Today's Reading

INTRODUCTION

Some years ago, Andy Grove introduced the concept of strategic inflection points in his landmark book Only the Paranoid Survive. A "strategic inflection point," he observed, "is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change." And that is how many of us experience inflection points—as a single moment in time when everything changes irrevocably.

When you look at the true nature of strategic inflection points, you see a different story. It is similar to the way in which Hemingway's character Mike Campbell in 'The Sun Also Rises' responds to being asked how he went bankrupt. "Gradually," he says, "then suddenly."

An inflection point is a change in the business environment that dramatically shifts some element of your activities, throwing certain taken-for-granted assumptions into question. Someone, somewhere, sees the implications, but all too often they are not heard. That someone might be you!

This book will help you see the opportunities represented by strategic inflection points and help you, your team, and your organization take advantage of them. There are three major ideas to grab hold of here.

* What you experience as a big, dramatic inflection point has almost always been gestating for a while.

* This creates opportunity: if you see it early—or even better, spark it—an inflection point can be a strategic boon.

* You can use tools from the discovery-driven growth playbook to maximize your opportunities.


Let's take a concrete example.

Imagine a sector that effectively serves only one in five potential customers. Now imagine a massive change that would allow competitors to capture all that unmet demand in a highly profitable way and without taking on a lot of risk. Imagine that the sector as it is generates about $8 billion in revenue annually. The postinflection point sector could be five times that size, meaning that some $40 billion or so in revenue could potentially be unlocked for those competitors adroit and farsighted enough to be at the right place when the inflection point does its work.

Though they are often depicted as disruptive destroyers of existing businesses, inflection points create vast new spaces even as they destroy outdated technologies and models. Famed economist Joseph Schumpeter said it decades ago—incumbents in a sector are always vulnerable to the "perennial gale of creative destruction," which sweeps away the old and outdated, and introduces the new and more desirable.
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