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Competing for the Future (Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad)

Amazon link: Competing for the Future

Also see The Definitive Drucker and Management, Revised Edition

  • Preface to the paperback edition
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Getting Off the Treadmill
  • How Competition for the Future Is Different
  • Learning to Forget
  • Competing for Industry Foresight
  • Crafting Strategic Architecture
  • Strategy as Stretch
  • Strategy as Leverage
  • Competing to Shape the Future
  • Building Gateways to the Future
  • Embedding the Core Competence Perspective
  • Securing the Future
  • Thinking Differently

Preface to the Paperback Edition

Since its publication in autumn 1994, Competing for the Future, now translated into more than a dozen languages, has had a profound impact on how companies all over the world think about and prepare for their futures.

While the book presents a radically different way of thinking about strategy and competition, the heart of its message, and its appeal, is hope.

We believe that every company really does have the opportunity to shape its own destiny; no company is destined to be a laggard.

We believe it is possible to move beyond incrementalism to create a broad and enticing new opportunity horizon; a lack of resources needn't limit a company's ambitions nor its accomplishments.

We believe a sense of excitement and possibility can replace the fear and resignation that so often accompany downsizing and reengineering.

And we believe it is possible to regenerate purpose, meaning, and direction in the absence of a crisis.

These beliefs are not the product of simpleminded optimism, but of deep experience.

We have seen our concepts and practices put to work in hundreds of companies around the world—we know the difference they can make.

We are hopeful, but we are not naïve.

Substantial challenges face any organization intent on getting to the future first.

The first challenge, how to navigate from here to there, arises as both public and private institutions struggle to plot a course through an increasingly inconstant environment, where experience is rapidly devalued and familiar landmarks no longer serve as guideposts.

Never before has the industrial terrain been changing so quickly or have industry boundaries been so malleable.

Never before have competitors, partners, suppliers, and buyers been so indistinguishable.

How, then, does one get to the future first, even when there's no map?

How does one invent one's own route to the future?

This book is for anyone who is more interested in creating the future than in watching it happen.

The second challenge, made altogether more pressing by the first, is how to oppose the forces of institutional entropy that, seemingly inevitably, undermine organizational effectiveness and sap institutional vitality.

Never before have robust strategies been so quick to atrophy.

Never before have precedent and tradition been so dangerous and incumbency worth so little.

Enormous managerial energy, and acres of newsprint, have been devoted to turnarounds, rescues, and massive "change" programs, yet isn't the real goal to avoid a crisis-sized transformation problem by creating a capacity for continuous renewal deep within the company?

This book is for anyone who views him — or herself as an enemy of entropy.

The third challenge, which must be addressed in concert with the second, is how to stem the tide of individual estrangement that threatens to wash over those who have borne the pain of downsizing, delayering, divesting, and refocusing.

Never has the level of employee anxiety and disenchantment been higher than it is today in large Western companies.

Never before have the costs of top management's shortsightedness been more apparent or poignant.

Never before has the firm's loyalty to its members been so in doubt and the individual's loyalty to his or her employer so sorely tested.

Rather than calculating the number of people to fire in order to become competitive, companies should be asking: "How can we create the sense of purpose, possibility, and mutual commitment that will inspire ordinary individuals to feats of collective heroism?"

This book is for anyone who believes that reenergizing individuals can do more for competitiveness than reengineering processes.

Competing for the Future starts with a fundamental premise: We've reached the limits of incrementalism.

Squeezing another penny out of costs, getting a product to market a few weeks earlier, responding to customer inquiries a little bit faster, ratcheting quality up one more notch, capturing another point of market share, tweaking the organizational one additional time—these are the obsessions of managers today.

But pursuing incremental advantage while rivals are fundamentally reinventing the industrial landscape is akin to fiddling while Rome burns.

This book is not about catching up, it's about getting ahead.

Many companies have already done much of the hard work of catching up on cost, quality; speed, and flexibility.

