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Big Think Strategy: How to Leverage Bold Ideas and Leave Small Thinking Behind 1st Edition
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Schmitt uses the next 120 pages to discuss the concepts behind big think in detail. This is the strength of the book as the ensuing chapters provide examples as well as a few well placed tools and process descriptions that can help the reader implement the ideas behind big thinking.
Chapter 1: Big Think and the Trojan Horse talks about the essence behind the need to think outside of the normal constraints and have an approach for generating the next big idea.
Chapter 2 Sourcing Ideas demonstrates the realizations that while many of the fundamentals of strategy may be the same; it does not mean that the content of the strategy needs to be generic. This chapter discusses all of the different inputs and sources enterprises and leaders can use to think big.
Chapter 3: Evaluating the ideas provides processes and approaches for organizing and sifting through potentially big ideas. Here there are a few tried and true marketing idea generation techniques and unfortunately Schmitt recommends using traditional tools such as financial impact to assess ideas. It has been my experience that those are small think tools that will limit your creativity and run counter to the ideas in a big think strategy.
Chapter 4: Turning Ideas into Strategy discusses alternative templates to traditional strategy models and value disciplines. These include: Opposition - going against the grain, Integration - bringing together things that were preciously thought to be opposites, Essence - a revision of core competencies and capabilities and finally Transcendence - creating a new ecosystem ala a Blue Ocean Strategy. This chapter is well reasoned and necessary as readers need this organization to be able o compare, contrast and enlist others in recognizing the different between Big and Little thinking.
Chapter 5 Executing Big Think looks tackle the issue of strategy implementation. This is a challenge for Schmitt as it is the place where big ideas meet the reality of actual operations - by definition small thinking in their orientation. Unfortunately in the area where people need the most help and tools, this chapter has few. Schmitt reverts back to three standard things that can be found in just about every strategy book - the need to enlist and engage the workforce, the need to be adaptable in the implementation to respond to market and company changes, and the need to generate attention and quick wins. If execution is the Achilles heel of strategy and think big is about doing new strategies in new ways, then I wish Schmitt had spent more time thinking and researching this part of the book. Relative to implementation Schmitt is well ensconced in thinking small.
Chapter 6 Leading Big Think is the final chapter that concentrates on leadership. Here again like chapter 5 Schmitt becomes a small thinker. His findings that leadership requires guts, passion and perseverance are small traditional ideas that have been well covered in other books.
Chapter 7 Sustaining Big Think covers the issue of being more than a one big thought wonder. Here Schmitt points out to have Big Thinky Heads - people who are able to maintain a child outlook and optimism that problems can be solved. His recommendation that you should keep a few iconoclasts around is interesting and I have run into a few companies with such people - unfortunately they often suffer the fate quoted by Eric Severed when he discussed how small minds attack big ideas "Its like being nibbled to death by ducks.:
Overall, Big Think Strategy is a book worth buying and reading, particularly the first four chapters as it will refresh your mind and ideas on strategy, creativity and innovation. The book has multiple examples which are strength however each is very brief and cursory. Schmitt occasionally engages in revisionism to make the actions of others fit his framework - not a cardinal sin, but something that detracts from the work. The book does lack a sense that Schmitt has been around to lead, observe or even participate in the execution of a Big Think Strategy - which is a limiting factor for the book. Again this chapter is filled with standard recommendations - eliminate silos, work with innovative people, and be entrepreneurial. All of these are ideas that have been done before and ones that are explained in small thinking terms.
I do not know Schmitt but I am sure that he is an engaging person filled with interesting stories. You can see this from the way the book is written in a conversational - travel log style as Schmitt travels the world and tells you about how those travels point out big ideas and the need for other big thinking. The travel log style - almost akin to Goldratt's books, is a nice touch but it tends to trivialize the messages and make the book appear more of a self indulgence than a discussion of new strategy techniques, This is particularly the case regarding the authors personal fixation with the idea of creating a Trojan Horse. If the style of the book was a big thought in discussing Big Think Strategy then it is moderately executed.
So, this book is recommended as are others in this area Zook's latest book "Unstoppable" and Erich Joachimsthaler's book Hidden in Plain Sight as well as Davenport and Harris's "Competing on Analytics." It's a quick and engaging read with a good balance between new ideas and the tools to formulate them.
Big Think and the Trojan Horse
Sourcing Ideas - Steaks and Sacred Cows
Evaluating Ideas - How to Dig for the Gems
Turning Ideas into Strategy - What Would Mahler Do?
Executing Big Think - How to Pull the Ship over the Mountain
Leading Big Think - Guts, Passion - or Just a Robot?
Sustaining Big Think - From Sisyphus to Odysseus
The first thing you notice about this book is that it's not the typical scholarly look at some management theory that sounds good on paper but probably wouldn't translate to real life. Schmitt digs right in and relates his ideas and actions that have been developed from many years of working with companies. Many of the applications of these ideas weren't part of some strategy session or formal "brainstorming" gathering, but rather the result of conversations on the train or over steaks with the leaders of companies that were struggling with these very issues. As such, the whole presentation of the concepts has a "real" feel to them. I liked that...
The book centers around three leadership qualities and four strategy types you can use to move your company from small think to Big Think. The styles involve guts, passion, and perseverance. You have to stick with your ideas even though others might be against you. Your passion over the idea needs to translate into persuading others to buy into it. And most of all, you can't be the type to throw in the towel at the first sign of resistance. The strategy types are opposition, integration, essence, and transcendence. Opposition involves looking at the market and trying something that is in direct contrast to where others are blindly following. Integration is the art of bringing together ideas that on the surface may not seem to be complementary, but that once combined causes a whole new market paradigm. Essence means taking the core of an idea and taking it further than anyone else has. And finally, transcendence seeks to destroy the boundaries that current define the industry or market that you're in. But Schmitt doesn't just throw out ideas without examples. He brings together companies that embody these ideas. Look at companies and brands like Dove, Apple, Whole Foods, etc. It's really good stuff...
Most anyone in business can easily read and benefit from this book. You owe it to your business and yourself to really think about what you're doing and where you're going. It may be that by changing your mindset, you may well become the next company that defines your industry.