Three universal strategic paths

When faced with change, there are three big-picture strategies an organisation (or indeed an individual) can adopt:

Continue to do the same thing; or look to historically proven paths.

Ignore the change; or walk the safest, best-trodden path.

This is the path of least resistance, and least cost. It is the most crowded path. And you walk it at most risk of irrelevance.

Emulate others’ breakthroughs.
This is the taking the newish paths recently cut by others.

This is a more sustainable option, if the breakthroughs prove to be sound. And there will be many other emulators. Blind emulation may not be a comfortable fit.

Strive for your own breakthroughs.
The right path for, and unique to, your business lies within your passion, vision and imagination.

This is the scariest path – because there is not path! It is also the most rewarding, the most exciting in the long run. There will be many failures. There will also be amazing rewards for perseverance.

Of course, none of these three options are in and of themselves wrong. The appropriate direction for your business is affected by the intentions and expectations of you as the leader, and also your stakeholders (people, shareholders, board etc).

Much as I love the “if it ain’t broke, break it!” approach to continual breakthroughs, there are times when it is ok to just stop and let something that is running well run for a bit. Otherwise no one will get any sleep. But not to the extent of resting on one’s laurels.

Emulation can be an amazing source of innovation – when applied to a completely foreign context from the original. In the end days of chemical cameras, the practice of practically giving cameras away so as to make money on the consumable film is universal. When this practice is emulated by the manufacturers of desktop inkjet printers, it was innovative in a market place that was used to seeing the initial hardware purchase price as the stumbling block.

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