Innovator Competitive Strategies: A Framework for Competitive Advantage

Innovator competitive strategies require a leadership mind-set, both at firm level and functional level, to understand and implement innovation enablers. The organizational DNA must encourage aspirations that could lead to transformational changes in product-market configurations. Aspirations must be expressed through multiple ideas, analysis, evaluation and prioritisation of ideas, and development of implementation plans. Organizations must also have the resource framework to work on such action plans over long periods of time, retaining the ability to be nimble and flexible in the face of changes in technology and markets. Innovation requires creativity and steadfastness but openness for review and integration of new pathways.

Innovator competitive strategies require collaboration between agencies. Low floor buses would be useless if civic authorities do not construct bus shelters and pathways that are friendly to the differently abled. Luxurious aircraft would provide little overall convenience in airports that do not have aerobridges and have chaotic inter-aircraft transfer paths. The best of ultra-high definition televisions would not provide the viewing pleasure without commensurate transmission services. Oftentimes, the dilemma would be who should be the driver of innovation ‐ the product manufacturer or the service provider? While there is no clear cut answer, as long as leaders in vantage positions in related industries think and act by, and for innovation, the total consumer value chain would benefit.

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Sustainable Success through Competencies: From Mere Assembly to Strategic Alchemy

Organizational alchemy must be an all-time phenomenon, based on a few principles. The first is organizational refresh. Staid organizations can produce only average solutions. By addition of new talent or upgrading of existing talent, organizations must refresh themselves constantly. The second is continuous collaboration. Typically organizations focus on collaboration based on projects. In organizational alchemy, collaboration has to be perpetual. It is neither issue based nor project based; it is a way of life. The third is technological flair. Alchemist organizations have the ability to create technological solutions for human problems; generating a satisfaction of pushing the horizon. Everyone in an organization understands technology even though only the defined ones may practice it.

The fourth principle is to look beyond the ordinary. The miraculous power to transform gets harnessed only when extraordinary goals are set. Alchemist organizations believe in growth as a way of life. The fifth and final principle, that also enables the prior principles, is organizational chemistry wherein every member of the organization is emotionally and professionally bonded. As Apple embarks on a new journey transforming Apple as a life companion with a slew of new products such as watches, wearable computers and health devices to supplement its smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktops, and as it inducts new talent from related and unrelated fields, the watch will be on if Apple would be the one company that moves from assembly of competencies to alchemy of competencies.

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Strategy, Structure and Execution: The Essential Leadership Trilogy

If the crux of leadership is the strategy‐structure‐execution trilogy, the essence of success lies in how well aligned and integrated these three components are. Case studies of businesses in the making, demonstrate how these three are to be aligned and integrated from a forward thinking perspective. It involves proactive risk-taking, and also a belief in the model to overcome all competitive and opposing trends. Despite well laid plans, there could always be surprises; for example, AirAsia did not imagine that the Tata Group would form its own joint venture with Singapore Airlines for the Indian civil aviation market. Only when strategy, structure and execution are aligned with due flexibility and continuous calibration, firms can cope successfully with surprises.

The ability to cope with surprises requires flexibility in trilogy components rather than making them risk‐proof. There will always be internal and external variables that cannot be forecast which could impact the starting assumptions of any venture, organic or inorganic. Depending on the nature of the surprise, one or more of the three elements of strategy, structure and execution would need to be differentially emphasized to manage the surprises. Rather than an elaborate organizational bureaucracy, a small leadership group often provides the drive for a successful trilogy. Tata Motors' success in achieving a successful bid and an even more successful turnaround of the JLR infrastructure is a case study in itself of strategy-structure-execution operating in impactful alignment.

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