Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Question of Control v Disruption

Everything we do, whether in business or in personal life, can be broken down to two simple categories – those that are in our control and those that are not. This could apply to people, market situations, business processes, economic factors, social dynamics, or anything at all.

Two questions emerge from this approach:

1.       Should we only focus on things within our control just because we are sure? And,
2.       Should we disregard the rest as falling within ABC (Areas Beyond Control)?

Quite often, we get into a state of “let’s focus on things that we can control, rather than waste time and resources on those we cannot” because we have been made to believe or even taught to do so.

Instead, what if we were to look at things we regard as ABC with a view of “uncharted territory that must be explored”, would that help us understand things better and perhaps even move it to our basket of controllable items? A great example of something not in our control is Consumer Behavior.  It is something that even big companies with their big money on big data analytics haven’t quite nailed it.

So I am going to try mashing concepts from Zen, Michael Porter and McKinsey to provoke thought on how we could better understand things that are ABC to get them into the controllable category and optimize them to possible success.

There is a Zen philosophy called the “Zen of Not Knowing”, specifically the Zen notion of “Not always so.” that can be applied to consumer behavior, of which no one can claim to have complete knowledge or control. Why adopt this attitude? Because when we are certain that we don’t know, by embracing the idea of “Not always so”, we get an opportunity to look things again more carefully and see what other possibilities there might be in the situation. This kind of thinking would also help us develop alternative thinking and newer perspectives combined with better utilization of technologies that could lead to disruptive and path-breaking strategies.

McKinsey, in this report - Why your marketing Planning Process is Broken … say that marketing executives often fail to clearly distinguish between things they can control and things they can’t. They also raise the very pertinent questions, “How can we maximize the impact of things we can control and reduce the impact of those we cannot? And, how can we improve the interaction between the two?” Their take is that Business Analytics must do more than just tell you what happened; it must also tell you why, so that you can then develop a perspective or model that might help quantify and analytically link consumer behaviors with drivers of growth.

So, to summarize:

1.   Define what is in your control and optimize the processes within
2.   Don’t disregard things outside your control. Study them to see what disruptive opportunities can be developed
3.   Don’t look for ways to relate consumer behavior with drivers for growth, but define growth drivers to link with customer behavior and customer expectations. After all as Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”.

Kall Ramanathan
ValueStrat Consulting @ValueStrat helps businesses understand where they are currently and what they need to do to get where they want to go. For this, we provide essential strategic plans and approaches, called “Keys”, to enable businesses to open up competencies and clear inefficiencies.

ValueStrat gets to the DNA of business - Desire, Need and Ability - to help you ask some critical questions such as discussed above. Check out for more.

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