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Five gantry cranes, built at ZPMC, destined for Hamburg, on the vessel Zhen Hua 20, 2007 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A Lesson from China: Growth Is Not Eternal So Be Prepared

Idea posted: March 2015
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Marketing

Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC) was a high-flying builder of large-scale container cranes whose decisions — such as lifetime guarantees on all parts and ambitious diversification — reflected a belief that growth would last forever. It didn’t.

Idea #495
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Aligning Your Organization for the Digital Future

Idea posted: October 2016
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change

A global survey of executive and managers reveals that many companies are ill prepared for the disruption that digital trends will bring to their organizations and industries. A minority of ‘digitally matured’ companies, however, are making the required cultural, talent management and strategic changes.

Idea #633
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The Education of Alexander the Great by Aristotle, Charles Laplante, 1866 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Aristotle, Ethics and the ‘Art’ of Leadership

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

Aristotle’s ‘master virtue’ of phronesis, which combines ethics and action so that people can ‘live well’ and be happy, is often seen as the key to effective leadership. But it tends to be too narrowly defined. A re-reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics reveals that phronesis is linked not only to knowledge, skill, wisdom and intelligence but also to sensory perception, intuition and aesthetics. For Aristotle, doing the right thing partly depended on seeing and appreciating the fine thing. This raises important questions about how leaders reach their

Idea #202
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Jean Charles de Menezes, memorial plaque at Stockwell Station, London (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Bad Framing Leads to Bad Decisions and Bad (Even Fatal) Actions

Idea posted: October 2015
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Decision makers must frame or ‘make sense’ of events and situations, and then make their decisions accordingly. A groundbreaking analysis of an innocent civilian’s tragic shooting by anti-terrorist police reveals how groups of individuals commit, through the interaction of communication, emotions and material cues, to a single, common frame — in this case an erroneous frame. It is a cautionary tale for leaders and other decision makers, exposing how errors or assumptions can cascade into a complete misunderstanding of situations.

Idea #563
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Balancing Local and Global Efficiency with Anchored Agility

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Operations
Institutions: IMD

If your organization is struggling to balance local flexibility and global efficiency, it is not the only one; even leading multinationals are facing the problem of managing fixed vs. local needs. According to this Idea, the solution lies in adopting a framework called ‘anchored agility’. 

Idea #247
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‘Red Dwarf - Series II’, starring Chris Barrie (Rimmer), Craig Charles (Lister), Danny John-Jules (Cat). First broadcast in 1988, Red Dwarf was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and ran on BBC2 for eight series. In 2009, the show was brought back for a three-part special by UK digital broadcaster Dave © 2013 Grant Naylor Productions (Source: www.reddwarf.co.uk)

Better and Fairer Management Control Systems

Idea posted: January 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: IESE Business School

Management control systems can be formal and/ or informal, fair or unfair. In order to achieve an organizations overall goals, the best systems are fair and formal, with the users of the system also fair. The opposite, an unfair system with unfair users (i.e. two unstable states) leads to total goal incongruence – a not unusual state which can be very damaging to any organization.

Idea #061
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Beware of Over-Optimistic Investors Skewing High-Risk Stock Prices

Idea posted: September 2015
  • Strategy
  • Finance

Investor sentiment has a, sometimes erroneous, effect on stock market valuations. There is evidence that higher risk stocks become overpriced in periods of optimistic sentiment and undervalued when sentiment is pessimistic. Optimism attracts equity investment by unsophisticated, overconfident, retail investors in risky opportunities while such traders are less active in pessimistic periods. Thus sentiment can wrongly influence company share prices, and both investors and CFOs planning financial strategy should be wary.  

Idea #549
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Tada' the Chinese poles, 2004 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Build Ambidextrous Teams to Combine Present and Future Objectives

Idea posted: July 2016
  • Strategy
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Many companies separate short-term activities focused on the present (e.g. customer service, marketing) from long-term activities focused on the future (e.g. new product development). A new study, however, reveals the power of ‘ambidextrous’ teams, where cohesion overcomes the challenge of pursuing both present and future objectives.

Idea #613
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Belshazzar's Feast, Rembrandt van Rijn, c.1635-1638, National Gallery, London

CFOs Reborn as Agents of Organizational Change

Idea posted: June 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change

After the financial crisis of 2009–10 and the subsequent global recession, CFOs have suddenly found themselves thrust under the spotlight like never before. They are no longer being seen merely as ‘chief number crunchers’ or even as senior accountants; organizations now want more out of their CFOs, and expect them to act as agents of ‘organizational change’. In this idea, some guidance is offered on how to effectively undertake such change management.

