Why strategy is easier planned than implemented
Gibbons is quick to point out that the course is not about teaching innovation, rather it is about teaching people how to be innovative and how to create innovative organisations by ensuring that the right processes and culture are in place.
“We are seeing new models and ways of doing business emerge and, as a result of that, there is a need to design organisations to be nimble, flexible and adaptable. One of the problems is that the word innovation tends to get overburdened by definitions. Of course, we need to have research and inventions but innovation is also about commercialising ideas and bringing them to market – it’s not all about what’s happening in the lab.
“It’s also about designing organisations to be inventive and to discover things and to design business models. This is a leadership and managerial challenge. Frequently, there is a rallying cry around the need for more innovation in organisations, yet the social architecture to deliver innovation is left untouched – this programme addresses that challenge.”
It is about being open to new ways of doing things. “I think it’s fair comment to say that many organisations which fail are those which have failed to change,” he says. “Inertia tends to rule. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sticking to the same old way of doing things and clinging to the status quo.”
Innovation isn’t alone in labouring under the burden of a narrow definition. Strategy too suffers from misunderstandings. “Thinking strategically is often confused with some form of forecasting – literally the five-year plan,” Gibbons says.
“Many managers, particularly when confronted with the economic crisis and rapid technological change think that strategic thinking is futile. I would challenge that mindset because strategic thinking is about looking at the decisions you are making now and thinking about their long- term consequences.
“It’s about how you commit resources now, how you configure your assets now, how you make decisions in the here and now that will position yourself and your organisation for a successful future – the vital task for leadership.”
Gibbons points to several examples of companies and organisations which have benefited from successful strategic change over the years. “Apple’s transformation from a PC company to an entire mobile eco-system is one, and a real-time strategic change that is happening close to home is CC’s portfolio expansion, particularly in the US. We also see a radical restructuring taking place in the dairy industry with Glanbia’s restructuring of its milk-processing assets.
“In the public sector, the strategy statements produced by the Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance reveal a significant shift in their approach to administration and focus. Looking back we see how IBM moved from being a major manufacturing concern to being fundamentally a services organisation. These are all examples of organisations which have come to understand that what has brought them success at one stage will not continue to bring success in the future.”
Enrolment is now open for the Diploma in Strategy, Innovation and Change. See smurfitschool.ie/executiveeducation