Disrupt Your Own Business First

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How can a management team prepare for truly existential threats to their business?   Strategy guru Ram Charan and a team of world-class experts explain a revolutionary methodology you can use to anticipate catastrophe and prepare for it.

Existential threats inevitably provoke us to carefully consider whether we are prepared for what lies ahead.  The coronavirus pandemic has reminded business leaders of two things

  1. that every assumption and practice must be continually reexamined and
  2. that existential threat can come at any time, from any direction.

This means that companies must mercilessly examine their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities and imagine their own destruction before someone does it for them.

Recently in MIT Sloan Management Review, business strategy gurus Ian C. Woodward, V. “Paddy” Padmanabhan (Pad-man-a-bon), Sameer Hasija (Ha-see-JA), and Ram Charan explained the revolutionary multipart process for doing this.  They have field-tested this process with more than 1,500 leaders from around the world as part of the executive education program at INSEAD.  The process is called the Phoenix Encounter Method because its primary focus is on “the revitalized company that will rise out of ashes,” rather than on the “the ashes of destruction.”  The streamlined approach discussed here is designed for a single organization and a flexible time frame.  Ideally, there should be four teams, each with as many as six members, working independently and sharing their insights later in a debriefing session. 

This process unfolds in three stages.

  • Stage 1: Groundwork. Prevailing mindsets and values are questioned. Major global trends are examined. Group members work toward a so-called Phoenix Attitude, which embraces upheaval as a catalyst for change.
  • Stage 2: Battlefield. The facilitator delivers a shortlist of scenarios that could disrupt the company. The threats might be new technology, demographic shifts, social trends, or all of the above.  Group members craft the most devastating attack and use it to shine a light on their business’s weaknesses.  And,
  • Stage 3: Breakthrough. New strategic priorities are put in place. New business models are adopted. The Phoenix...

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