A nondescript business book advocating strategic thinking in a time of VUCA, militarese for “an environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity,” coined to describe a post–Cold War world of known knowns, known unknowns and so forth.
For Krupp and Schoemaker (Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, 2011, etc.), executives in Decision Strategies International—for which this book is a transparent calling card—that describes the world of business as well. Much of the authors’ advice is obvious: A strategic leader hires people who “think outside the box,” looks at a variety of data in a variety of ways and then interprets those data rather than selects them to fit pre-existing theories or policies, and learns from failure. The book is most useful in its choices of examples: Donald Trump and Lee Iacocca may wait in the wings, but Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela are on center stage, while the authors’ case studies include everything from George Bush’s misguided “mission accomplished” meshugas to Microsoft’s near-catastrophic failure to divine the advent of the online world. On the latter score, the authors wisely observe, “[o]nce a company becomes the master of its own universe, as Microsoft was with respect to operating-system software, seeing new developments in adjacent markets becomes harder.” More useful, but not plentiful enough, are more extensive discussions on failures and successes. Regarding the former, a solid example was the dismal rollout of the Obama administration’s healthcare.gov, which serves as a textbook example of “dysfunctional dynamics….lack of teamwork at the beginning undermined the healthcare reform that the Obama administration considers one of its seminal achievements.”
For the CEO, actual or aspiring, who hasn’t yet lived and thought through strategic forecasting and problem-solving—no worse than most business books but nothing outside the box, either.