2022 Conference Recap: Academic Presentation with Professor Rita McGrath

by Pooja Deva ’22

About this session

CBS Professor Rita McGrath shared her expertise on innovation in times of uncertainty. Her latest book, Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen, explores how to harness disruptive influences early for a strategic advantage.

Rita McGrath began the presentation explaining why thinking about a business through solely its competitive advantage may be a weak link in one’s storytelling. Instead, she encouraged the audience to think through a strategy of going into the future in terms of a six-pillar framework: agility, disengagement, resources, innovation, leadership, and careers.

Storytelling as a Strategic Play

Rita explained that storytelling can help a business reinvent itself through the hearts and minds of the listener. Through storytelling, great business leaders are able to convince others about their venture in a way that a typical business presentation via PowerPoint may not be able to accomplish.

Strategic Inflection Point

The inflection point curve shows that companies often start off their trajectory in the same way, but at the inflection point, businesses will split to either reach new heights or decline. Rita explained that as you are creating your business’s recipe for success, you likely won’t be looking at when or what your inflection point will be. For example, Gillette had an incredibly successful razor and shave business through traditional retailers; however, the online marketplace was growing faster than Gillette was adapting. In the meantime, Dollar Shave Club, a direct-to-consumer razor company opened and gained market share from Gillette’s traditional base.

Rita advised that to prevent family businesses from declining at their inflection point, owners and family members should be aware of where change is happening in their business. Owners and families should be asking questions and make it a point to see what is going on within the company and within the industry:

  • Do we have mechanisms to come in direct contact with the “edges?”
  • Are we regularly gaining exposure to diverse perspectives?
  • Are we trusting and empowering small, agile teams?
  • Do we have mechanisms for fostering “little bets?”
  • Do I regularly get out of the building?
  • Are incentives aligned with hearing uncomfortable news?
  • Am I making sure we’re not in denial?

Leave a Reply