Thinkers50 Strategy: A book review by Bob Morris

50 StrategyThinkers 50 Strategy: The Art and Science of Strategy Creation and Execution
Stuant Crainer and Des Dearlove
McGraw-Hill Education

What are the most valuable insights with regard to the art and science of strategy formulation and execution?

This is one of the volumes in a series published by McGraw-Hill Education and co-authored by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. They wrote it in response to that question.

I really like the basic concept: Crainer and Dearlove selected a major business subject such as strategy and then asked, “Which cutting edge thinkers should we consult to share their thoughts about this?” They had already read many of their books and articles and even interviewed several of them. A generous selection of the most valuable material they obtained is provided in this volume. The first chapter is called, appropriately, “How We Got Here.” That is, how perspectives on leadership have evolved over time.

* * *

Here is one of the Q&As from an interview of Roger Martin:

What is the big idea behind Playing to Win, written in collaboration with A.G. Lafley?

The big idea is that you can make strategy very simple; it can be enjoyable to do and very effective, and so we wrote a book about what we did together to do that at Procter & Gamble [of which Lafley was then CEO].

Not many executives have a definition of strategy that’s helpful to them. And so they do lots of analysis, put together very thick documents that sit on shelves, quite famously, and it’s because they haven’t made a few key choices. What we distilled it down to in our practice is five key choices. If you make those choices, you’ll have a strategy. If you haven’t made those choices, your strategy is probably not worth having.

[Note: The first of the five questions Martin then discusses is, “What is your winning aspiration?”]

* * *

Here is another Q&A, from their interview of David Bach:

What is nonmarket strategy? Why is it important? And why is it important now?

Nonmarket strategy is simply the idea that the business environment consists of more than just markets. There are other stakeholders who bear directly on a company’s ability to create and defend competitive advantage: governments, regulators, nongovernmental organizations, the media, and so forth. We can call these nonmarket actors, and they become increasingly important in terms of the influence that they have on a company.

Just as a firm strategically manages its market environment and comes up with a plan for creating competitive advantage, it should do the same for the nonmarket environment.

* * *

Granted, these are snippets but they do give you at least a sample of the thoughtful and thought-provoking material that is presented throughout the book. Other contributors include Richard D’Aveni (Q&A), Gary Hamel, W. Chan Kim (Q&A with René Mauborgne), Rita McGrath, Michael Porter, C.K. Prahalad, Richard Rumelt, and Chris Zook.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the Thinkders50 volumes on innovation, management, future thinkers, and strategy. Also, Crainer’s The Ultimate Business Library: The Greatest Books That Made Management, published by Captone/A Wiley Imprint,

and The Management Century: One Hundred Years of Thinking and Practice, part of the J-B BAH Strategy & Business Series. I also greatly admire Dearlove’s The Ultimate Book of Business Thinking: Harnessing the Power of the World’s Greatest Business Ideas and Business the Richard Branson Way: 10 Secrets of the World’s Greatest Brand Builder (Big Shots Series).

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