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Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

Try using an “Emergent Strategy” when you’re not sure which path your business should take.

Many companies, particularly when it comes to new technologies, are often unsure about which strategy to use. Experimenting on a small scale and seeing what works is called an “Emergent Strategy”.

It looks a bit like this:

Graphic adapted ex "Strategy Safari", Mintzberg et al (2009).

Emergent Strategy: A definition

Emergent Strategy is defined as: “A pattern is realized that is not expressly intended. Actions were taken, one by one, which converged over time to some sort of consistency, or pattern” (Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, Lampel, [2009])

When to use an Emergent Strategy:

Emergent strategies are a good option when companies are not sure which approach to take. It’s particularly valuable when companies are entering new markets as research shows that companies in this situation tend to start with the wrong strategy (Anthony et al. [2008]).  An Emergent Strategy is about taking small tentative steps, testing the ground until you discover the right path. Social Media experimentation is a good example where companies are deploying an Emergent Strategy.

Emergent Strategy Example: Warwick Business School’s Social Media Strategy

Researching my MBA dissertation on the use and development of social media, I came across a video on Vimeo detailing Warwick Business School’s (WBS) use of social media.

Take a look.

The video, published 2 years ago, outlines how WBS’ social media strategy developed “organically” in 3 phases, moving from an emergent to a deliberate strategy as WBS found out what worked.

  1. Students and alumni began to experiment with social media.
  2. The school decides to adopt social media and focus on 3 sites: Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. Each with a different focus. The Twitter strategy was about getting to know the team and used as a heads-up for events. Linkedin was used as a formal portal to highlight professional interest groups and post jobs. Facebook was used informally for instance to display old photos and encourage alumni to get in touch.
  3. From the success and failures of these experiments the school is now looking to implement a “top down” or “deliberate” strategy to ensure a coherent, branded approach.

3 Steps towards designing your own Emergent Strategy

If you’re unsure about which strategy to use in your company, an “Emergent Strategy” might be a prudent option. The 3 steps steps towards building an Emergent Strategy are as follows:

3 Steps to an Emergent Strategy

Further Reading:

Anthony, S., Johnson, W., Sinfield, J., Altman, E., (2008) “Mastering Emergent Strategies –Taking Uncertain Ideas Forward” Excerpt from “Innovator’s Guide to Growth: Putting Disruptive Innovation to Work”, Boston, Harvard Business Press. Available (online) [Accessed 15/10/2011]

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B., Lampel., J. (2009) “Strategy Safari” 2nd Edition, Harlow, Prentice Hall.


Twitter, what’s the point?

Many people don’t see the point of using Twitter. To be honest, it may not be for you. However, I thought I would tell you how I’ve been using it and maybe this will inspire you or alternatively put you off completely.

Screen Print of my Twitter Timeline

I tend to use Twitter in two main ways; as a filter for the internet and secondly to find out people’s reactions to world/regional events.

Twitter as a Filter

Firstly as a filter, I follow the people who I’m interested in. So taking a look at this screen-shot of my timeline the entry below my post (WillellisM) is from the ISBE, the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship . Next is a tweet from the Dalai Lama, he usually (or perhaps his pa) says something rather soothing, poetic or philosophical. Next comes a tweet from Johansen Coach
. Michelle and her husband Cato did part of the Effective Leadership course on my MBA. I recommend them! Here she’s telling me about the launch of her new website. I had a look at it and sent her a message saying it looked great – see my tweet at the top of the timeline.

Twitter for breaking News

The second use is to find out immediately what is going on. Twitter lets you find out people’s instant reactions to events. It may also provide you with valuable information. You may remember that there were recently riots in London. Surprisingly too, we also had some trouble here in Zürich. Luckily, these things are extremely rare in Zürich; it is normally such a pleasant, safe city. Anyway, that evening it took me a while to get home as I had to take a long detour around the affected area. Originally and rather stupidly, I’d tried to go through Bellevue which at the time I didn’t realise was the centre of the disturbance. I turned back when I saw the teenager in front of me get shot with a rubber bullet/projectile/thing by the police. I later found a friendly policeman who suggested a safe route home.

Anyway on getting back home, I wanted to find out what was going on, so I looked on Twitter. Using hashtags (#) [alt 3 on a mac] on the words riot and Zürich, like this #zurich #riot and doing a search I could find out what was going on. Of course, people were already tweeting about it, and here was an answer in seconds. From the Tweets I learnt that it was an illegal flash mob party in Bellevue and the police were breaking it up with teargas and baton rounds when the group turned violent / refused to move.

Twitter Screen Print #riots #zurich

Here is a screen print of the search. It is a bit too long ago now, but there are some nice (and some not so great) comments. Luckily, having found out the information on Twitter, I knew that the riot was localised and I knew the reason for it. I slept better knowing the facts.

The next day much of the debris had been cleared. On my way cycling to the station to go hiking in the mountains I found a number of baton rounds (rubber bullets) on the ground around Bellevue.

Sleep well and don’t have nightmares

Luckily I have to stress that this is an extremely unusual event here. Switzerland and Zürich in particular are incredibly safe, clean, and organised. The people are charming and it is a beautiful country; well worth a visit. In my opinion, Twitter is worth a visit too.

Are You an Adopter or a Laggard? Roger’s Technology Life Cycle: Embracing the Future.

Roger’s technology life-cycle

Roger’s technology life-cycle showing move from my current position (x) of “late majority” to “early adopter” (graphic: BlueSkunkBlog, 2011).

Technology, love it or hate it; it certainly makes life easier.

Hydra, Greece.

I was recently on holiday on the small island of Hydra in Greece. Although the house in which I was staying did have running water and electricity, the drinking water had to be drawn each morning from the well outside. This involved letting the bucket down on a long, long rope into the depths of the well and then hauling up the full bucket before siphoning the water into containers. It took a long time and it was hot, hard work. What amazed me was how many of the locals were doing the same. Even more surprising was the fact that nobody had installed a pulley to help draw the water. The application of a little technology would have made the whole exercise so much easier.

My MBA studies have caused me to reflect on my views on technology. They made me realise that I was starting to fall into the criteria of the “late majority”. Throughout the course and in particular in my last module “the Application of Management Skills” I saw how once great industries had failed to keep up with technology. To remain relevant and innovative we must constantly scan the horizon for new technologies that may change or influence our industry. The example of Brooklands (the original formula 1 UK race track) which quickly became obsolete due to lack of improvements shows just how quickly a business or an industry can become obsolete.

The same goes for us all. The diagram above shows my intended progress from technophobe (ish) to technophile. Starting this blog has been another small step in the right direction.

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