Strategic Innovation: The Definitive Guide to Outlier Strategies

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9780133989441: Strategic Innovation: The Definitive Guide to Outlier Strategies




  • Become an “outlier organization”: recognize huge opportunities in novelty, and act fast and first
  • Listen for the tremors already building beneath your markets
  • Learn from winning “outlier” business models, organizational forms, markets, products, and services

Today, the companies that rise rapidly to dominance are the outliers. They’re radically novel where it matters: whether in business models, products, services, or some other key driver of value. Strategic Innovation reveals how to think like these vanguard organizations–and become one of them.


You’ll discover how to borrow the lenses and insights of companies operating right at the edge of conventional industry dynamics and boundaries...where opportunities are underdefined, predictions unstable, and the greatest opportunities exist.


Using linked case studies and a proven three-step methodology, the authors guide you through uncovering Strategic Novelty (SN) with explosive potential...executing quickly... and learning and tweaking relentlessly to amplify your impact.

If you keep doing what everyone else is doing, you may succeed–but not greatly, and not for long. If you want to create, transform, and dominate your market, you need to think and act like an outlier. Learn how. Now. Before someone does it to you.


Right now, all around you, there’s an explosion of new business models, new product/service categories, and new organizational forms. It’s a veritable Cambrian Explosion of business life, led by outlier organizations you’ve never even heard of. Many will remain practically invisible to the incumbents in their markets...until they suddenly explode into dominance.

What do they share? A fundamental commitment to Strategic Novelty (SN). Now, in Strategic Innovation, leading innovation strategists Liisa Välikangas and Michael Gibbert show you how to leverage SN to become your industry’s winning disruptor.


You’ll master SN through case studies from leading outlier organizations in areas ranging from 3D printing to crowd financing and resource-constrained innovation. Each case is original, previously unpublished, and based at least in part on the authors’ direct experiences.


Through these cases, you’ll explore how each company’s story is playing out: sometimes in failure, but often in massive success. You’ll discover why incumbents rarely notice outliers in time, and how to keep it from happening to you. Perhaps most valuable of all, the authors help you extrapolate the likely impact of any novelty, so you can tell the difference between promising opportunities and those destined to fail.


The proven methodology for profiting from Strategic Novelty (SN)

Three steps + powerful tools to:


Identify the WOW

What excites you? Unsettles you? What does that mean? What does it say about you?


Execute the SO WHAT?

Choose and apply the strategic ideas most likely to enrich your organization


Amplify the OOMPH

Experiment, learn, and lead to maximize the impact of novelty


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About the Author:

Liisa Välikangas is Professor of Innovation Management at Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki. She is on the board of various private and public organizations, including the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation and Robin Hood Minor Asset Management. She has been affiliated with Stanford University, London Business School, Keio University in Japan, and IMD in Switzerland, and worked for Strategos, a strategic management consultancy, and SRI International in Silicon Valley. Her research on innovation, strategy, and resilience has been published in Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, and Wall Street Journal, among other leading journals, and presented to various executive audiences. She is the author of The Resilient Organization, How Adaptive Cultures Thrive Even When Strategy Fails (McGraw-Hill, 2010). Liisa lives in Finland and California.


Michael Gibbert’s first encounter with strategic novelty and outliers was as an apprentice to a professional chef in a two- Michelin-star kitchen in Wiesbaden, Germany, in a (failed) attempt to get the third star. Intrigued by the theoretical underpinnings of novelty and outliers, he turned to the academe of business management, reading for a Masters at Stellenbosch, South Africa, and a PhD at St. Gallen University, Switzerland. After several research and teaching stints at INSEAD, Yale, and Bocconi, he joined the faculty at the Università della Svizzera italiana, in Lugano, Switzerland, where he is a professor of marketing. The author of several books and influential articles, his quest for strategic novelty happily received more accolades on the academic (compared to the culinary) front. He lives, cooks, and teaches in southern Switzerland.


Lakshmi B. Nair is a PhD student at Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland. She explores the methodological sophistication of research, with a predominant focus on qualitative methodology. Her work so far encompasses studies on rigor, transparency, and impact of research methodology. Before embracing the academic way of life, she was a banker (HDFC Bank Ltd.), an MBA (First Class, Mahatma Gandhi University), and a BSW (Rank Holder at Kerala state level, Mahatma Gandhi University). When she is not following outliers, she follows her other passions: cooking, reading, dancing, traveling, and talking (not necessarily in that order).


