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Educational and Motivational Material
on January 23, 2000
Competing for the Future, by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad focuses on new issues and techniques of strategic planning as discovered, articulated, and reported by the authors, both Professors of Business at the University of Michigan. The main message of the book reads as follows: in order for a company to be a success, the company must create its future instead of following other companies into the future.
By "creating the future" the authors understand defining and exploiting yet unknown future market opportunities. The opportunities do not have to be confined to the company's core competencies (although the book places significant emphasis on utilizing those). Instead, the company can choose to find alternate distribution channels, beneficial alliances, and other creative means of reinventing itself. The authors offer a wide array of management tools to successfully perform the corporate definition of future consumer needs.
The authors emphasize the corporate need for continuous innovation and reinvention. According to the book, many once-successful companies have failed because of their lack of regeneration and their erroneous belief in persistence of yesterday's business practices. Among the ways to successful corporate regeneration, the authors credit corporate diversity on the thinking level as successful means for breaking established corporate "myths" of the right way of doing business. The authors note that hiring personnel from outside industries can bring fresh and vital perspective on the present state of an enterprise.
In order to develop the future, a company must first define it. In defining the future today, Hamel and Prahalad suggest building "the best possible assumption base about the future." The "assumption base" is to indicate to management what changes in the company's products, competencies, and consumer interface are necessary in order to address future customer needs. The collective information about the changes of tomorrow comprises company's vision.
In order to create a successful vision of the future, a company needs dedicated senior management that "can escape the orthodoxies of the corporation's current `concept of self'", and can enlarge the window of today's possibilities as projected into the future. The authors stress that a corporation should stretch the boundaries surrounding its competitive position of today in order to include tomorrow's competition and changes in customer needs. The book defines a successful corporate vision as the one that demands more of the corporation than the corporation is capable of providing today. Such a "stretch" between today's capacities and tomorrow's vision ensures that the company innovates in order to achieve the set goals, whereas "perfect fit [would guarantee corporate] atrophy and stagnation".
The book underscores the importance of basing tomorrow's market vision on core competencies of the corporation rather than on acquisition of other businesses or "grass roots `intrapreneurship'". According to Hamel and Prahalad, core competencies represent "competitive strength" of an enterprise, defined and agreed upon by the company's general management. Building on the core competencies gives the company an immediate advantage over competition that needs to assemble similar competencies prior to entering the competitive race.
The authors note that corporate vision by itself "does not guarantee competitive success". In order for a company to be profitable, the company's foresight should be accompanied by a sufficient executional capacity. Executional capacity refers to continuous leverage of core competencies accompanied by healthy risk mitigation practices. The authors list several tools that can be used to leverage corporate core competencies in order to take hold of future market opportunities. One of the aforementioned tools is the process of aligning corporate operations based on core competencies rather than products and/or business functions. Operations focused on products and services fragment core competencies, and can subsequently truncate corporate opportunities for growth by disallowing deployment of core competencies when the need arises. Another crucial tool in successful execution of corporate vision is a regular review of core competencies together with competencies benchmarking against existing and potential competition in order to assure the company's market position.
In addition to the ideas cited in this paper, the authors describe myriad of ways to enhance tomorrow's competitiveness of an enterprise. Overall, the book is written in a motivational and comprehensive style. Peppered with real-life examples, the book offers thorough guidance to advance in the future marketplace.