The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain Worldby Donald Sull
Traditionally, leadership has been equated with vision. We look to leaders in business and government to have the genius to know the future and lead the rest of us to where that vision becomes a reality. We look for goals to beckon us and rely on strategic plans to guide us, all the while knowing how unreliable and unpredictable the future might be. Emerging
Traditionally, leadership has been equated with vision. We look to leaders in business and government to have the genius to know the future and lead the rest of us to where that vision becomes a reality. We look for goals to beckon us and rely on strategic plans to guide us, all the while knowing how unreliable and unpredictable the future might be. Emerging realities (the financial crisis of 2008, the rise and fall of oil prices, the creative destruction of the Internet, for instance) often distort and destroy established maps. How do we plan when plans become irrelevant?
Through his celebrated career as a professor of business and a medicine man to companies big and small, Donald Sull has studied how best to reconcile this paradox. The essence of leadership, in the deep logic that underpins this book, relies on a leader's flexible tenacity to plot a course that can withstand and even be propelled by the complexity and dynamism that the modern business terrain contains.
Based on a decade of research, historical case studies, and intensive work with established enterprises and start-ups, this book lays out the fundamental logic of opportunity and provides a series of practical steps to translate insight into action.
Sull (Why Good Companies Go Bad), professor at the London Business School, inveighs against the business world's terror of change and habitual response of accelerating activities that have worked in the past, a dynamic he terms "active inertia." Sull demonstrates how turbulence-his term for rapid and unpredictable changes that influence a firm's ability to create value-provides opportunity for growth (his odd analogy describes how Italians originally thought tomatoes were poisonous; only when they were willing to experiment did they discover the root of their distinctive cuisine). Noting the "exceptionally turbulent" times we live in, Sull offers practical suggestions (and work sheets) to enhance a company's agility and ability to improvise. "Our theories about the future," he reminds us, "remain subject to revision or rejection in light of new knowledge that might arise in the future. All our theories will let us down; we just don't yet know how or when." With success stories from such companies as Microsoft and Carnival Cruise Lines, much of the information within is sound, but the lofty tone might make this a tough sell in an already shell-shocked marketplace. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author
Donald Sull is a professor of strategy and the faculty director of executive education at the London Business School. He received his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees from Harvard University, where he taught entrepreneurship. Prior to his academic career, professor Sull worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Company and as a management investor with a leveraged buyout firm. He blogs for the Financial Times (www.blogs.ft.com/donsullblog).
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