e. applying rigorous analysis to verifiable phenomena). In essence, Kates urges her reader to seek her or his Next New by developing a mindset that moves beyond the Current/Recent Old, a passive (perhaps stagnating) state that may have once been a Next New.
Think of the six elements as organizational capabilities, each of which must be developed and all of which must be coordinated within process of transformation by which to take full advantage of new opportunities revealed by business analytics, early-warning systems, inexplicable anomalies, and what I characterize as enlightened intuition. It would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply everything Kates recommends and/or replicate initiatives taken by exemplar companies in the case studies provided in Part 3. However, she can help everyone who reads this book can recognize the new realities, shift focus to new questions and to new answers to old questions, to recognize and then tap into “the patterns that are evolving today,” and thereby shape rather than be shaped by whatever is next.