Markus Paukku is a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Based in San Francisco, Markus studies novel organizational and business models in emerging markets and nascent industries. Currently he is investigating the reimagination of higher education through digital technology and online learning. Markus received his PhD from the Aalto University School of Business and has degrees from McGill University and the Helsinki School of Economics. His research has been published in International Business Review and is regularly presented at international academic conferences such as the Strategic Management Society.


Inês Peixoto is a doctoral candidate at Aalto University School of Business in Helsinki, Finland. Along with looking into the strategies of outliers, Inês has a keen research interest in how nascent markets emerge and evolve, in particular the role of ambiguity and uncertainty in market rules and the transformative potential of innovative strategies. Currently, she is examining the European biofuels market, having presented her work in international conferences and seminars, including Strategic Management Society (SMS) and Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE). Originally from Lisbon in Portugal, Inês has degrees in environmental engineering and in management from Universidade Nova de Lisboa. When she is not peering into the novel, she enjoys exploring the old in music records, second-hand books, and film.


Akseli Virtanen is a theorist of new political finance, born in Finland and currently based in Santa Cruz, California. He is a co-founder of Robin Hood Minor Asset Management Cooperative, an activist hedge fund, which bends powers of finance to the production of the common and creation of new economic space. The financial services of the merry men and women of Sherwood are here again: only this time they log into the brains of the bankers at Wall Street to share their means of production with those who don’t normally have access to financial capital. Akseli is the author of Arbitrary Power: A Contribution Towards a Critique of Biopolitical Economy (n-1 Edições, forthcoming 2015).


Alice Taylor is the founder and CEO of MakieLab, a toys-and-games company in London and the creator of Makies, the world’s first 3D printed toy at retail. Alice was recently honored with two of the Hospital Club 100 prizes (Creative Entrepreneur category and Games/Tech category), and won the Rising Star Inventor of the Year at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2014. Previous to MakieLab, Alice was Commissioning Editor for Education at Channel 4, where she commissioned multiple award-winning games and media for kids and teens, winning awards that included two BAFTAs. Pre Channel 4, Alice was VP Digital Media at BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles.


Andrea Carugati is Associate Professor, Department of Management, Aarhus University, Denmark where he leads the Information System Research Group. Andrea’s research focuses on the strategic impact of technology on IT-driven organizational change, and on the deployment of information technology in organizations. Andrea has published, among others, in the European Journal of Information Systems, Database for Advances in Information Systems, European Management Review, European Management Journal, at the International Conference on Information Systems, EGOS, and at the European Conference on Information Systems.


Eri Gentry is President and co-founder of BioCurious, the first “hackerspace for biotech,” home to the 3D DIY BioPrinter printer project, and one of FastCompany’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education. She is a researcher and resident Biofuturist at the Institute for the Future, co-author of the book Maker Pro, and past CEO and co-founder of Livly, a research company on a mission to end killer diseases. She was named a White House Champion of Change for Citizen Science and one of Techonomy’s Top Ten for 2013.


Eric Nowak is a Professor at the Swiss Finance Institute (SFI) and the University of Lugano (USI). His research on corporate governance, private equity, and IPOs was published in leading international journals including the Journal of Finance, Journal of Business Venturing, and Business History . Eric studied at the Universities of St. Gallen (HSG), Bocconi, and Chicago. He holds a PhD in finance from HSG and obtained his venia legendi in Betriebswirtschaftslehre from the Goethe University of Frankfurt. From 2010 to 2011 he served as the Rock Center for Corporate Governance Visiting Scholar at Stanford University. He was the Swiss investigator for the EC Research Network Regional Comparative Advantage and Knowledge Based Entrepreneurship (RICAFE II). Eric has a wide range of practical experience and knowledge in entrepreneurship from start-up activities. Among the start-ups he has co-founded, he is in supervisory board of aktionaersforum AG, an online shareholder communication company, and member of the scientific board of CEPRES GmbH, a web-interfaced private equity data provider. He also is the founder, owner, and Chairman of the board of Swiss Rating Agency SA, Lugano, a USIincubated start-up active in credit risk analytics. Furthermore, he has worked on numerous consulting projects and in arbitration proceedings particularly for companies in the areas of private equity and event-driven hedge funds. Many of Eric’s former students have successfully founded companies under his guidance, among them Indian Energy Ltd. which did an IPO on the London Stock Exchange, CEPRES GmbH which was acquired by Deutsche Bank, and 2iqResearch which has been financed by the Swiss VC Next Generation Finance AG.


