Competing for the future


This is an article by Francesca Larkin.
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Competing for the future
by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad
384 pages, Harvard Business Press, 1996

“On the road to the future, who will be the windshield, and who will be the bug?” – Gary Hamel.

Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad advises managers to look to the future to make their company one of the very best and also a surprisingly good read. It is no longer about being number 1 right now so; both Hamel and Prahalad are urging companies to make their own futures, think of new markets and recreate themselves.

Throughout the book they are concerned that managers are too content and get too comfortable which starts to make them work in a set fixed routine. This can be detrimental to any company and cause them to fall behind, due to lack of innovation and lack of knowledge. The authors take into consideration the battle between IBM and Apple in the 1970s. IBM were so comfortable knowing they were the leading computer maker that they failed to see the possible market for personal computers, which was when Apple swooped in.

Hamel and Prahalad argue that there are two types of managers; the laggards and the challengers.

In order to become a successful company you must be a challenger which means following the path of greatest opportunity, not following the path of greatest familiarity. They write that directors must be more than “maintenance engineers” that focus all their attention on budgets and old tactics.

A worldwide bestseller in its day (first published 1994) it is unusual to hear of such mixed reviews. Maybe this is because 15 years on, it is less relevant and less useful to us than it was over a decade ago. At the time it was almost a novelty. Managers suddenly had somewhere they could look to help them be fresh and creative in their strategy, giving them that so desperately needed wake-up call.

Instead of it being a business book, maybe it can be seen as more of a self help book for CEOs and managers who had lost their way. Although it is accommodating in helping managers get back to grips with their companies, it lacks all those vital motivational speech like qualities to really inspire them and instead, starts off by telling managers they are doing everything wrong.

However, having said this, the book still features some excellent and highly relevant points, true to business in this decade. It proposes for us to be emotional with our work, stating that we should channel this emotion to shape our organisation and its industry. If managers can do this then they should be at the head of their game and constantly be bringing new ideas to the table, keeping the market as competitive as ever.

A excellent tip they make is that it is not all about money and profits. They want managers to realise there is more to a company than making money; it is about understanding your loyal consumers and creating a long standing brand to be proud of.

The magic of this publication lies in its ability to bring together a vast amount of contemporary examples all in one spot, giving managers an in-depth analysis of others’ workings and viewpoints. All in all, this book is an achievement to both Hamel and Prahalad; who do not fail to deliver. An interesting read for amateurs trying to work in the ‘real world’ and I guess the moral of the story goes, don’t be that bug!

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