Today, when your fortunes can literally change overnight, the new strategic imperative is making your moment of maximum risk your moment of maximum opportunity. In The Upside, Adrian Slywotzky provides bold and original ideas for growth breakthroughs as well as the practical tools to use Monday morning, such as
•How to change the odds for your next major initiative and create potential industry breakthroughs, as Toyota did with its expanding universe of Prius vehicles.
•Shape and exploit risk, don't be shaped by it. Become a knowledge-intensive business and continuallyincrease the knowledge gap between yourself and rivals, as Coach and Tsutaya of Japan have convincingly done.
•A category killer can't kill what's not in its category. When basketball legend Bill Russell faced a taller, stronger Wilt Chamberlain, he led the Celtics to victory by inventing a different game. The same thinking lets Target prosper in a Wal-Mart world--and can help you outcompete the "unbeatable" rival in your own industry.
•When you come to a fork in the road--take it! Only a fraction of companies survive when industries experience technological or strategic transitions. To be a survivor, learn the secret that enabled Microsoft to weather the advent of the Internet--the art of the double bet.
•Stuckinabusinessbox? Findthebiggerbox--and then the biggest.When growth stagnates, capture more of your customer's dollars through demand innovation and big-box thinking, as companies from Continental AG and Ikea to Procter & Gamble have done.
•Your competitors can also be your greatest enablers of profit. Stop competing yourself to death! The key is knowing when to compete and when to collaborate, as Apple has shown with its revolutionary approach to the music business.
In the 1980s conventional wisdom was that you could have high quality or low cost, but not both--until Japanese makers of cars and electronics showed otherwise. Now, high quality and low cost are required just to enter the marketplace. Today, we face a similar paradox when it comes to risk and reward. Rather than shrink from the high risk so integral to the tumultuous global economy, Adrian Slywotzky shows how it can be your greatest source of growth and future reward.
From the Hardcover edition.
"But what if the reality is rather different? That is one of the central arguments of Adrian Slywotzky's important new book. 'The conventional wisdom is that risk and reward go together -- that to get great upside results, you need to accept big downside risks,' he writes. But risk and reward are not inextricably linked, he maintains. 'The leaders of today's most successful companies aren't risk takers, they're risk shapers.'" -Financial Times, 9 May 2007
"In the end, The Upside offers a persuasive case that managers must own up to an honest appraisal of strategic risks--both downside and upside. It's the difference between betting smart and just betting." -Business Week, 28 May 2007
"But there's good news, too. Or so argues Slywotzky, director of the Oliver Wyman consulting firm and one of the shrewdest observers of the fast-changing world of commerce. He contends that an emerging discipline called strategic risk management can help forward-looking companies turn the most dangerous challenges to their advantage." -Boston Globe, 3 June 2007
"Slywotzky's book is filled with fascinating examples of companies boldly but wisely doing extraordinary things. (IKEA is building houses!) I caught myself skipping ahead to discover outcomes and moving back and forth to contrast various examples. This is not a minor book. I suspect that it may well become a business classic." -Execupundit, 8 June 2007
"In his latest, business writer and consulting firm director Slywotzsky (The Profit Zone) seeks a formula for managing risk as neat as a calculator equation and as powerful as, say, Steve Jobs turning an iMac design flaw (no CD burner) into perhaps the biggest consumer success of the digital age--the iPod. To do this, Slywotzky partitions the uncertainty of doing business into seven risk categories: project failure, customer drift, transition failure, competition, brand errosion, industry slippage and corporate stagnation. Using timely real-world examples (Toyota's Prius turnaround, Samsung's refurbished image), Slywotzky shows how confronting threats directly--from market competition to personal fear--can turn them into stepping stones to success." -Publishers Weekly
"Potential risks include the failure of a big initiative, reduced margins industrywide, an unexpected new rival and the loss of core customers. Planning for these and other risks should be part of your ongoing strategy, says Adrian Slywotzky, co-author of the new book The Upside." -Investor's Business Daily, 5 June 2007
"Today, a similar paradox involves the conventional wisdom on risks and rewards--that bigger rewards always require bigger risks. The challenge is to recognize that risk and reward are not inextricably linked, says management guru and author Adrian J. Slywotzky." -Industry Week, July, 2007
