Please Do Not Leverage Actionable Frameworks

I was doing a little business reading today.  When I came across a tweet on the Business Week article Embedding Innovation in Leadership, about General Electric’s recent innovation training initiatives, I was intrigued.  GE clearly has one of the best people development programs of all big companies, and I enjoy learning from their practices.

Unfortunately, the article was mostly a rehash of time-worn homilies like getting leadership buy-in and sharing best practices.  Really, is this what passes for business writing these days?  But the part that motivated me to blog about it was this stinker:

Leverage actionable frameworks. GE applies a “three-box” framework to strategic planning that helps leaders balance managing through the present, which is largely about driving efficiencies, and creating the future, which is about innovation. Translating a concept like innovation into a workable framework enables leaders and their teams to apply new strategies with consistency and rigor across the organization.

“Leverage actionable frameworks”?  That’s one of the more meaningless pieces of corporate jargon I’ve come across recently.  I think it might mean having a defined process, which is vague enough.  This is one of those cases where it’s better not to write anything than to remove all doubt.  The writers would have done better to focus on one element of GE’s innovation strategy and actually explain it in action.  That’s why I enjoy war stories so much; they’re inherently specific.  In contrast, writing that strives to be professional and analytical often just obfuscates the real issues.

I’m being a little particular about this, but the reason is that clear communication is one of the requirements for good strategic thinking.  If you spend all of your time trying to make non-ideas sound like ideas, you lose your ability to accurately judge your company’s direction, not to mention your own.

The Hard Road to Good Customer Segmentation

Anthony Tjan’s Harvard Business Review blog post, Approximately Correct Is Better than Precisely Incorrect, perfectly illustrates the value of customer segmentation.  Your customers are different, and treating them all as if they were the same results in poorly targeted offers, lower sales, and dissatisfied customers.

The trick is that customer segmentation is hard.  Otherwise, everyone would be doing it well!  The ideal segments are cohesive (everyone in a segment has similar behavior and preferences) and actionable (you can identify which segment a customer is in and respond appropriately).  There are more or less three generic flavors of customer segmentation, and all of them have drawbacks. Continue reading The Hard Road to Good Customer Segmentation

What Makes a Great Business Drama?

As a business strategist, I find competitive battles like the Apple iPhone vs. Google Android vs. Blackberry pretty fascinating.  It’s like watching the playoffs or the latest season of Dexter.  Ok, maybe not quite that intense.  But some business stories really do take on a life of their own.  Boeing vs. Airbus.  Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and now Apple in the ebook reader market.  What makes them stand out so vividly? Continue reading What Makes a Great Business Drama?

Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

Many of you have probably heard of Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and a number of other outstanding books on technology innovation  and disruptive business models.  It’s one of the best business books I’ve read because it insightfully explores a business theory rather than throwing out a bunch of personal stories that are supposed to coalesce into a whole.

Christensen also wrote a book called The Innovator’s Prescription, applying the framework of disruptive innovation to the healthcare system.  MIT World has an good presentation video where Christensen walks through many of the ideas in the book.  It’s definitely worth watching for anyone involved in the healthcare system. Continue reading Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

Thinking About the Healthcare Sector

I’m always fascinated to think that over 17% of US GDP goes to healthcare.  All of this spending stimulates a lot of policy debates, but I’m more interested in the business challenges and opportunities presented by the size and complexity of the healthcare industry.  Many aspects of healthcare have traditionally been slow to evolve, but these days changes in regulation, new information technology, and novel business processes models (like the rise of outpatient procedures) are speeding up the pace of change.

While I’ve done consulting work in various parts of the industry (with providers, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices), I still don’t feel that I have a true ground-up understanding of how everything works.  So in addition to more general posts, I’m planning a series of blog posts exploring the industry from a business strategy perspective. Continue reading Thinking About the Healthcare Sector