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Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen

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The first prescriptive, innovative guide to seeing inflection points before they happen—and how to harness these disruptive influences to give your company a strategic advantage. Paradigmatic shifts in the business landscape, known as inflection points, can either create new, entrepreneurial opportunities (see Amazon and Netflix) or they can lead to devastating consequences The first prescriptive, innovative guide to seeing inflection points before they happen—and how to harness these disruptive influences to give your company a strategic advantage. Paradigmatic shifts in the business landscape, known as inflection points, can either create new, entrepreneurial opportunities (see Amazon and Netflix) or they can lead to devastating consequences (e.g., Blockbuster and Toys R Us). Only those leaders who can “see around corners”–that is, spot the disruptive inflection points developing before they hit–are poised to succeed in this market. Columbia Business School Professor and corporate consultant Rita McGrath contends that inflection points, though they may seem sudden, are not random. Every seemingly overnight shift is the final stage of a process that has been subtly building for some time. Armed with the right strategies and tools, smart businesses can see these inflection points coming and use them to gain a competitive advantage. Seeing Around Corners is the first hands-on guide to anticipating, understanding, and capitalizing on the inflection points shaping the marketplace. 


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The first prescriptive, innovative guide to seeing inflection points before they happen—and how to harness these disruptive influences to give your company a strategic advantage. Paradigmatic shifts in the business landscape, known as inflection points, can either create new, entrepreneurial opportunities (see Amazon and Netflix) or they can lead to devastating consequences The first prescriptive, innovative guide to seeing inflection points before they happen—and how to harness these disruptive influences to give your company a strategic advantage. Paradigmatic shifts in the business landscape, known as inflection points, can either create new, entrepreneurial opportunities (see Amazon and Netflix) or they can lead to devastating consequences (e.g., Blockbuster and Toys R Us). Only those leaders who can “see around corners”–that is, spot the disruptive inflection points developing before they hit–are poised to succeed in this market. Columbia Business School Professor and corporate consultant Rita McGrath contends that inflection points, though they may seem sudden, are not random. Every seemingly overnight shift is the final stage of a process that has been subtly building for some time. Armed with the right strategies and tools, smart businesses can see these inflection points coming and use them to gain a competitive advantage. Seeing Around Corners is the first hands-on guide to anticipating, understanding, and capitalizing on the inflection points shaping the marketplace. 

30 review for Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mukesh Gupta

    Overview: -- I got this book as an advance review copy from Netgalley. Rita McGrath has produced another stunning book, in a way even better than her earlier book “The End of Competitive advantage”. Ease of reading: -- The book is not only easy to read. The stories and the insights from the stories follow one after the other. The stories keep the reader interested and the insights from the stories allows us to learn from these stories. What I loved about the book: -- We are living in a world whe Overview: -- I got this book as an advance review copy from Netgalley. Rita McGrath has produced another stunning book, in a way even better than her earlier book “The End of Competitive advantage”. Ease of reading: -- The book is not only easy to read. The stories and the insights from the stories follow one after the other. The stories keep the reader interested and the insights from the stories allows us to learn from these stories. What I loved about the book: -- We are living in a world where there are inflection points coming at us from all around us. Industry after industry seems to be on the path of disruption. Given this scenario, the ability to see these inflection points early and knowing what to do (and when to do) is a meta skill that all leaders will need to develop, if they want to continue to be effective as leaders and to successfully navigate their organisations through these inflection points. -- She presents a simple framework through which we can look at these inflection points and decide what would be the appropriate response. -- The book seamlessly moves from being descriptive to becoming prescriptive. -- Every chapter ends with a key takeaways, so that if you don’t have the time or patience to read the entire chapter, you could quickly read the summary to get the gist of the chapter. While the summary is great, this gives some people incentive to just read the summary and not dive deeper, which leads to them not understanding the nuances. What would I have done differently: -- I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently. She shares examples of how people and organisations already have used the principles that she presents in the book to navigate crucial inflection points. -- Maybe, it would have been very interesting for readers to see what in her opinion are some of the inflection points that are playing out in the market (that could have a significant impact on the market) and how would she expect the players in the market to respond. I think this could make an excellent additional material that she can provide for people who would like to know more and may not necessarily go into the book. My recommendation: -- IF you are leading an organisation, business or even if you see yourself as the leader leading your life, this book comes highly recommended. I would give this book a 5/5.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Devika