Giacomo Cattaneo is PhD fellow at the Department of Management, Aarhus University, Denmark, and Research Associate at the Chair of Entrepreneurship, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He holds an MSc in Management, Technology, and Economics from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Giacomo’s research focuses on the relationship between the processes of strategic renewal and innovation to explain why companies struggle in the face of volatile and dynamic environments.


Harikesh Nair is a Professor of Marketing at Stanford GSB. His research is in the area of marketing analytics. His work brings together applied economic theory and econometric tools with marketing data to better understand consumer behavior and to improve the strategic marketing decisions of firms. His recent research covers pricing, workplace analytics, quantitative incentive design, social media and social interactions, advertising, network effects, diffusion of technologies, and empirical industrial organization, especially in contexts in which marketing activities have dynamic implications for the behavior of consumers and firms. His research has been published in leading marketing journals including Journal of Marketing Research, Management Science, Marketing Science, and Quantitative Marketing and Economics, and written up in popular-press outlets like CNBC , The Economist , Financial Times , US News , and The Wall Street Journal. His research has been recognized with awards from the Quantitative Marketing and Economics Journal, the American Marketing Association Foundation, the Swiss Academy of Marketing Science, and the U.S. Council for University Transportation Centers. Harikesh received his PhD in Business from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago. Prior to that, he received his MS in Transportation Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and his B.Tech in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Madras, India. He has been at Stanford since 2005, and teaches classes on Data and Decisions, Pricing and Monetization in the Stanford MBA program; on empirical analysis of dynamic decision contexts in the GSB PhD program; and on Marketing and Pricing in the GSB executive education and custom education programs. Harikesh serves as an associate editor at Management Science and Quantitative Marketing and Economics. At the GSB, Harikesh was the Fletcher Jones Faculty Scholar from 2007 to 2008, the Spence Faculty Scholar from 2011 to 2012 and the Louise and Claude Rosenberg Faculty Scholar from 2009 to 2010 and 2012 to 2013. In 2014, Poets&Quants, a magazine focused on Business schools, voted him one of the 40 Most Outstanding B-School Profs Under 40 in the World.


Heraldo Negri de Oliveira is a Brazilian biologist and partner and a co-founder of BUG Agentes Biológicos where he is also the Director of Production. Prior to BUG, Heraldo worked at the Department of Entomology of Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture at the University of São Paulo (USP/ESALQ), Brazil. He also has an MBA in Agribusiness by USP/ESALQ. Heraldo has authored dozens of scientific papers and books in the area of biological control.


Lars Frederiksen is Professor (MSO) at Department of Management, Aarhus University, Denmark where he leads the Innovation Management Group. He was awarded his PhD from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and hereafter worked for more than 4 years at Imperial College Business School, London. Lars specializes in the management of innovation and technology with particular emphasis on innovation strategies, knowledge creation and search, user innovation in communities, and innovation in project-based organizations. More recently Lars ventured into studying mobility of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams. Empirically, Lars focuses on industries such as software, roads and water, engineering consulting, and entertainment (i.e., music and films). Lars’ work appears in journals including Organization Science, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Product Innovation Management, among others.


Liis Männamaa is an Implementation Manager with Nor1 developing the relationship with the main property contacts and supporting the implementation process of Nor1’s products into new and existing portfolio of hotels. Having experience in working with tourism and hospitality companies in various countries in Europe, she enjoys communicating with global hotel chains and analyzing the properties to recommend pricing strategies that maximize hotel room revenue. Liis received her Master’s degree in Economics and Communication, Major in International Tourism Management at Universita della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, and cannot imagine her life without traveling and experiencing new cultures around the world.


Mario Bellinzona oversees all activities for Nor1 in the EMEA region, supporting the company’s growing client base and partner marketing initiatives with a dedicated European Account Revenue Management, Support Analysis, and Business Development Team out of Nor1’s regional office in Frankfurt, Germany. Before joining Nor1 he held positions at Trust International as VP Global Sales and Marketing, Sr. Manager Strategic Initiatives, and Key Account Manager. Prior to Trust International he was Product Manager for electronic corporate booking solutions and Management Information Systems at Amadeus Germany, a provider of global travel technology and distribution solutions. He holds a Bachelor’s in Economics and Business Management with focus on Travel and Hospitality from the Department of Cooperative Studies, Berlin School of Economics and Law.


Michael Renard has more than 29 years of recognized, revenue-generating experience in commercial operation, business development, and sales and marketing for the life science industry. With Beckman Coulter, he held various positions in program management, business operations, and business development. He most recently was the Vice President of Marketing for North America commercial operations where he was responsible for achieving $2 billion in revenue across 11 major product lines. Before Beckman Coulter, he was Vice President and General Manager in a development-stage incubator division of Sanofi, Inc. and director of corporate accounts at Kallestad Diagnostics. Michael holds an MBA from Rockhurst University and a BA in Biology and Chemistry from St. Olaf College.


