Reshaping Strategy: Exploring the Content, Process and Context of Strategic Innovation

In this book review Paul Hobcraft looks at “Reshaping Strategy: Exploring the Content, Process and Context of Strategic Innovation” a book by Marc Sniukas, published at VDM Verlag.

I was taken swiftly back into my MBA study times immediately with this book as it is chock full of references I would have loved to have had available to me for those studies. To have had these all collected in one place would have been really helpful to grasp quickly on what makes up Strategic Management.

Marc does a really good job of pulling together an incredible body of literature on the subject of Strategic Management and the more emerging Strategic Innovation into this one small book. As I understand it Marc is still on his own journey in innovation understanding and is presently working towards his PhD with a very relevant topic of understanding the Dynamic Capabilities of Business Model Innovation.

Reshaping Strategy is a really worthwhile read for anyone interesting in having a fast, concise understanding of the prevailing views on strategy and a better understanding of the lack of any academic consensus on the topic. Marc takes you through the often conflicting views to give you a really good grasp of the issues and the growing sense of failure that Strategic Management offers in its existing form and why it is not meeting the challenges of today in content, process and tools.

The books underlying argument

The argument is to regroup under the new term “Strategic Innovation” as a new way of thinking and breaking those very prevalent mindsets stuck in older thinking. Marc believes this provides three outcomes that lead to new business models, new market understanding and increased value from the perspective of the customer and within the company. He holds firm on content, process, tools as the way to discuss this and provides the all important context to this new thinking by synthesizing more than 200 books, articles, research papers and countless references on different aspects of strategic innovation. It gives you the views of many leading thinkers on the subject to provide you a really sound basis for any rethinking you might be doing within yourself on innovation or how your organization should be responding to the rapid changes going on.

The purpose of the book had three aims

  1. To summarize and structure the (current) research and theories on strategic innovation and it does an admirable job of that, up to 2006 but seems to have drawn a line at that point.
  2. Marc wanted to synthesize these insights and partial solutions from different authors into a comprehensive approach to facilitate a systematic way of thinking through the issues involved. I think he partly achieves this but at times some of the areas seem thin and I can’t blame him for that as the amount of work generated in this area is phenomenal but he has begun this for the reader, who should explore their points of interest further
  3. He wanted to provide a practical framework and advice for managers on how to think about strategic innovation, while giving a picture as complete as possible. That for me does not come through as clearly as his stated intent. It strikes me this book is more a work in progress and he is offering more emerging frameworks where I think he could have stamped his own views a little more as they seem tentative but certainly look sound. I think in this intension of a complete (emerging) picture I think he could have been more determined.

The structure of the book

I do think the book would have benefited from some more professional editing, it is sometimes difficult to move back and forth, chapters could have had clearer lead-ins and summaries, and they tend to dive in or suddenly just seem to tail off. Distilling such a body of work is very demanding but I felt some further shaping of Marc’s opinions, of the reasons why and what can be drawn from this analysis would have been additional good value to provide within the book. I also feel some better use of sub headings would help so I can quickly go back to the reference section. Finally Marc provides sometimes “chunks of commentary” that seem at odds with the style of the rest of the book. This professional editing might have pushed a presently solid book into a more structured, visually appealing one. It would have helped in my opinion.

Leading thinkers on Strategic Innovation come clearly through

I find it is always interesting on whom you tend to favour or gravitate too in any literature review and although this can be limited to the subject anyway Marc seems to have his favourites to draw from and reference consistently. In this book Kim & Mauborgne, famed for their “Blue Ocean Strategy”, “Value Innovation” and “Charting your Future” stand out, along with De Wit and Meyers book “Strategy: Process, Content, Context” and Markides and his numerous works and finally those of Mintzberg, Christensen, Drucker, Govindarajan and Hamel. They are consistent throughout the book but Marc does provides all his references and it certainly adds up to an incredible list to have worked through- a thesis in itself. He has explored a rich, diverse set of academic thinkers and absorbed much that comes through from this work. He set about the describing them admirably within the book that collectively as a body of work would, I think, be difficult to find anywhere else.

Marc’s emerging thinking

Within the book you can see Marc’s emerging thinking in suggested models, frameworks or suggested steps but these sometimes are buried and that is a pity. For instance in Marc’s exposition of the process of strategic innovation he covers many authors’ views and then at the end of that section he seems to slip in his suggestions…..”I propose the following four steps”. He does go on to describe these in detail but by mostly using other authors again to take us through them. I personally wish you could see more of the establishing of Marc’s opinion coming clearly through and seen, instead of the blending that he seems to do, as he ‘points’ us to these emerging frameworks as against offering them as his clear view to (re)solve these issues. Too often his thoughts are blurred in with others to appreciate his contribution in thoughts or solutions.

In summary

The book offers a great reference point, a compilation of academic work and thinking for Strategic Management and Strategic Innovation up to 2006. As we are as Marc suggests, ‘regrouping’ around Strategic Innovation, there has been some significant additions to this thinking in the past few years to strengthen the value of Strategic Innovation thinking even further.

Marc’s book lays the foundation; it opens up the mind to those wanting to explore Strategic Innovation so they can quickly build their knowledge from this excellent opening text. As a topic it seems to be moving very fast so grab your copy of this book to tune in quickly as it distils much and will certainly broaden the reader’s perspective on this topic and give them a great start to this need for more Strategic Innovation in thinking and action.

By Paul Hobcraft

About Paul Hobcraft

Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation Specialists; an advisory business that focuses on stimulating sound innovation practice. He helps build innovation capability and capacity for organisations, teams and individuals. Agility Innovation research topics that relate to innovation for the future, applying the learning to further develop organizations core innovation activity, offer appropriate advice on tools, techniques and frameworks.

Paul´s personal journey has been varied, challenging but fun. This has taken him to live and work in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Malaysia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, USA, Australia, and recently eleven years in Singapore. Paul is based in Switzerland and presently focuses his time between Asia and Europe. Welcome to read more at: www.agilityinnovation.com 

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