Blue Oceans Are A Thing of the Past

Business leaders dream of what is now a nearly mythical space: a “blue ocean” market, the term Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim coined to denote unexplored and uncontested markets in their 2004 bestselling book Blue Ocean Strategy.

The truth is, nearly all businesses operate in “red oceans” — markets that are crowded and competitive. The challenge today isn’t as much about searching for some rare niche that may offer a small window of opportunity and fleeting advantage as it is about competing in and conquering established customer and market segments with new value.

To do that requires revisiting what…


In his new book When More is Not Better: Overcoming America’s Obsession with Economic Efficiency, Roger Martin offers an antidote to our fragile democratic capitalism.

If you follow my work at all, you’d know that any book that focuses on less is right up my alley. I’ve made a career of advocating the subtractive approach to business, work, and life. And a book by Roger Martin, whom I consider a mentor, would be even more so.

Roger Martin is, above all, a master thinker. He’s maintained a podium position on the Thinkers50 list for years, and has penned many a…


Don’t let uncertainty hold back development strategy

Searching for strategic sure-footedness amidst the gale-force headwinds of a global pandemic and socioeconomic upheaval has left business leaders struggling to regain control of their enterprise. Far too many are stunned and scrambling to simply survive, if they’ve been fortunate enough to weather the storm thus far.

In a previous article, I argued that uncertainty and chaotic conditions cannot, and should not, prevent leaders from developing strategy and that holding off and hoping for more halcyon times in the near future was not a winning option.

The question remains, of course, just how to do that?

Devoting significant resources to…


Don’t Let the Uncertainty Excuse Stop Your Strategy Making.

Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle…to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

When it comes to thinking about our business strategy, though, this advice seems much easier to say than do, mostly because it feels like it runs counter to our natural tendency to do just the opposite given the enormous uncertainty created by the COVID pandemic.

We simply cannot let uncertainty beat us. We cannot let uncertainty about the future stop us from moving forward. If we do, we will surely lose our balance.

Unfortunately, I’ve all too many senior executives doing exactly that…


Defense Production and the Power of Continuous Improvement to Stabilize Society

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with full fury, most people had probably never heard of the Defense Production Act, a U.S. federal government law passed during the Korean War. Even fewer know of the DPA’s genesis and precursor — Roosevelt’s World War II emergency services — and why it matters.

Allow me to share some of that history and context, because at the heart of the genetic code of the DPA lies the very method that holds the power to win a world war…no matter who or what the global enemy is.

That method is now known…


Can You Separate Strategy From the Strategist? The Unfortunate Answer.

There’s a meme that’s been floating around for some time: “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” As with most memes, it’s rather silly. But what makes anything comical is the presence of some kernel of truth.

To set strategy against culture is obviously nonsensical: Culture at its root is the product of choices that have been made by those with the power to shape how the organization is run; and if we know anything, it’s that strategy is about choosing to do some things, and not do others. In reality strategy and culture share a meal.

But I believe the kernel…


Photo: Getty Images

Had he suffered from one of the most common creative syndromes, Steve Jobs might never have even considered visiting the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1979. He might never have seen what he almost immediately recognized as the future of personal computing, a graphical user interface PARC had developed, designed to look like a desktop and convert traditional computer command lines and DOS prompts into icons of folders and documents that a user could point to and click open by using something Xerox called a mouse. …


(source: Bigstock Photo)

“So you’re passionate? How passionate? What actions does your passion lead you to do? If the heart doesn’t find perfect rhyme with the head, then your passion means nothing. The OKR framework cultivates the madness, the chemistry contained inside it. It gives us an environment for risk, trust, where failing is not a fireable offense. And when you have that sort of structure and environment, and the right people, magic is around the corner.” — Bono, U2

As a strategy and innovation advisor, I spend a good bit of time working with senior leadership teams, facilitating sessions focused on answering…


What’s the difference between continuous improvement and “disruptive” innovation?

I get this question all the time, especially from organizations who have significant investment in some process improvement program — like lean, six sigma, or kaizen — and have picked clean all the low-hanging fruit, squeezed as much inefficiency from their work as is humanly feasible, and are now realizing that their beloved program wasn’t all that customer-focused. All the internal scrutiny left the customer without any truly new and useful value. So the leaders decide that what they need to focus on now is innovation, as if it’s something different entirely.

The question comes in different forms, but irrespective…


Strategies Must Cascade Through the Company

A few days ago, as I was waiting for an item I purchased in my local Apple store to be brought out to me from the back of the store, I had the opportunity to observe Apple’s frontline strategy be played out in front of me. It revolved around another floor associate assisting a gentleman considering the purchase of an Apple watch.

Now, you might be thinking, what possible strategy would or could an Apple associate on the floor really need? Apple devices sell themselves, right? Wrong. Especially in the case of the Apple watch, which was a strategic product…

Matthew E. May

Founder and Chief Strategist of Stratechia, an advisory firm helping tech-forward companies transform their businesses. https://stratechia.com

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