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August 10, 2017

Anyone growing up in the US in the 1980s will remember MacGyver. Week after week, the fictional secret agent entertained TV audiences as he defied what seemed like certain death using his ingenuity, a Swiss Army knife, roll of duct tape, and other everyday objects. The premiering of a reboot series in late 2016, suggests there's still an appetite for unconventional trouble-shooters who can save the day using systematic improvisation.

Technology is enabling new business models, transforming industries, and changing the face of commerce. The long anticipated wave of digital disruption means that to survive, you must innovate in a different way. Incrementally improving products and services is no longer enough.Now more than ever business leaders can learn much from the eponymous hero. We need a new breed of leaders who can solve business problems using a combination of novel thinking and resources already available to them.

Customers seek and expect bigger, better, bolder, faster, and cheaper solutions. To rise to the challenge, you must overcome the fear of uncertainty and embrace 'competitive adaptation'.

As a large business, continuing to incrementally improve your products and services while simultaneously taking steps to deliver breakthrough and disruptive innovations, can be achieved.

Systematic improvisation is a strategic management framework created for the age of exponential change. The first three of its six components can be thought of as areas to be attended to sequentially and perpetually, to determine 'what to do'. The last three are approaches for 'how to do', or ways of delivering the 'what to dos'.

  1. Enterprise-Wide Leadership Alignment and Collaboration: Align the agendas of your organization's leaders and help them understand the complementary roles they play, if you want your enterprise to sustain in the long term.
  2. Dynamic Customer-Centric Strategy Formulation: Accept that competitive advantage is transient, and you'll realize that your survival depends on creating dynamic strategies that put the customer first.
  3. Risk-Balanced Innovation Portfolio Management: Make continuous market relevance and fiscal viability the cornerstones of your innovation strategy. You'll have the right portfolio of strategic responses that will stand you in good stead, now and in the future.
  4. Multi-Modal Innovation Model: Consider institutionalizing innovation centers to curate, invent, and accelerate adaptations in not only products and services, but also business models, and enabling capabilities and platforms.
  5. Lean-Agile Approach: Adopt a build, test, learn approach to rapidly and iteratively test and enhance promising ideas. This will ultimately increase the certainty of the risks you are actually willing to undertake in monetizing any particular innovation.
  6. Ecosystem Thinking: Achieve the benefits of open innovation by thinking about the strategic arenas in which you compete today and possibly tomorrow; seeking out both the usual and unusual suspects to amplify and accelerate competitive adaptation.

If you'd like to know more about these components and how to apply them, read our white paper Systematic Improvisation for Digital Age Sustainability. You may not want your leaders carrying Swiss Army knives but encouraging them to embrace the principles of 'MacGyverism' may be the way to unlock the more radical ideas needed to transform your products and services, break into new industries, and create new markets.

Courtney Wood leads thought leadership development for TCS’ M&A Services. Courtney has spent over 25 years in management consulting, supporting both large and early stage enterprises in producing meaningful outcomes by developing the right business strategies as well as aligned ‘people, process, and technology’ constructs and roadmaps to realize their transformational goals. Prior to consulting, Courtney spent four years in commercial lending and investment banking, as well as earned an MBA from Columbia Business School.



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