See, hear, feel! The quality of thinking improves when hundreds of people contribute to the formulation of strategy, says Assistant Professor Timo Vuori. Text: Anne Tapanainen Photos: Mikko Raskinen
echnological development, digitalisation and globalisation are impacting the operating environment of companies in a complex way. It is difficult to precisely predict activities when undergoing constant and fast-paced change. Success in competition requires companies to be agile, and this is why their strategies need to be adjustable as well. Assistant Professor Timo Vuori of Aalto University is familiar with different ways to prepare and implement strategies. Vuori says the basic idea – maximising benefits and adding value with limited resources relative to the competition – has remained the same starting from strategies for war from 3 000 years ago. Today, companies need to constantly check the assumptions they have made and have the ability to make fresh choices rapidly.
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digital services and emphasise analytics, Google and Amazon, both of which conduct thousands of experiments each year. On the other hand, experiments and prototyping are also familiar from industry and production. How these are viewed is largely tied to management. ‘Put simply, you can say there are two types of executives: visionary leaders who trust their own intuition and see no need to test their thinking, and managers who favour experimentation and value continuous learning.’ Perceiving alternative paths and experimenting are important also at Aalto University, where research-derived new ideas for strategy work have already been Listening aids success Anticipating the future requires the mak- taken into use. The University’s new strategy, which will come into force in ing of assumptions, and experimenta2021, is being prepared with input from tion is a concrete way to explore which the entire community from students to path is most probable and what issues stakeholders. Engaging and listening to should be promoted. Vuori mentions as people is beneficial for at least two reaexamples two corporations that develop sons, Vuori says. ‘The quality of thinking improves. There’s a difference when three or three hundred people take part in brainstorming. Listening to a large group provides a broader view of the situation. Coming up with ideas together also helps individuals develop their own thinking and teaches them to understand different alternatives.’ And how do you identify things that shouldn’t be changed? ‘Identifying your own strengths is surprisingly difficult. Organisations can even destroy them inadvertently,’ says Timo Vuori. ‘The danger in overreacting as well as excessive enthusiasm is that too many things get changed. That’s why it’s important to understand and analyse current ‘Recognising what’s relevant from the perspective of decision-making remains central, although the collection of data and measuring things precisely, for example, have become commonplace. Scenario work, constantly creating options as well as measuring and evaluating the correct things with respect to objectives are significant,’ he says. Vuori talks of living strategy, a new kind of way to plan operations. In place of a rigid, set-in-stone model, its core is formed by a live working process in which the implementation, evaluation and renewal of strategy iterate.