Breakthrough strategies—such as those that Ford, Apple, Netflix, Starbucks, and Google used to disrupt their respective industries— are rare, according to strategy business. So where do they come from? How were they developed? And what can leaders learn from their example?
While each is distinctive, breakthrough strategies generally share four characteristics, according to Ken Favaro, a senior partner with Strategy& (formerly Booz & Co.):
1. Responding to a big problem sparks a flash of insight.
2. Precedents from unexpected places—perhaps another industry or field of study—offer at least a partial solution.
3. Creative combination of ideas, products, and design allows the idea to take shape.
4. People, not companies, develop them. Breakthroughs are often disruptive and markets and organizations often respond with barriers. A person who believes in the strategy must fight for it.
The bottom line: Breakthrough strategies aren’t born in boardrooms, on executive retreats, or during brainstorming sessions.
“Instead, they start with individuals working on big, specific challenges who find novel ideas in unexpected places, creatively combine them into innovative strategies, and personally take those strategies to fruition—against all odds,” Favaro says.