We recently lost one of our great thinkers, C.K. Prahalad.
“To me, the problems of greatest interest are things that you cannot explain with the current prevailing theory.”
I often wish I could ask him about items that flash on my screen, eg Is the US Bankrupt and Nobody Knows? Are the Feds finally facing the reality of the ‘recession’?
This recent article from Strategy & Business is a treat: a highly accessible and altogether inspiring peek at C.K.’s genius. While he tended to write about large systems, everything he says is as relevant to micro-business and non-profits as giant multinationals. I invite you to take a moment, step back from whatever you’re working on, and let C.K.’s thinking have its way with your molecules.
“What is the essence of entrepreneurship?...Having aspirations greater than your resources.”
Sound like a good fit to your current reality?
Management thinking prior to his writing looks medieval. Remember how organizations appeared before the concept of core competence? When resources were purely financial? Or strategy took place in a fixed world? In their groundbreaking 1994 book, Competing for the Future, he and Gary Hamel
“argued for strategy as a stretch: by definition, creating a misfit between your resources and your aspirations… If you want to create entrepreneurial drive in a large company, you have to create aspirations that lie outside your resource base…”
“Gary and I said strategy is about creating new competitive space. This foreshadowed ideas like strategic architecture, shaping your future, expeditionary marketing, and so on.”
Having addressed those small matters, in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. went head-on with what seemed impossible: profitably serving the [then] 2.5 billion people living on less than $2/day. I’ve often wondered about the source of that thinking; it’s revealed in the excellent S&B interview by Art Kleiner. When asked how he came up with such different ideas,
“…both are about the movement of ordinary people into new relationships with power.”
“I started as an industrial engineer, but all along I’ve been struggling with the same question: What makes societies work?”
“Conventional strategy didn’t even consider individuals. When a company looked at its resources, it considered its financial situation: could it afford another employee or not, for example, rather than what kind of new employee must it bring aboard.”
“But when you look at an organization’s core competencies as its most valuable resources, you can begin to think of learning, creating strategy, and innovation as parts of a single long journey. The journey is iterative, interactive, and full of small steps. Nobody gets a big aha one day. Instead, there is searching; there are missteps, experiments, and doubt.”
Perhaps a nice dose of C.K. will put you in shape to redesign how you're putting your resources to work?