What kind of title is this? What self-respecting doctor of business would discuss Nazis, drugs, and a noted “people’s pervert” in terms of strategy? Uh, this one. If you are not being creative and constantly working to connect unrelated subjects, you will stagnate and lose your competitiveness. Growth will suffer and new competitors will conquest your market share.
German Army and Meth
I am a big proponent of adopting the fundamentals of maneuver warfare for business. One of the key examples of successful maneuver is the blitzkrieg conducted by the Germans in WWI and WWII. In an excellent article by Abby Haglage in The Daily Beast, the author noted how the blitzkrieg was powered by meth. The Germans developed the drug and Hitler loved it, for himself and his troops to go faster and longer than the enemies. Combined with a superior strategy of maneuver warfare basics, the Germans maintained a furious pace that the Allies could not match. Multiple battles were won due to the high tempo of the Germans.
Now let’s talk about John Waters. Sorry, if you are disgusted by his earlier works, but his creative genius in film and writing can help inspire creativity and disruption. In a commencement speech in 2015 to graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, Waters noted how important it is to constantly have new experiences, especially the strange and odd. Getting out of your comfort zone while being disciplined are dichotomies which drive change (think of the contradictory nature of strategic agility; strategic relating to firm decisions and long-term commitments whereas agility requires nimble and flexible mindsets and actions). Waters’ speech has been developed into a great book, Make Trouble. The way Waters has lived his life (very successfully) is an excellent example for business leaders to reject the status quo and embrace change and ambiguity.
So let’s connect the dots; blitzkrieg, meth, and John Waters. We take fast tempo operations which surprise the enemy, causing shock and confusion (blitzkrieg). Replace the meth with ongoing communication, culture, and knowledge management (not to mention a lot of caffeine) and add a whole lot of Waters - a deep yearning for continuous learning and new experiences, and challenging the status quo; adopting lateral thinking (the key to lateral thinking is taking several unconnected items and combining them to create innovative new things).
It’s time to move beyond traditional, academic-based strategies (think of Porter or Prahalad). Why conduct business like most of your competitors – nothing new or different, nothing unique. Advantages occur when unconventional, non-academic theories (e.g., maneuver strategy, Lanchester strategy, strategic agility, Tom Peters) which can drive differentiation and create competitive advantages are adopted. If you never venture outside your wheelhouse, you will not develop new insights and perspectives to drive creative ideas (remember, you only know what you know – so read a lot, go to new places, talk with customers, get out of the office). The status quo results in incremental changes to existing products resulting in low growth, unengaged employees, and unenthused customers.
Unconventional business strategies can ignite growth. Developing a culture that promotes and rewards creativity and innovation is critical in today’s turbulent global business environment. Moving faster than your competitors and developing creative strategies and products will force competitors to continuously react. As you continually surprise and disrupt the market, your organization will drive forward while competitors remain flat-footed. Stop relying on outdated and routine strategies. Reignite your organization with unconventional methodologies. Embrace discomfort and ambiguity. Connect disparate pieces of information. Rethink how you think.