Milena Mend studied psychology and commu...


“This book makes an important contribution to new thinking about products and markets that do not yet exist. We know that strategies that worked in the previous industry transformation rarely work in the next one. This book shows the companies and strategies that will build the future.”

Jouko Ahvenainen, Chairman and Founder, Grow VC Group


“Anyone can spot a winner with hindsight. As readers of business literature we eagerly follow the mainstream in digesting retrospective tales of excellence from proven performers. This book attempts to beat the crowd in turning to accounts of promising outliers in the midst of white heat emergence where performance outcomes are still undefined. That’s interesting! It is delivered through a varied set of rich cases, written from multiple vantage points with also external commentators. The prose that binds it all together is fresh, witty, and full of zest. Yeah! Wow! Oomph!”

Professor Arne Carlsen, BI Norwegian Business School


“Getting past the conventional wisdom is critical and this important new work shows how to use strategic novelty to challenge your thinking.”

Bill Guns, CEO, Strategic Business Insights


“From Silicon Valley to Scandinavia and practically everywhere in between, Liisa Välikangas is a pioneer in the realm of studying, supporting, and identifying early stage innovations across sectors. The collection of authors that she has gathered here represents an incredible cross-section of perspectives on innovation around the world, and offer an illuminating view into the frequently misunderstood world of innovations in both technology and social practice.”

David Evan Harris, Research Director, Institute for the Future


“Competitive environment is increasingly not only complicated but complex. Linear, accepted, strategies of the past, which might have worked in complicated only competition, no longer work. This book gives vanguard thoughts on how to build strategic novelty to paddle the chaotic flow of the new-complex-environment.”

Jussi Jaakonaho, Software Integrity Group, Synopsys Inc.; Toolcrypt Group and Former Chief Advisor, Enterprise Risk and Security for Nokia.


“This book reveals the importance of spotting outliers while their radically creative business models and practices represent opportunities, before they become mainstream when everyone, including your competitors, is copying them.”

Soren Kaplan, best-selling author of Leapfrogging, and founder of InnovationPoint


“An intriguing selection of companies that may help shape the future.”

Roland Kupers, University of Oxford and co-author of Complexity and the Art of Public Policy


“This book addresses an important topic—the study of outliers—that is long due.”

Professor Arie Lewin, Duke University


Strategic Innovation is a thought-provoking book about the quiddity of outlier organizations. The authors have a razor-sharp eye for the hidden markers that reveal strategic novelty as it unfolds. In this book, the authors introduce a methodology that unravels the concept of prediction outliers: how uniquely different companies with unconventional business models have lingering, staggering, and industry-wide effects. As in her previous writings, Ms Välikangas once again contributes a nuanced and insightful outlook for understanding effective business innovation.”

Claudia Medina, Consultant in learning technologies


“Learning from outliers is THE challenge of the 21st century. Not because today is more complex than yesterday or tomorrow, but because right now we want to embrace diversity, anchor resilience in diversification, and find ways to align our capabilities to our aspirations for freedom. As the authors of this important book argue, the capacity to appreciate strategic novelty requires sense making that goes beyond the search for averages and the aggregation of common denominator statistics that obscure and ignore outliers. Getting better at learning from outliers is essential if humanity wants to take advantage of the richness of complex emergence.”

Riel Miller, former Head of Foresight, UNESCO


“In a world of accelerating change and opportunity, innovation matters more than ever. Yet the greatest potential for disruption lies not in new products and services, but in models that challenge how business is done. That’s why learning from outliers to build strategic novelty is the next big management methodology—and mindset.”

Nancy R. Murphy, Director of Experience Design and Communications, Worldview Stanford


Strategic Innovation delivers on three important promises: a fresh view of innovation ‘before’ it is obvious, a deep focus on organizations and business model innovation as the key focus, and a series of actionable steps to identify and implement on such ‘strategic novelty’ in your firm or agency. Great insights, excellent and varied case examples, and realistic ‘what to do now’.”

Marc J Ventresca, Strategy and Innovation faculty, University of Oxford and Wolfson College


“A refreshing new look at how you can learn from the outliers who are pushing envelope on new business models. Read this book and you will never look at strategy the same way again!”

Peter Williamson, Professor, International Management, University of Cambridge


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