Inflection Point: A book review by Bob Morris

Inflection Point
Inflection Point: How the Convergence of Cloud, Mobility, Apps, and Data Will Shape the Future of Business
Scott Stawski
Pearson (2015)

Strategic inflection point: “When a company’s fundamentals are about to change significantly, for better or worse.” Andy Grove

It was Andy Grove who introduced me to the inflection point, “an event or a series of interrelated events that result in the progress of a company, an individual, a section, an industry, or even a nation.” It is a process of natural selection as Charles Darwin explains it. In The Evolution of Everything, Matt Ridley defines it as a significant change in that process, a change in human instructions, artifacts and habits that is incremental, inexorable, and inevitable. “It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum, rather than being driven from outside; it has no goal or end in mind; and it largely happens by trial and error — a version of natural selection.” Inflection points bear some resemblance to what Michael Kami describes as “trigger points.” They also have a role to play during what Joseph Schumpeter describes as “creative destruction.” Perhaps the best correlation is with Thomas Kuhn’s concept of “paradigmatic shift.”

Of course, Scott Stawski is well-aware of this background to the abundance of information, mini-case studies, insights, and counsel he provided in this book while explaining how leaders can help their organizations to prepare for and benefit from “the convergence of cloud, mobility, apps, and data [that] will shape the future of business.” In fact, that future has already arrived. Stawski examines several trends that are converging to create “a major storm — or inflection point — today…This inflection point requires ultimate business flexibility. In order to succeed, a company must be driven by its core competencies and powered by a continual transformation environment that allows it the flexibility to innovate and achieve competitive advantage in its dynamic environment”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Stawski’s coverage in Chapters 1-9:

o What Is the Difference between Trend and Inflection Point? (Pages 14-16)
o Disintermediation Will Continue and Accelerate (17-25)
o “How the New Style of IT Thwarts the Wrong Type of Disintermediation — Counterfeiting” (33-37)
o Core Competency (44-46)
o Competitive Advantage (46-50)
o Continual Transformation Environment (50-53)
o The Three Foundation Principles Working Together (54-60)
o Newco Versus Oldco (74-75)
o Return on Invested Capital (75-78)
o “Divestiture Provides Del Monte Opportunity for Continual Transformation Environment” (81-86)
o What Is Cloud Computing? (93-94)
o Cloud Deployment Models (97-102)
o Cloud Computing Standards (104-106)
o “Who Coined the Term Cloud Computing?” (107-110)
o The Mobile Explosion (116-118)
o “City of Anaheim Develops Innovative Mobile Applications” (122-125)
o The Enterprise App Store (138-143)
o Big Data (145-150)
o Big Data and the Internet of Everything (150-152)
o Who Gets and Who Doesn’t Get Big Data (154-157)

I agree with Stawski that there are three foundation principles working together: core competencies, cumulative advantage, and continued transformation environment. I also agree that disintermediation will continue and accelerate and that change at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise will be the only constant. The three foundation principles identify the WHAT. The greatest challenge for business leaders will be to determine the most appropriate HOW and meanwhile maximize workforce engagement with a compelling WHY.

Here in this one volume, Scott Stawski provides just about everything almost any C-level executive needs to know in order to help lead their organization through the perilous and disruptive months and years that lie ahead. Mike Nefkens’ observations in the Foreword to serve as a conclusion to this brief commentary: “We are in the midst of a major market disruption. Cloud, mobility, big data, and security are converging, and how enterprises respond will determine success or failure. Turning game-changing ideas into value faster than competitors is no longer a nice goal to have — it is the only way to survive and thrive.”

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