Category Archives: Case study

Our new Forbes Piece: 1962, The U2, and You: A Risk Management Lesson from the Cold War

Our new Forbes piece shows that by looking at the origins of the Cuban Missile Crisis, one can learn valuable lessons on Risk management. Read it here.

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Personal Genetic Testing Companies – an Update

Last week, I again attended VALUEx.   If you’re a Value Investor, this is no more interesting use of your time – it is an extraordinary gathering of intelligent, talented and fun people.

Like me, many people at VALUEx avoid investing in technology firms.  On the other hand, many participants know that it’s important to follow the evolution of what I call the “3 GRAIN” technologies (3D printing, Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Information Technology, and Nanotechnology).  Each of the 3 GRAIN general purpose technologies will have an increasing impact on the creation of value in the years ahead.   Moreover, how they will combine to produce social changes is something that Philippe and I think about a lot.
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That’s All Folks: Why the Writing Is on the Wall at Microsoft

Read our latest piece on Forbes here. Our previous piece was on how the lack of diversity can cripple your company. Read it here.

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A control expert preparing for the eventual collapse.

Lack of diversity paralyzed the CIA. It can cripple your organization, too

Read our guest post on Forbes here.

The most recent Forbes piece is about the coming demise of Microsoft. Read it here.

Conference on strategic surprises at the CIA

On Wednesday, January 18th, I will be giving a conference on the topic of strategic surprise at EMLYON Business School, as part of the series “The Art of Management”.  In this context, a strategic surprise is defined as the sudden realization by an organization that it has operated on the basis of an erroneous threat assessment resulting in an inability to anticipate a serious threat to its vital interests.

While the majority of the research explains strategic surprises (such as September 11) with psychological, bureaucratic or cybernetic (absence of detection of weak signals for example) models, an in-depth research on more than 50 years of the CIA’s history shows that the origin of strategic surprises often lies with the characteristics of identity and culture of the organization.  This research was started by Milo a few years ago, and we now pursue it together.  We show how the CIA was the victim of several strategic surprises, and that these surprises are largely explained by the social construction of the organization: whom it recruits, how it trains agents and analysts, how it develops its culture, etc.  In essence, what an organization is surprised by depends on its identity. After presenting the finding about the CIA, we will discuss what lessons can be drawn from these results for businesses, particularly in the field of innovation and strategy.  We will make the case that here too, the difficulties are often cultural, and results can be improved using this mode of analysis.

If you are interested in the conference, please contact us.

The Fragility of the Future (and Your Strategy)

Today I was reminded of the perils of forecasting while reviewing  a Department of Defense document, the Joint Operating Environment 2010.

“JOE 2010” as it’s called, is designed to provide the various branches of the US Armed Forces a joint perspective on likely global trends, possible shocks and their future operating environment.  If you’re interested in geopolitics and strategy, I recommend that you take a look.

Apart from its inherent interest, JOE 2010 opens with a defense planning timeline that business and financial strategy practitioners – and anyone who consumes their work  – would do well to bear in mind.  I have reproduced it verbatim here:

1900 If you are a strategic analyst for the world’s leading power, you are British, looking warily at Britain’s Age-old enemy, France.

1910 You are now allied with France, and the enemy is now Germany.

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Has China peaked? An exercise in forecasting using Neustadt and May’s History framework

China has long been touted as the next leading power, and for many it seems that the question is no longer if China will overtake the US but when. Recently, however, a number of dissenting opinions have started to be heard. Economists point to the strong imbalances in China’s economy; political analysts observe that the political and social structure is unstable; human right activists warn of increasing censorship and repression, while historians suggest that, like the USSR in the late 80s, China’s communist regime has run its course and is on an unsustainable path. Indeed, “hard landing” stories about China have started to appear, by Roubini or by Gordon Chang.

Like any such debate, or lack of debate (instead, it is a series of proclamations), positions are often taken being selective about facts, based on false analogies, shallow extrapolations, ideology, or just plain ignorance. This is problematic because regardless of what we think about China, the country does matter to us in many ways. What can we do about this, then?

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