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Faculty & Research


Discovering Strategy: Dealing with Uncertainty by Harnessing Serendipity

Working Paper
In this paper the authors propose an approach to help businesses discover a successful, new strategy in response to a shock (such as the Covid pandemic) that has unknown and unpredictable consequences for the future performance of their existing business model. Specifically, they develop a conceptual framework for the discovery process and propose a set of practical tools that managers can use to help their companies begin to deal with the unknown-unknowns that result from a significant shock to their existing business environment. This involves: (1) Looking out for unexpected opportunities and challenges arising after a shock and tracking the effects of your organisation’s improvised responses; (2) Consciously suspending your existing beliefs about your business environment and your business; and (3) Catalysing new interactions between an extended ecosystem of diverse partners around your business. The authors then demonstrate the role for search, experimentation, and strategic agility to refining and implementing the new strategy that follows. They conclude that, despite the role for these traditional approaches to strategy-making in a risky environment, when businesses face a situation so uncertain that possible future scenarios can’t be articulated foresight and flexibility alone are not enough. Managers also need to embark on a process that enables them to discover a previously unimagined future strategic path.

Affiliated Professor of Practice in Global Management