Delighted to say that our latest publication has appeared in soft copy form on the online-first pages of the journal Strategic Organisation. You can see a copy here.
Taylor Swift is regarded by some as the most powerful artist of her generation. She has already pulled her content from Spotify and yesterday she successfully stood up to Apple. Her argument was that whilst Apple had the right to give away a three month trial to its new Music service, artists shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice their music rights for that period. Such is her traction with audiences that she cajoled Apple into agreeing that the free trial would still produce income for artists. This then, is a case of a strategic thinker leveraging her resources against a potential threat. A more interesting challenge would have been how to band together the thousands of less visible artists who had, until yesterday, had to go along with the original plan. Many social changes are effected through the quiet actions of the majority. Will the music industry be turned upside down by streaming or will the big firms continue to dominate?
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of what some regard as cinema’s first summer “blockbuster”. Spielberg’s film was ostensibly about a shark and three full-sized model sharks were built at great expense to ensure that the dramatic scenes in the film would have the requisite cinematic impact. Like many carefully crafted and well resourced plans, things didn’t work out as intended. The model sharks were fine in the controlled environment of a warehouse but when they were put into seawater for filming, they malfunctioned. Rather than performing, the mechanical sharks sank or refused to behave. The net result was a film shoot which was over budget, over time and lacking the one thing that promised to make the movie work as a cinematic experience. When Spielberg began to edit the film together with his team they were forced to improvise, making more of what you couldn’t see that what you could. Combined with a haunting musical score from John Williams, these tense sequences of legs splashing and footage shot from the shark’s viewpoint (where you didn’t see the shark) produced cinematic magic. At a test screening Spielberg saw audiences jump out of their seats at two key junctures in the film. Inspired, he shot an extra scene, where a human head rolls out of a sunken boat, in the editor’s swimming pool and added it the final cut of the film. So what does this tell us about strategy? First, that plans often fail despite careful planning. In this case seawater hadn’t been factored into the plan but most plans overlook something. Second, that turning adversity into success relies on sheer determination combined with opportunistic behaviour that maximises the impact of accumulated skill. Spielberg had already directed a powerful movie replete with tense chase scenes (his film Duel featured a car being chased by a huge truck). He happened to have a fantastic score (supplied by John Williams) and careful editing allowed him to make a different, but more effective movie than the one he had storyboarded. Third, whilst improvising it is important to listen to feedback. Having produced a movie that engaged and shocked viewers, Spielberg could have quit while he was ahead. Instead, he worked to improve the winning formula by adding one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. Years later Spielberg conceded that if the mechanical sharks had worked as intended they would have made a different movie that might have had less impact. The real strategy lesson here is that adversity is a resource. Use it wisely. To find out more about the process of developing strategy, try a free chapter from our latest book “Strategic Management: strategists at work” or sign up to stridesite.com for advice and resources aimed at strategists.
Apple Music marks a major strategic move in the music streaming business. The launch of a new service from one of the world’s most recognised brands marks a significant shift and signals fierce competition with rivals such as Amazon, Google, Spotify and Deezer. Apple Music will launch in 100 countries later this month and the firm has the ability to make the service appear on hundreds of millions of Apple devices giving it a huge advantage by integrating hardware, software and operating systems. The idea of launching pricing plans for family accounts is also likely to mean consolidation of accounts from different providers. If you were a competitor you would be facing a thorny problem. At Stride, we’re interested in how you would respond to Apple’s strategic move. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page and we’ll give a copy of our new book “Strategic Management: strategists at work” to the most inspired answer we get.
Our new website is now live! You can try our free app and see what kind of strategist you are. You can join our community, contribute and stay ahead of the strategy game. You and colleagues can try out our diagnostics, strengthen your team and refresh your strategy in easy bite-sized chunks. All for less than a fiver – and you get a discount on our acclaimed new book. Go on, click now – we look forward to welcoming you to the Stride community!
One of the key skills in strategy is knowing both “what” to do and “when” to do it. Carl Icahn thinks that Apple is going to become the dominant player in both television and automobiles within the next 5 years. He has therefore written an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook arguing that “with Apple’s shares trading for just $128.77 per share versus our valuation of $240 per share” now is the time to enact a much larger buyback of shares. Would you place a bet that the world’s most valuable company is undervalued by about half ?
In 1995 Bill Gates deployed the full power of Microsoft’s vast resources to ensure that it cornered the internet browser market. At that point Netscape (yes remember them!) had 90% market share. Internet Explorer was bundled into the operating system on new machines running Microsoft Windows. The good news was that within a few years, IE had dislodged Netscape giving Microsoft a seemingly unassailable position. The bad news was that the move attracted expensive antitrust cases. Scroll forward to 2015 and Microsoft has announced that it is retiring IE. This decision was triggered by the realisation that IE had been outmanoeuvred by more innovative, more web-friendly browsers such as Google’s Chrome. Ironically, one of the key competitors that drew customers away from IE was Firefox, a product of the Mozilla Foundation which emerged phoenix-like from the ashes of none other than Netscape. What does this “circle of life” story tell us about strategy? Were Microsoft ruthless when moving in on Netscape’s position in the 1990s? Or were they not ruthless enough? Perhaps the most telling lesson is that even from a dominant position, such as that enjoyed by IE, if you stop developing the product, you run the risk of some newcomer outperforming you. Maybe in another ten years, Microsoft will turn out to be the most unlikely of comeback stories.
There’s a story about our new book on the Adam Smith Business School website.
In our opinion … you shouldn’t develop a strategy just because you have done so before (habit), or because you’ve been asked to (coercion) or because all the other organisations you meet have one (mimicry). Instead there is only one good reason to develop a strategy which you’ll find in our talk which is available on youtube.
The editorial in October’s Strategic Management Journal (SMJ) carries the somewhat weighty title “Theory in Strategic Management”. it deserves to be taken seriously – not only because the journal is arguably the field’s most influential offering in academic strategy; the authors – Bettis, Gambardella, Helfat and Mitchell – are highly accomplished researchers in their areas. (more…)