Strategic Inflection Points

I want to more fully explain the concept of Strategic Inflection Points. I have referred to this topic in my Week 5 and Week 11 update videos. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove first described a strategic inflection point as a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end. An inflection point can be the result of an action taken by a company or an action taken by another entity. An excellent recent example may be Facebook’s announced intention to enter the cryptocurrency market. The markets have already reacted sharply to Facebook’s move. Analysts have suggested that it may significantly alter the forecasts for cryptocurrencies. Change is inevitable and change is happening more rapidly than ever. Adaptation to change is imperative for corporate survival.

Managing The Accelerated Corporate Lifecycle

Anyone starting a new company should understand the concept of the “corporate life cycle”, and use it as a guide for understanding where the company is in that cycle, to understand the risks at each stage, and to recognize the need for action to change course. This graphic shows a typical corporate life cycle and different possible paths as the company matures. Management of the corporate life cycle also dovetails with the concept of a “strategic inflection point,” which I briefly discussed in my Week 5 Report, The Internet of Things. John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco Systems has pointed out that the rapid acceleration in market changes has also accelerated the corporate life cycle, emphasizing the importance of understanding it. Companies abound that were initially very successful and yet eventually closed their doors, or were acquired because the company did not anticipate market changes and the need to adapt to the new situation.

Strategic Focus versus Nimbleness

This week I want to discuss the importance of strategic focus, while still being open to possible opportunities, sometimes called corporate “nimbleness,” which may seem like a contradiction. I am a strong believer in strategic focus, however I have also personally experienced a case where an “openness” to opportunity transformed the enterprise from a pedestrian company into a Silicon Valley legend. Ascend Communications was “focused” on ISDN based video conferencing with a modest and profitable OEM agreement with AT&T. However, AT&T came to Ascend and asked if it could solve a much bigger problem…

French President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to make France a ‘start-up nation’ amid the uncertainty over Brexit is raising the question of whether Paris could supplant London as the capital of European tech. Since his election, Macron has wooed tech entrepreneurs with a string of initiatives in the form of lavish tax breaks, subsidies, and credits for research. In March 2018, he promised to invest €1.5 billion into artificial intelligence research through 2022. Some of these initiatives, in addition to Macron’s dynamism, have lured British tech companies who are looking to gain a foothold in Europe.

I want to talk a bit about networking with new acquaintances or renewing old contacts.  Networking is often dreaded because it sounds like being disingenuous or insincere. Good networking is genuine and sincere. I made the point in Week 1 that communication skills are crucial, and they can be learned. Warren Buffett has said that “public speaking” is the most important skill he ever learned.  So let’s discuss a few ideas on how to make networking less stressful and more successful.  In this video, I will list three key things to remember when networking and expand on why they are so important. My UBC Management students will remember this from my Management Communication course.