BCG: Atlas of Strategy Traps

By | October 11, 2015

Much more graphical. Take a look at Boston Consulting Group’s new website here – the design is more graphical, interactive, and actually. . . fun. Of the big 3 consulting firms, they are the first to step away from the standard menu-driven, list of solutions and industries. Their old website was very staid, but this is something different and fresh.

BCG front page 1

BCG front page 2

BCG front page 6

BCG front page 3

Strategy Traps – On the right hand side of the front page, there is a link called Perspectives. This takes you to a section called an Atlas of Strategy Traps here which takes you through the 10 different strategy traps, but using history and anecdotes:

  1. Definition of the options space
    1. Backyard exploration – Sticking to the options you already know
    2. Combing the ocean – Defining the option space too broadly
  2. Calibration of exploration
    1. Trapped in the past – Exploiting the same option over and over again
    2. Perpetual search – Looking for new options without ever adequately exploiting them
  3. Consideration of Available Resources
    1. Misjudged harshness – Not considering the cost of exploration
    2. Unleveraged resources – Missing opportunities unnecessarily
  4. Investing in Options
    1. Drop in the ocean – Big goals and small incremental investments
    2. Risking the ship – Always going for the big push
  5. Learning from the environment
    1. Fixed Itinerary – Never adapting your methods
    2. Forgetful wanderer – Always following the latest lead

BCG - Strategy Traps

Telling a story – Consulting is about telling stories. BCG (known for their creativity, dating back to Bruce Henderson days) tells strategy stories using historical figures and recent business examples to craft their arguments:

1b. Combing the Ocean here. BCG tells the story of Alexander the Great and how his 11 year campaigned created a huge empire, that eventually collapsed a mere 3 years after his death. The business case is of Danone (yes, yogurt) and how they smartly culled their portfolio of non-core businesses and stopped “combing the ocean” and applied their efforts in a smarter way.

BCG - Combing the Ocean

2a. Trapped in the past here. Apparently, “Big Alex” MacDonald was successful gold prospector and investor who owned 75 mines at the peak of the California Gold Rush. He kept “doubling down” on his investment even though most of the gold had been discovered.  He was trapped in the past, and died almost penniless.

The modern day analogy may be the global pharmaceutical industry which has suffered from diminishing returns on research productivity; in short, they don’t have any blockbuster drug discoveries. Question: is pharma trapped in the past?

BCG Big Alex

5b. Forgetful wanderer here – Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, a Spanish explorer, was looking for the 7 cities of gold in the 1500s in present-day southwest United States. He followed so many different leads, rumors, twists-and-turns that he ended up in Kansas with nothing to show for it. The analogy made is for the dot-com bust of 2000.

BCG Coronado

Sirens and Lighthouses Like any good consultant, there are best practices and leading indicators to help steer you to the right path.  They poetically describe these as Sirens (dangerous and beautiful creatures that would lure sailors to their death) and Lighthouses to guide your way safely.

BCG Siens and Lighthouses

Kudos to BCG – The way they have integrated design, infographics, storytelling, and research makes this content super-memorable and engaging, at least for management geeks like me. Will tool around the BCG website more – but it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon here – going for a 6 mile walk with my wife.  Be good.

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