    It's interesting that McGrath pretty much sums up her own book - “The techniques described here are not about making predictions and being right. They are about generating possibilities and opening your mind to what might happen, so that as evidence gets stronger, you are ready to take action. For any future state, there are many variables that can lead to one outcome or another. What is valuable in complex systems is to be able to keep multiple possible futures in mind so that if and when they It's interesting that McGrath pretty much sums up her own book - “The techniques described here are not about making predictions and being right. They are about generating possibilities and opening your mind to what might happen, so that as evidence gets stronger, you are ready to take action. For any future state, there are many variables that can lead to one outcome or another. What is valuable in complex systems is to be able to keep multiple possible futures in mind so that if and when they unfold, the landscape is more recognisable.” What is an inflection point? Basically anything that challenges the core assumptions on which a business is based. The focus of this book is the importance and mechanism of building a discovery driven mindset, one that recognises the importance of innovation over repeatable execution. The author then dives into leading and lagging indicators, underscoring the former and downplaying the latter in terms of understanding and recognising the relevance of an inflection point. Why do inflection points exist? 1. Human needs remain stable over a long period of time, although the technology that solves these needs might change. Think Netflix & Uber. 2. The rare epochs where there's a paradigm shift in our needs, which was inevitable given incremental changes over a long period of time. Biggest takeaway? McGrath says it best - “Your ability to look into the future is only as well developed as the set of possibilities you are prepared to entertain.” Simply written and draws amazing insights from the companies/case studies we already know, so would highly recommend reading it. But 4/5 rating because the last bit on identifying personal inflection points through design thinking felt fairly repetitive to someone like me who has already read quite a bit on the topic. In case you haven't, you'll love this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jari Pirhonen

    Didn't get much out of it. Basically - try to see the weak signals and predict disruptions in you business. Mostly about changes because of digitalization and examples of companies who succeeded or failed to change. Didn't get much out of it. Basically - try to see the weak signals and predict disruptions in you business. Mostly about changes because of digitalization and examples of companies who succeeded or failed to change.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Menezes

