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A Dynamic View of Strategy

Choosing a distinctive strategic position involves making tough choices on three dimensions: who to target as customers, what products to offer, and how to undertake related activities efficiently. The most common source of strategic failure is the inability to make clear, explicit choices on these three dimensions.

Unfortunately, not only will aggressive competitors imitate attractive positions, but, perhaps more importantly, new strategic positions will be emerging continually. In industry after industry, once formidable companies with seemingly unassailable strategic positions are humbled by relatively unknown companies that base their attacks on creating and exploiting new strategic positions.

Markides describes incursions into established markets by strategic innovators such as Canon and the brokerage firm Edward Jones. The hallmark of their success is strategic innovation -- proactively establishing distinctive strategic positions that are critical to shifting market share or creating new markets.

To prepare for the inevitable strategic innovation that will disrupt its market, an organization should:

-- Identify turning points before a crisis occurs by regularly monitoring indicators of strategic rather than financial health in the market.

-- Prevent cultural and structural inertia by creating a culture that welcomes change and is ready to accept new strategic innovation even if it disrupts the status quo.

-- Develop processes that allow experimenting with new ideas to reveal the potential of a new innovation.

-- Develop the required competencies and skills.

-- Manage a transition to the new strategic position by clearly deciding whether to adopt the new position and by ensuring that old and new coexist harmoniously.

Designing a successful strategy is a never-ending, dynamic process of identifying and colonizing a distinctive strategic position; excelling in this position while concurrently searching for, finding, and cultivating another viable strategic position; simultaneously managing both positions; slowly making a transition to the new position as the old one matures and declines; and starting the cycle again.

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