"The Upside is all upside--quintessential clear thinking, Slywotzky at his best. Whether you are on the attack or worried about being attacked, this book shows you how to anticipate and capitalize on opportunities and threats others fail to see." -Clay M. Christensen, Harvard Business School, author of The Innovator's Dilemma
"Converting risks into giant opportunities differentiates the leaders of the future. Adrian Slywotzky provides breakthrough thinking in this must-read book." -Ram Charan, author of Know-How and coauthor of Execution
"The Upside shows ways to create growth breakthroughs from threats that are both practical and inspiring. This is a must-read book." -Philip E. Rowley, CEO of AOL Europe
"Over the many years I have spent in the business world, I have consistently noted that one of the common characteristics of successful companies and entrepreneurs alike is that they are exceptionally skilled in managing risk, both pure financial risk and long-term strategic risks. The publication of The Upside is very timely indeed...it will make you think differently about strategic risk. It will help you recognize--and act to take advantage of --the growth opportunities concealed behind the major threats your business will face in the next several years." -Dr. Clemens Brsig, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG; formerly CFO/Chief Risk Officer, Deutsche Bank AG
Changing the Odds
Why 90% Right Often = 0: How to Improve the Odds on Your Most Important Project Growing your business depends on new projects--creating new products, entering new markets, finding new customers, and acquiring new operations. Likewise, improving your business depends on major new projects, such as upgrading your IT system, simplifying your manufacturing processes, and streamlining your supply chain. But at the moment of launching any project, there's a problem that most of us don't come to grips with: the inherent, all-too-human tendency to be overly optimistic about the odds of success.
What are the odds that the new venture your company is about to launch will produce a marketable product within the next eighteen months? What are the chances the merger your company is about to conclude will create rather than destroy shareholder value? Out of twenty new products now in development in your lab, how many will be on the market two years from now? And of those, how many will be profitable?
Even approaching such questions in a spirit of objectivity is very tough for most people. As researchers Daniel Kahneman and Dan Lovallo explain in their article "Delusions of Success," "We chronically overestimate, to a dramatic degree, the odds of project success." We look at a project with a 5 percent chance of success and we think the odds are 30 percent; we look at a 10 percent chance and we think that it's 50 percent.
It's natural for businesspeople to look on the bright side when estimating their chances for success. Optimism generates energy. Those who are chronically pessimistic attract few followers and accomplish very little. But optimism has an Achilles' heel: It causes you to overestimate the true odds at the outset. Take a minute and think about the true odds in most common business scenarios. A close look at the data suggests that the failure rate for many types of projects is in the range of 60--80 percent. (See Figure 1-1 for typical failure rates for specific project types.)
Typical Failure Rates for Specific Project Types
Company merger or acquisition60%
Information technology project70%
New food product78%
Venture capital investment80%
New pharmaceutical productOver 90%
In truth, every project you undertake is a kind of suspense story. How and when and where will it go wrong? What unexpected obstacles will arise to derail it? There are many, many ways a project can fail. They range from undercommunication among team members to conducting too few experiments and considering too few options when designing the new product or the new business; from relying on a flawed technology to using a technology that works but costs too much or takes too long to develop; from failing to anticipate a competitor's preemptive move to inaccurately forecasting consumer demand; and from overlooking the need to retool your marketing infrastructure to support a new product to ignoring the time bombs planted by internal politics that will blow up any chance of successful implementation.
This list of traps and pitfalls is far from complete--you can probably extend it dramatically based on your own experience. Consider all the ways that a project can fail and you may find yourself wondering how it is that any projects succeed.
Of course, many projects do succeed. Some IT programs work phenomenally well; some new products become enormous hits. But too often, excessive optimism...