Idea #161
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John Barrymore as Svengali and Marian Marsh as Trilby, a poster for ‘Svengali’, 1931, produced and distributed by Warner Brothers

Choosing a Venture Capitalist: The Ethical Dimension

Idea posted: February 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship

New and young businesses often depend on equity finance from venture capitalists. This does not, however, mean that they’re indiscriminate in their choice of venture capitalist fund. Recent research suggests that, in certain circumstances at least, entrepreneurs will spurn offers from equity investors who have a poor reputation for ethical behaviour.

Idea #332
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Concept of euro money or cash flow, either positive or negative.

Community Banks Offer a Better Business Logic

Idea posted: April 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: IESE Business School

What can large institutions learn from smaller enterprises such as community banks? According to this Idea, reconnecting with communities in vital and lasting ways is an essential lesson — offering a logic that is the opposite to the ‘financial’ logic that has driven many organizations into difficulties. By reviewing the logic that drives your firm, damaging consequences in the future could be avoided. 

Idea #126
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U.S. Social Security Administration early accounting operations in Baltimore circa 1936 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Computer Says ‘Yes’ – The Impact of IT Investment

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance

The impact of information technology on an organization’s profitability can be significant but it needs to be strategically managed, from the top down. View your IT management as a corporate rather than a departmental issue.

The key message for today’s leaders is, choose the right kind of IT projects, spend your money wisely, and focus on growth over cost savings. 

Idea #219
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The Conjurer, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1475, Musée Municipal, St. Germain-en-Laye (Source: Wikimedia)

Custom-made: Customer Funding for Business Growth

Idea posted: March 2013
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Institutions: London Business School

Venture capital (VC) is the default route to gaining funding for a growing business. But there are other ways to unlock money, indeed, some of the largest and most successful companies never raise any venture capital. Change your approach to growth by focusing on your customers, not investors, as your means to the end.

Idea #110
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Decision Support Systems: Under-rated and Under-used?

Idea posted: June 2014
  • Strategy
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

Technology now provides a range of decision support systems to interrogate, process and analyse data on markets and customers and help companies answer ‘what-if’ questions. The best ones, however, could be being neglected by organizations. Recent empirical research finds a clear discrepancy between users’ perceptions of decision support systems and how these systems actually perform. 

Idea #387
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Humanoid with his knowledge of universe on space background

Embed the Strategy (Do Not Rely on Cascading)

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: INSEAD

It’s not enough to ‘cascade’ strategy down through the chain of command. Senior leaders need a ‘direct line’ of communication with employees. Decisions about the future of the business need to be explained by those who make them. Supervisors and middle managers help to embed strategy by creating the working conditions that make it possible — not by ‘parroting’ the ideas of senior leaders

Idea #143
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Shopping cart with green arrow

Embedding CSR and Sustainability: Marks & Spencer

Idea posted: January 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Marketing
  • Operations

Using Marks & Spencer as an example, there are certain practices other organizations can similarly apply to improve focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability. The UK retailer has made a number of successful moves towards embedding social and environmental awareness and practices into its everyday strategic vision. In this Idea, these are analyzed and discussed, offering companies tips they can similarly apply.

Idea #039
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Emerging Market Strategy: Creating Order out of Chaos

Idea posted: May 2014
  • Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Operations
Institutions: Henley Business School

New and emerging markets present a wealth of opportunities but they also comprise highly complex business environments that can change rapidly. The key to success is understanding – understanding competitors and what they are up to; understanding consumers and what they want, now and into the future; and understanding the host governments of the countries you are targeting. It’s a complex process but recent research proposes a two-step approach to strategic thinking that can help make sense of these emerging economies.  

Idea #373
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Rupert Murdoch at the World Economic Forum, 2009 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Extravert CEOs and Strategic M&A Decisions

Idea posted: January 2018
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change

New research based on 2800 corporate CEOs shows that extraverted CEOs are more likely to engage their firms in the uncertainty of M&A activities, proving that CEO personality can drive firm behaviour. However, under certain conditions, the situation dictates the options available to CEOs, regardless of their personalities. Thus, for example, even less extraverted CEOs make more acquisitions in highly competitive industries.

Idea #686
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Illustration from the 1855 edition of La Fontaine's Fables

Fast-Slow Strategy-Making in Adaptive Organizations

Idea posted: February 2019
  • Strategy

An adaptive company uses a dynamic collaborative learning system to merge the ‘fast’ experience and insights from front-line operational managers with the ‘slow’ analytical reasoning of corporate strategists to chart the company’s best path to future success.