    A professora Rita McGrath não é considerada uma das maiores influenciadoras em pensamento estratégico à toa. Nessa obra, ela busca atender a uma demanda relativamente antiga de gestores "quando concentrar esforços em desenvolver iniciativas que tirem proveito de potenciais pontos de inflexão?" Para isso, ela trouxe uma abordagem ora prescritiva ora descritiva, combinando teoria com diversos cases de empresas e gestores, o que torna a leitura fluida. Para tirar proveito do livro, recomendo que o l A professora Rita McGrath não é considerada uma das maiores influenciadoras em pensamento estratégico à toa. Nessa obra, ela busca atender a uma demanda relativamente antiga de gestores "quando concentrar esforços em desenvolver iniciativas que tirem proveito de potenciais pontos de inflexão?" Para isso, ela trouxe uma abordagem ora prescritiva ora descritiva, combinando teoria com diversos cases de empresas e gestores, o que torna a leitura fluida. Para tirar proveito do livro, recomendo que o leitor pesquise brevemente pelos seguintes conceitos: arena competitiva (da própria autora), Job-to-Be-Done e ponto de inflexão. Embora os conceitos sejam direta ou indiretamente expostos no decorrer da obra, ter uma definição clara para cada um deles ajuda a maximizar o entendimento de cada página. Fazendo uma análise mais técnica, cabe ressaltar os méritos do livro: - Mostrar a importância de envolver todos os agentes no processo de inovação, em especial os que lidam com a operação; - Entender que organizações disputam por um conjunto de recursos escassos e que um ponto de inflexão muda as circunstâncias da disputa; - Apresentar ferramentas tão simples quanto poderosas para elucidar as condições que podem moldar um ponto de inflexão; - Fornecer insights para que indivíduos preparem suas carreiras para pontos de inflexão capazes de representar uma ameaça ou oportunidade para si. Há poucos aspectos negativos, mas eles devem ser apresentados: - Alguns capítulos se perdem em constatações óbvias, como a de que é preciso ir a campo para entender a magnitude do problema e testar soluções preliminares e a de que é preciso combater silos para que a inovação prospere. Porém, a autora deve ter feito isso considerando que leitores mais conservadores podem representar expressiva parcela do todo; - Alguns poucos conceitos, como o de Imagination Premium Ratio, não só foram mal apresentados como comprometeram a qualidade do capítulo. Em um livro de apenas 210 páginas de texto corrido, há espaço para detalhamento em uma edição futura. Dado que a crença de que vantagens competitivas são duradouras é uma miragem, empresas precisam desenvolver e reforçar capacitações não só para prosperar em novas arenas competitivas quanto para consolidar sua posição naquelas em que já está inserida. Por isso, a leitura desse livro é obrigatória para (futuros) gestores de todos os ramos!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This is not a technical book about how to see inflection points. Most of the time new trends that are about to become big will already be talked about a lot. The problem is in whether you and your Organization are blindsided by the entrenched way of doing things (too late), or trying to start things before things are ready (too early). So how to get the timing right? 1. Get out of the house and office. Talk to front line staff and customers. Not the kind of automated surveys that they send you af This is not a technical book about how to see inflection points. Most of the time new trends that are about to become big will already be talked about a lot. The problem is in whether you and your Organization are blindsided by the entrenched way of doing things (too late), or trying to start things before things are ready (too early). So how to get the timing right? 1. Get out of the house and office. Talk to front line staff and customers. Not the kind of automated surveys that they send you after a service encounter, because the frontline staff only invite customers whom they know to be satisfied. 2. Encourage communication in the Organization. Have town hall meetings where everyone can contribute. Managers have to look good to their superiors and are likely to hide problems for far too long. 3. To come up with new solutions, the CEO and the board must be involved, support given when failures happen, and incentives are provided. No one wants to risk their career for a potentially suicide Mission. 4. CEOs must set the tone of the organisation. 5. Do micro trials before investing huge amount of resources. 6. Sometimes the only way to change is to bring in new blood. Personal development 1. Read widely, learn across disciplines. 2. Meet with people from diverse backgrounds and so that you can link problems with solutions. That is entrepreneurship. 3. Studies found that CEOs are not the best in any field but are >75% in many fields. So Steve Jobs could do calligraphy and computers. 4. Aim for goals that can be achieved in many different ways. Don’t aim for goals that can disappear if there is a merger. I totally enjoyed this book!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Rita does a nice job in combining two powerful frameworks - the Harvard Business Case Study model and Christensen's Job Theory. There's some good application here in drilling into problems and understanding how elements of a current market that are irritating to users, can become the catalyst for a major change and inflection point (irritation with paying late fees w/ Blockbuster was the line in for the original mail-in Netflix model). Unique to this book is the strong warning that the goal isn't Rita does a nice job in combining two powerful frameworks - the Harvard Business Case Study model and Christensen's Job Theory. There's some good application here in drilling into problems and understanding how elements of a current market that are irritating to users, can become the catalyst for a major change and inflection point (irritation with paying late fees w/ Blockbuster was the line in for the original mail-in Netflix model). Unique to this book is the strong warning that the goal isn't to "see" as far into the future as possible and act on it, but to use that information to plan for the appropriate time to act. Being the first to act on an inflection point too-far in the future can be set up for significant cost and failure (some examples with Microsoft's portable music player strategy). Anyway, fun read. Recommended - particularly if you prefer learning via case studies as opposed to stepping through frameworks with point-solution examples.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris Harris

