The Three Things That Strike Terror In Strategists

Strategists need to be brave, but what really terrifies them?


For the cynics among you who believe that Halloween’s just an excuse for teenagers to have a house-party, think again.

Here are three issues scaring company strategists, yes company strategists, this Halloween.

Cultural Boundaries

Companies are often guilty of misunderstanding a new country’s culture. China is commonly seen as the trickiest nation for North American and European organizations to succeed in, with Twitter, Facebook and Google all falling foul of the nation’s strict copyright guidelines.

Each made the strategic error of not separating their Chinese operations from Head Office. LinkedIn, however, created ‘LinkedIn China’. Functioning as its own entity, it gave its staff the opportunity to be more entrepreneurial.

Nike also struggled in China at first. The lack of impact was put down to the company’s inability to influence parents, who prioritize academia over sports. The company has since changed its tact, cashing in on the nation’s fondness of all things Western.

These examples show that even the most successful companies can struggle to overcome cultural boundaries.

Pace of Change

Adaptability is essential for strategists. Not just because consumer tastes change quicker than ever, but because technological advances are making the marketplace more competitive.

The travel industry, video rentals, music and newspapers represent some of the industries most affected by technology. Gone are the days when the British record store HMV used to attract stars like Janet Jackson and Amy Winehouse to in-store signings. Now, the company is hanging on by a thread, putting together a deal with a restructuring group to keep 141 stores open.

It was a time of unprecedented change for HMV’s strategists. Nobody had experienced anything like it. Spotify’s emergence - coupled with the ease in which people can download torrents - removed any unique selling point HMV ever had and they couldn’t find a way to deal with it.

The pace of change was too fast, and they couldn’t keep up.

Not learning from failures

Strategists are clever people. When they fail to recognize their previous failures they find it embarrassing. Whether it was arrogance or poor information, mistakes are understandable the first time, but inexcusable the second time around.

First time failure is actually encouraged by many of those working in innovation, as a way to make future projects better. Failing twice, however, normally means that a big mistake has been made.

Consistent failures make it difficult for any company to get either of the points above right.

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