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strategy and business
Published: October 15, 2002


Yves Doz: The Thought Leader Interview

But I can also see a role for someone who could be more externally oriented — learning, scouting — and much less oriented toward structures, who works less inside the organization. This would be a bit more of a roving ambassador, or an explorer. This is really a discovery function, and I would have liked the so-called CKOs to move in that direction, as lead explorers. But what I’ve seen is closer to managing internal processes and internal infrastructures, and making sure that the e-mail works right, or at best worrying about sharing best practices, which I think is really a missed opportunity. That’s the world as we know it already. The priority should be to explore the world, and find out what is going on that we don’t know yet.

s+b: That’s a much tougher job description to write, a much tougher person to recruit. What would that person’s CV look like?

DOZ: I know, it’s a difficult assignment. You need someone who is partly a kind of salesperson, someone who is curious, willing to rub shoulders with customers, with partners, competitors, and so on, and therefore has this sense of being able to open doors. But the important knowledge doesn’t come to you very easily, so at the same time this person must be smart and strategic enough to not just go in with the view of what kind of gizmo he or she can sell you next, but what can be learned from you. How can you make me aware of things I am not yet sensitive to, but which I should be familiar with? Typically, people who have managed distant labs and companies have this characteristic of curiosity toward the new and unknown, and are used to operating in contexts they can’t control.

Companies need to be very sensitive to the fact that these people need to be treated as explorers, that on their own terms, they are almost the equivalent of adventurers. From that standpoint they need to be managed, financed, and rewarded according to a logic that measures something very different from higher sales or greater internal efficiency.

Learning from Many Markets

s+b: You use the term “projection” for what multinationals do, implying that they push their products and processes into global markets, whereas metanationals pull ideas from dispersed sources. How does the metanational translate that knowledge into a coherent go-to-market strategy?

DOZ: First of all, there is one goal that is perhaps obvious, which is that a lot of what we call learning and sensing is about capturing market knowledge — understanding different markets and different customers. It’s very much concerned with perceiving emerging trends in consumer behavior. A lot of it may end up in product development and distribution strategy and so on, but in any case the knowledge has a market dividend. So the more market dividends you capture to begin with, the less you run the risk of ending up with the proverbial horse designed by committee, the risk of producing something that is not going to sell anywhere.

The other important point is that we need some form of market discipline fairly early in the process. For instance, if you take this approach to new projects, then it’s easier if you find the customer before you determine that the idea is a real project. Essentially, the idea for industrial product or service suppliers is to team up with customers or with one large customer. That way you don’t try to sustain something and push something that doesn’t really have a market proposition attached to it. You need early market tests. Then the challenge becomes making those market tests, and the market knowledge gained in them, applicable elsewhere.

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