One Question That Will Change How You Think About Strategy

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 05-19-21

The easiest strategic choice is to just keep doing what you’re doing. Stay the course. And sometimes that’s also the right choice, but when it is the wrong choice, it often sneaks up on you. By the time a current or future competitor makes you irrelevant, it is likely too late to dramatically change. Just ask Blockbuster, Kodak, Motorola, or Sears.

How do you avoid being made irrelevant? By making sure you make yourself irrelevant first. The concept of creative destruction, made popular by Joseph Schumpeter but previously articulated, is like a forest that is allowed to burn so that new growth can take its place. The question is – will the new growth be your own or someone else’s? And will the fire be set by yourself, or someone else? 

As part of either your continuous strategic thinking or your strategic planning process, there is one great question that should always be asked: 

If you were starting as a new competitor in our industry, how would you put us out of business?

One approach is to make this part of the conversation. Another is to assign it as a “study” question to an individual or group. But the important thing is that it is not just a “back of mind” kind of question. It should be engaged actively and purposefully. You may not be ready to engage with the answer that the question reveals, but if you wait for the competition to reveal the answers, it will likely be too late.