    Purchased this book based on the summary as it sounded intriguing. While the contents are not earth shattering in many respects such as the idea of getting out of the office and talking with stakeholders. That said I still found the book to be a worthwhile read. I really liked the chapters “Snow melts from the edges”, Customers not hostages”, and How leadership can and must learn to see around corners. In the chapter “Customers not hostages” the author discusses Netflix and innovative processes Purchased this book based on the summary as it sounded intriguing. While the contents are not earth shattering in many respects such as the idea of getting out of the office and talking with stakeholders. That said I still found the book to be a worthwhile read. I really liked the chapters “Snow melts from the edges”, Customers not hostages”, and How leadership can and must learn to see around corners. In the chapter “Customers not hostages” the author discusses Netflix and innovative processes as it involves change. Certainly much has been written about Netflix, but the author does a great job of using this as a case study in supporting customers needs see around corners and not only continue to meet their needs, but stay ahead of the competition. There are some gems within the pages and good lessons.

  8. 4 out of 5

    George Kuruvilla

    Always been a fan of Rita's work (Discovery Driven Growth, End of Competitive Advantage etc.) and this is no exception. In seeing around corners, Rita teaches us how to businesses can spot inflection points much before it happens and how we can act on them when the signal is still weak and capitalize on market opportunities before it becomes obvious. Plenty of great insights from business leaders and some great case studies along the way that I found to be invaluable. The last chapter provides i Always been a fan of Rita's work (Discovery Driven Growth, End of Competitive Advantage etc.) and this is no exception. In seeing around corners, Rita teaches us how to businesses can spot inflection points much before it happens and how we can act on them when the signal is still weak and capitalize on market opportunities before it becomes obvious. Plenty of great insights from business leaders and some great case studies along the way that I found to be invaluable. The last chapter provides insights into how we can evolve our careers to be prepared for such changes and taking a design thinking approach towards career progress and development. Great read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    This is a solid summary of the ways to approach innovation and disruption. The standard tools that work in a stable environment won't work in a situation where you don't know the path, where you can't build a step by step plan. Don't spend a lot of money upfront and don't measure the same things as your usual projects. Instead, look for insight from the "edges" of your community. Run a lot of small experiments. Celebrate learning, not efficiency or profit. And lead in a high trust, low command & This is a solid summary of the ways to approach innovation and disruption. The standard tools that work in a stable environment won't work in a situation where you don't know the path, where you can't build a step by step plan. Don't spend a lot of money upfront and don't measure the same things as your usual projects. Instead, look for insight from the "edges" of your community. Run a lot of small experiments. Celebrate learning, not efficiency or profit. And lead in a high trust, low command & control way.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Paradigmatic shifts in business, also knows as inflection points, can make or break organizations. This book helps business leaders know how to spot those and take action to prepare for opportunities or disruption. This book is written well. This is the first book of Rita Mcgrath I’ve ever read and I found it interesting and insightful. I can’t wait to read her other book The End of Competitive Advantage. The points in this book are well presented. There are also figures that help illustrate the p Paradigmatic shifts in business, also knows as inflection points, can make or break organizations. This book helps business leaders know how to spot those and take action to prepare for opportunities or disruption. This book is written well. This is the first book of Rita Mcgrath I’ve ever read and I found it interesting and insightful. I can’t wait to read her other book The End of Competitive Advantage. The points in this book are well presented. There are also figures that help illustrate the points. It is a bit academic and practical at the same time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darya

    Adding this book to my virtual shelf of the great strategy books. It is easy to read and full of stories about companies and people. Theory is well mixed with great examples. I found the book very easy to read and it makes you think as a leader in your company and as an individual if you are looking for a challenge in your career. Thank you for the advanced reader copy!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nick Frazier

    Good read discussing why organizations (businesses in this case) fail to adopt innovation efforts. Anybody serving in the military can feel the pain when the author discusses "innovation theater" or the attempt to start innovating but failing to back it with processes, education, culture, or leadership. Good read discussing why organizations (businesses in this case) fail to adopt innovation efforts. Anybody serving in the military can feel the pain when the author discusses "innovation theater" or the attempt to start innovating but failing to back it with processes, education, culture, or leadership.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lauri Svan

