John Hagel III:
Business strategy has evolved dramatically over the past four decades in response to the Big Shift that is re-shaping our global business landscape. We’re on the cusp of yet another shift that will determine who wins and who loses in the years ahead.
We’ve recently been exploring some key elements required to escape from the dark side of technology: passion, institutional innovation and movements shaped by narratives.
Today, we’ll look at the importance of new approaches to strategic advantage. These new approaches offer the potential to learn faster in ways that will be very difficult for others to copy. In a world of mounting performance pressure, this is a powerful advantage.
A brief history
Business strategy emerged in full force in the 1970’s and 1980’s with a strong focus on structural advantage. The essence of structural advantage was simple: find barriers to entry that will protect a company from competition. These barriers could take many forms: for example, geographic, economic, technological (patents) or regulatory. This made sense in a push based world: the key was to build walls to prevent others from pushing you out of your leadership position.
But here’s the problem. The Big Shift is ultimately about the convergence of two powerful forces: digital technology infrastructures and long-term shifts in public policy towards economic liberalization. These two forces together are systematically and significantly reducing barriers to entry and barriers to movement on a global scale. The structural advantages that used to provide safe havens became less and less effective. If you’re an incumbent, welcome to the dark side!