Idea #731
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Flexibility Vs Commitment in the Entrepreneurial Process

Idea posted: August 2013
  • Strategy
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Operations
Institutions: EMLYON Business School

Academic literature has provided valuable insights into ways to manage the uncertainties inherent in new ventures — but failed to produce a consensus. Some scholars advocate an approach in which critical decisions are delayed and early commitments avoided, others one that ‘marries’ (to a greater or lesser extent) commitment and flexibility. ‘Re-conceptualisation’ of the main models can help reconcile the different schools of thought — and provide clearer guidance for entrepreneurs.

Idea #191
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Foreign Acquisitions: The Path to Better Productivity at Home?

Idea posted: June 2014
  • Strategy
  • Operations

Cross-border acquisitions can be risky and complex but they can also create value and improve productivity in the long term. Much depends on the professional ‘ecosystem’ offered by the host country — and on the acquirer’s willingness to make complementary capital investments at home.

Idea #409
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Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Four Capabilities of Great Strategic Leaders

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Intellectual honesty, accountability, and self-awareness are three of the four key capabilities of strategic leaders - leaders capable of inspiring change, innovation, teamwork and competitive performance in their companies and organizations. The final and fourth key capability of strategic leaders is the ability to attract and develop great people - to be a ‘talent magnet’. Boards searching for CEOs, and CEOs searching for a top executive team must interview candidates and select CEOs with these four capabilities in mind. And once successful CEOs and C-

Idea #137
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Four Ways CEOs Can Align Function Heads with Corporate Strategy

Idea posted: November 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change

Corporate functions often lack strategic direction from CEOs. As well as underperformance, this can also lead to many other issues, such as bureaucracy on the part of function heads. But according to this Idea, four simple changes to normal management processes can help to avoid this and align corporate strategies between CEOs and corporate functions.

Idea #274
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Photo by David Hurley on Unsplash

Gender Bias Against Women Leaders Is Higher Than We Think

Idea posted: January 2019
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

While men are more prejudiced than women against women leaders, a new study demonstrates that when surveyed, women are less likely than men to admit their prejudice.

Idea #727
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Hulls Mills, Eric Ravillious c.1936, Source: Merivale Editions, www.merivaleeditions.com

Green Light for Governance

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
Institutions: IE Business School

We live in a society that scrutinizes the environmental activities of the corporate world. How can companies address society’s concerns and improve levels of environmental performance, while maintaining market share and financial returns? The answer could lie in their corporate governance structure.

Idea #138
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I am half-sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott', William Waterhouse, 1916 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Homeworking Beats Outsourcing: a 6 Step Model

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing
  • Operations
Institutions: Henley Business School

The use of homeworkers as call centre operatives can benefit both businesses and homeworkers. For companies, common advantages include cost savings, increased flexibility, reduced absenteeism and improved customer satisfaction. But there are also potential problems to overcome. By adopting a six-step model, business leaders can plan homeworking projects effectively, identifying the key areas they need to address.

Idea #142
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How a Marketing Doctrine Overcomes the Flexibility Vs Consistency Conundrum

Idea posted: February 2016
  • Strategy
  • Marketing

Diversified or decentralized firm face a conundrum: How do you ensure that marketing decisions are consistent across the entire company without undermining the flexibility required to tailor marketing decisions to local circumstances? The answer: A marketing doctrine based on unique principles that guide without dictating. 

Idea #584
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La Asociación Cultural de Aficionados a LEGO® de España, 2012 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How LEGO® Helps Strategic Thinking and Idea Generation

Idea posted: February 2014
  • Strategy
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

People tend to think of intense brainstorming sessions in a conference room when they imagine idea generation and problem-solving within an organization. In this Idea, an entirely different and much more novel way of developing innovative new strategies and solutions is presented: playing with Lego bricks! Read on to find out more about how Lego® Serious Play® can help you.

Idea #321
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Think difference

How Social Intrapreneurs Get Heard

Idea posted: May 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Institutions: INSEAD

Corporate social entrepreneurship initiatives, usually the work of intrapreneurs (entrepreneurial executives within the corporation) keen to solve social problems, have important macro- and micro-economic implications. They create value for people who are not current stakeholders - and they create opportunities to innovate and diversify. There are, however, barriers to their development. A model that counters the conventional logic of the organization and puts financial sustainability before growth could be the solution.

Idea #151
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The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (detail), Francisco Goya (Courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri)

How to Fight Off an Upstart with a New Business Model

Idea posted: October 2018
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship


Faced with a new competitor with a new business model, incumbents can respond with different strategies based on sharing (co-deployment) or moving (re-deployment) their resources.

Idea #716
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