    The concept or inflection points seems very similar to Gladwell's tipping point, yet this author builds a bit more classification of organisation readiness for it. Personally, I am more interested in how inflection points are created and therefore found this book of less value than Tipping Point. The concept or inflection points seems very similar to Gladwell's tipping point, yet this author builds a bit more classification of organisation readiness for it. Personally, I am more interested in how inflection points are created and therefore found this book of less value than Tipping Point.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    An interesting discussion! The idea of inflection points is truly individual as the author points out. The text is an interesting look at this and the processes one can undertake to improve themselves and their organizations ability to make strategic adjustments.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Somogyi Béla

    Couple of takeaways from this book: Listen to other people who have other interests. Analyze their point of view. New information-new attitude, new behaviour Isolation is dangerous We have to concentrate on our co-workers not only ourselves. Always analyze in small tasks, being opened is vital

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hannamari

    Though I found this book to have little original ideas, I think this is a good and well-structured package of modern practices on business strategy and leadership summarising and combining ideas from the likes of Ries, McChrystal and Christensen.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mukom Akong

    I loved the genera thesis of the book and the examples she presented. I however would have loved to see the tools developed to be more tactical that would help people implement the ideas of the book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Payne

    Snow melts at the edges. - Andy Grove Change happens slowly at first and at the perimeter; then all at once. The monolithic dominance of Silicon Valley in tech is melting at the edges. Think Anywhere, it works.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Craft Wheeler

    Incredibly valuable book and an engaging read. I took a lot of notes!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Riccardo Bua

    Are you wondering what is going to happen next? You're already behind the curve, one of the most impressive recent read on strategy Are you wondering what is going to happen next? You're already behind the curve, one of the most impressive recent read on strategy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    Great book for helping spot inflection points... But I would've liked more depth when discussing how to act on them. Great book for helping spot inflection points... But I would've liked more depth when discussing how to act on them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dsetser

    Excellent book about managing business through major inflection points.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wiener

    Didn't work, sadly :-( Didn't work, sadly :-(

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt Busche

    I was hoping to get a lot more out of it. Mostly a rehash of other books about how businesses are changing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aniaszafa

    A nice structure to the magical projects of change and transformation in business.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Linh

    A good overview of a few practices to generate possibilities and be aware of "weak signals", there wasn't any content that felt particularly new. A good overview of a few practices to generate possibilities and be aware of "weak signals", there wasn't any content that felt particularly new.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lasse Larvanko

    Felt that 90% of the stuff has been in other books. Still interesting stuff, last 100 pages are top notch.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kloe Desrosiers

    Good book for those in product and/or marketing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    Outstanding book if you want to position yourself or your company to capitalize on (or survive) future inflection points. It is also a good way to run your career over 40+ years.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Beigle

    I loved this book, and I can't believe it's had so few ratings. Rita McGrath focuses on how to identify and anticipate inflection points in any industry. The key quote of the book is, "When spring comes (a metaphor for an inflection point), snow melts first at the periphery because that is where it most exposed." If we can keep any on what is happening around the edges, then we have a slight edge in identifying inflection points. I want to make sure that I empower and trust those who are on the I loved this book, and I can't believe it's had so few ratings. Rita McGrath focuses on how to identify and anticipate inflection points in any industry. The key quote of the book is, "When spring comes (a metaphor for an inflection point), snow melts first at the periphery because that is where it most exposed." If we can keep any on what is happening around the edges, then we have a slight edge in identifying inflection points. I want to make sure that I empower and trust those who are on the edges of our businesses because they may be able to identify the biggest breakthroughs. Favorite quotes: p. 14 - "Evidence of an emerging inflection point doesn't indentify itself neatly on the conference table in the corporate boardroom. It is the people who are directly in contact with the phenomenon who usually notice changes early." p. 38 - "Make sure your people are incentivized to hear about reality, not the reverse." p. 102 - "Your ability to look into the future is only as well developed as the set of possibilities you are prepared to entertain." p. 137 - "People who approach problems with a 'growth mindset' are focused on learning, on keeping an open mind toward new information, and are less concerned with being good than with getting better." p. 182 - "High performing CEOs are unanimously alike in this one thing: they insist on total candor and brutal truth, even if it challenges their previously held assumptions. No, make that especially if it challenges their previously held assumptions."

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