Now they are turning their attention to growth.

But there are as many foolhardy ways to grow as there are to downsize.

Pouring money into so-called synergistic acquisitions, merging with other behind-the-curve laggards, or getting caught up in a high-tech acquisition "land rush" may temporarily increase the top line but will have virtually no effect on the long-term bottom line.

The choice is not between incrementalist operational improvements on the one hand and ego-driven mega deals on the other.

Instead, the goal is to fundamentally reinvent existing competitive space (First Direct's telephone banking service in the United Kingdom) or invent entirely new competitive space (Netscape's Web browsers) in ways that amaze customers and dismay competitors.

Sustainable, profitable growth is not the product of a deal, it's the product of foresight.

In turn, foresight is not the product of perspicuity, but of unconventional, out-of-the-box thinking.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "There are always two parties, the party of the past and the party of the future; the establishment and the movement."

A substantial truth lurks in this observation: The future belongs not to those who possess a crystal ball, but to those willing to challenge the biases and prejudices of the "establishment."

The future belongs more to the unorthodox than it does to the prognosticators, more to the movement than to the starry-eyed.

We believe that the goal is not to predict the future, but to imagine a future made possible by changes in technology, life style, work style, regulation, global geopolitics, and the like.

And there are as many viable futures as there are imaginative firms that can understand deeply the dynamics at work right now which hold opportunities to become the author of the new.

For the future is not what will happen; the future is what is happening.

The present and the future don't abut each other, neatly divided between the five-year plan and the great unknown beyond.

Rather they are intertwined.

Every company is in the process of becoming—of becoming an anachronism irrelevant to the future, or of becoming the harbinger of the future.

The long-term is not something that happens someday; it is what every company is building or forfeiting by its myriad daily decisions.

As William Jennings Bryan put it, "Destiny is no matter of chance.

It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."

But without a point of view about the opportunity for change—for revolution—a company is more likely to forfeit the future than own it.

The goal of this book is to help individuals, and the institutions to which they devote their efforts, develop such a point of view and turn it into reality.

Only those who can imagine and preemptively create the future will be around to enjoy it.

This book is about strategy—about a company's strategy for shaping its future.

In many ways, strategy has been discredited over the past several years.

Consulting companies that once focused on strategy are now turning to operational issues.

Strategic planning departments are being disbanded.

The view that "strategy is the easy part, and implementation is the hard part" goes unchallenged in many quarters.

Most strategic planning is strategic in name only, ritualistic and formulaic, seldom deeply creative.

No wonder strategy has lost much of its credibility.

But make no mistake—strategy is hard work.

Creating a compelling view of tomorrow's opportunities and moving preemptively to secure the future are tasks for neither dilettantes nor the merely intellectually curious.

Those who want to put the ideas in this book to work in their own companies will find that they have embarked on a task as intellectually and emotionally demanding as any they have undertaken in their professional lives.

They will also find the challenge immensely rewarding: Nothing is more liberating than becoming the author of one's own destiny.

We argue that successfully competing for the future requires the capacity to bring about a revolution in one's industry or market space, which in turn requires a revolution in how one creates strategy.

Luckily, this revolution needn't start at the top.

Anyone can spawn a revolution.

Yet front-line employees and middle managers today, inclined to regard themselves as victims' have lost confidence in their ability to shape the future of their organizations.

They have forgotten that historically it has been the dispossessed—from Gandhi to Mandela, from the American patriots to the Polish shipbuilders—who have led revolutions.

Notwithstanding all the somber incantations that "change must start at the top," one must ask how often the monarchy has led a revolution.

In our work and research, we have found the ferment of intellectual revolution more often in the middle of organizations than at the top.

Understanding this, any employee, at any level, who cares deeply about the future of his or her company must be willing to become an activist.

This is a book for activists.

Competing for the Future provides would—be revolutionaries with the tools and concepts they need to challenge the protectors of the past.



“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




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It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then figure out a coping plan for what you’ve rejected.

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