The Deliberate Innovation Strategy


The strategic choice view argues that if an incumbent is not the first to introduce an innovation, it may not be because it has no incentive to invest, its competence has been destroyed, it has not recognized the potential of the innovation, it does not have the complementary assets, it did not use the right adoption mechanism, or it is an environment that is not conducive to innovation. It may be because of the firm’s innovation strategy—its goals, timing, actions, and resource allocation in using new knowledge to offer new products or services. By making the right choices early, a firm can build the right competences and complementary assets, or even shape the kind of environment in which it is going to operate.

There are several innovation strategies: offensive, defensive, imitative, dependent, traditional, and optimistic. A firm with an offensive strategy is the first to introduce new products. If the strategy is to be the first to innovate, it will invest in the innovation and build the capabilities to do so.  In a defensive innovation strategy, a firm waits for a competitor with an offensive strategy to introduce a product first and resolve some of the uncertainties confronting the innovation. The defensive firm then introduces its own product, correcting any mistakes that pioneers may have made.

Firms pursuing a defensive strategy normally have very strong complementary assets—capabilities such as marketing, manufacturing, distribution channels, and reputation which allow a firm to commercialize an invention—and when they decide to move, they do so very quickly. They usually have a strong R&D since it takes knowledge to absorb knowledge. The product is not an imitation of the pioneer’s version but rather a differentiated product, often with better features and lower cost. The firm, in effect, catches up with or leapfrogs the pioneer. Thus not being the first to introduce an innovation may not be a sign of a lack of incentive to invest, competence destruction, absence of appropriate complementary assets, inappropriate adoption mechanism, or being in the wrong environment. It may be because the firm in question has a defensive strategy.

While a firm with a defensive strategy would like to differentiate its products, one with an imitative strategy would like to produce a clone of the pioneer’s product. It has very little attention of catching up with or leapfrogging the pioneer. It usually has such low-cost capabilities as lower labor costs, access to raw materials, and strong manufacturing. In the dependent strategy the firm accepts a subordinate role to a stronger firm. It imitates product changes only when requested by the customer or superior. Many large Japanese firms have these satellite firms. The traditional strategy makes very few changes to products, only striving to offer the lowest cost possible. In the opportunistic strategy the firm looks for some unique needs of a market segment that are not being met—it looks for a niche market. The point in all these other strategies is that a firm’s failure to introduce a product first can be due to its deliberate strategy.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Polish, Don’t Reshape


Great risk takers and leaders are unique. In fact, that is precisely the key to their prowess: they have built on their own special combination of strengths. They know their pluses and their minuses, but they have elected to build on the positive side of the equation. They don’t try to copy others or attempt to be what they aren’t. they make the most of what they have, what they know, what they do best, and who they are.

Lee Iacocca is a case in point. When he took over Chrysler he had to orchestrate the biggest bailout in US economic history, which included incredibly detailed financing. Yet he didn’t try to be what he was not, a financial genius and number cruncher. Through it all Iacocca remained Iacocca. A great communicator, motivator, and marketer, these strengths had been the keys to his success, and utilizing them in this very trying situation enabled him to succeed.

The real doers share one trait: they build on their strengths. They don’t try to be what they are not; they remain true to who they are. They don’t imitate, clone, or copy, someone else. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses, they choose to polish, not reshape, the stone. You’ll be better at being yourself than at being anyone else.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight