In uncertain times, choosing which changes to pursue is a true dilemma when information is scarce. If you decide too soon, you might make errors due to a lack of information. On the other hand, if you wait too long, your options will be limited because others will have shaped a new reality for you. How can businesses emerge from this dilemma and build their own distinctive strategy?
Rely on in-company data and make room for debate
In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, two consultants from a strategy consultancy (Innosight) co-founded by former Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen (who was considered “the most influential management thinker of his time”) make an original argument: in order to initiate change, it is best to rely on in-company rather than external data.
By nature, external data from sectoral reports and analysis reveal past trends and developments, contain belated indications and reflect the consequences of choices made by the players in a given market. A company that relies on this data is therefore forced to enter a strategic game created by others.
External reports and analysis are unable to create an awareness of an organisation’s need for change.
The many voices vying to assert their explanations and justifications of the status quo are quick to demonstrate the ways in which this analysis does not apply, or only slightly, to the organisation’s context.
The authors propose a different approach:
- rely on internal data to gain an understanding of the changes underway. This data could be qualitative (comments from customers and from new hires, who often have greater exposure to changes in the industry). It could also be quantitative, such as changes in customer behaviour during a recent period, analysis of discourse on social media or specialised forums, which often offer a wealth of valuable signals.
- make room for debate on emerging realities and statistically unrepresentative facts. Asking a group of decision-makers to position themselves on a scale representing the need for change. This allows those who see an urgent need for change, who are often rare, to share their point of view.
A productive approach to bringing about a distinctive change is therefore to take advantage of in-company data and internal analysis capabilities; not to avoid imposing a common vision but, on the contrary, to fuel controversy and enable dialectics that will gradually bring to light the significance of the situation and the distinctive strategy to be implemented.
This article was first published in French on Prof. Benyayer’s blog.
This post gives the views of its author, not the position of ESCP Business School.
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