Unstable markets, fierce competition, and relentless change are the only certainties in today's chaotic business world. In their startling new book, authors Brown and Eisenhardt contend that to prosper in such volatile conditions, standard survival strategies must be tossed aside in favor of a revolutionary new paradigm—competing on the edge. To compete on the edge is to relentlessly reinvent, and it's the only way to navigate the treacherous waters of tumultuous markets. Competing on the edge is an unpredictable, sometimes even inefficient strategy, yet a singularly effective one in an era driven by change. It requires charting a course along the edge of chaos, where a delicate compromise is struck between anarchy and order, to the edge of time, where current business is the primary focus, but actions are shaped by past legacies and future opportunities. By adroitly maneuvering through chaos and time, managers can avoid constantly reacting to nonstop change and instead set a rhythmic pace that others must follow, thereby shaping the competitive landscape—and their own destiny. In the first book to translate leading edge concepts from complexity theory into management practice, each chapter focuses on a specific management dilemma and illustrates a solution. Linking where do you want to go? With how will you get there? Here's a bold and surprising strategy that works—when the name of the game is change.
What do the Atlanta Braves, Microsoft, 3M, Nike, and Intel all have in common? According to Shona Brown and Kathleen Eisenhardt, authors of Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos
, each of these organizations are predictably unpredictable. They're leaders not because of their ability to predict the course of their markets; rather, these companies have learned to embrace the notion of change. They're successful because they've learned to find that edge between structure and chaos that allows them to be innovative and creative, while maintaining just enough discipline to focus on executing a plan.
The authors contend that competing on the edge is not an efficient or predictable way to do business. Instead, it's learning how to adapt and lead in a business environment that's in a constant state of flux. "The underlying insight behind competing on the edge is that strategy is the result of a firm's organizing to change constantly and letting a semicoherent strategic direction emerge from that organization. In other words, it is about combining the two parts of strategy by simultaneously addressing where you want to go and how you are going to get there."
Brown and Eisenhardt offer dozens of examples of companies that are successfully and not so successfully finding that balance between anarchy and order. If, on the one hand, you feel like your company is bogged down by rules and bureaucracy or if,on the other, it seems like no one in your company knows exactly what they're doing, you'll find that Competing on the Edge is a valuable handbook for change. The book is clearly written, full of insight, and belongs on every manager's bookshelf. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards