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The Strategic Importance of a “Strong Core”

image001By Richard Gerofsky

I had this blog-to-be tucked neatly into bed, when a bright, shiny object caught my eye. It was the headline of a Linkedin post: “When change is constant, what can I rely on?” The discussion focused on various approaches to change management. (Well, I think it did, but I’ll admit I lost interest pretty quickly…) It’s an intriguing question, though, and one that is asked often (though seldom out loud). Let’s take this in a different direction, I thought.

Dealing with change – economic, social, political, technological (and on and on…) is a critical, fundamental strategic capability. Just ask the owners of taxi licenses – assets valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (even millions) – about the impact that Uber (the uber-disruptor) has had on their industry. Livelihoods are threatened and many owners have seen their retirement plans vapourized.

So, back to our question – what, indeed, can we rely on?

People in the physical fitness and wellness business (personal trainers, physiotherapists, and others) talk about the value of a “strong core”. Their belief is that, by building strength, flexibility and endurance through the center of the body, one creates a stable and capable platform around which the ‘cep “show pieces” (biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and so forth) can be developed.

Businesses, I think, are much the same.

Think back to, or dig through, the corporate history of your business. What was the “bright idea” around which the business was built? Even more important (though perhaps harder to surface) – what beliefs and values existed, revolved around, and permeated through, that idea? With all that changed since then, how relevant to your consumer is the core of today’s business – and what about the various appendages that have been layered over that core?

apple macConsider Apple Computer’s original Macintosh, introduced over 30 years ago. The bright idea of a monobloc design (i.e. monitor, processor and storage in one cabinet) combined with an icon-based, point and click user interface, was based on their belief that, in order for computers to become ubiquitous information appliances, people needed to be able to relate to, use and communicate with them in a new, more natural way. The Steves didn’t want to sell computers to people who already had one. They wanted to sell computers to everyone with a pulse (and a few thousand dollars). It is a testimony to the strength of the Macintosh core that today’s computer systems – and not just those aimed at the “less sophisticated and tech-savvy” home user – continue to operate in much the same fashion.

The “bright idea” of the taxi business is still as relevant today as it was two hundred years ago. People still need, and want, to be taken from one place to another – and are prepared to pay someone to do it. The core is still strong. What has changed, however, is consumer preference: how he wants to access the service and the manner in which she wants it provided – the personal transportation service “show pieces”, if you will. Uber has revolutionized the how, while leaving the what essentially unchanged. No teleportation, no pilotless drones – they still stick people into cars and drive them around.

Spend a bit of time, soon, to do a “fitness check” of your business core. Sit down, at separate times, with people that have been around a long time (whatever “long time” means in your case) and relative newbies. Talk about the “bright idea” and the beliefs upon which it is based. Listen to what you hear; if you sense an Uber on the fringe, strategize on what you can do to maintain relevance and loyalty.

Richard Gerofsky is a partner at FOCUS Management, Strategy Execution Specialists, Toronto. www.focusmanagement.ca. He can be reached at   or [email protected]

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