One of the many great benefits of delivering business simulation-centric leadership development workshops is that I get to facilitate a workshop connection almost every day now. And if I’m lucky, I can do two or three sessions in 24-hour global day that starts in Europe and ends in Asia. The conversations, insights, and learnings by participants has been amazing and there are days where I learn as much about Business Leadership and Business Acumen as do our participants.
Today was one of those magical days where a team of 4 participants in a business simulation workshop had a revolutionary learning moment that I wanted to share in this blog post.
Let me set the stage…
It’s year 3 of a 4-year simulation workshop. 4 groups of 4 had already set their strategy and have been executing it over the past two “years” of the simulation. “Team 2” (not the real team number) was not doing well. As a matter of fact, their financial performance was so poor they were on the brink of bankruptcy and I was close to suggesting they start pulling their resumes together. The biggest issue they were facing was the realization that their strategy of “Product Leadership” was weak and not very aggressive. They had ended up quite stuck-in-the-middle with little t no differentiation.
One of the reasons they were stuck in the middle was that the other 3 competitors in their market had all decided to go Product Leadership for their strategies as well. The big question that Team 2 was facing was whether to Persevere and continue on with their strategy (slightly emboldened with additional R&D spending) or completely pivot and take advantage of a low cost, high volume strategy.
The discussion in the group was very interesting and at times emotional. Half the group wanted to persevere and half the group wanted to pivot. But then, one of the team members shared, “But it’s not just about Persevering or Pivoting, its also about Learning versus Performing. There’s a good chance if we Persevere and fail, we will have tremendous learning. Or we are going to persevere and do really well because our early investments paid off.”
I jumped into the dialogue to facilitate and one of the things that came out of the session was the two-by-two below. This is the Persevere – Pivot – Learning Conundrum. A brief overview of each quadrant provides insights into the discussion and how the team viewed the training session and the impact on their capabilities.
Persevere-Learning – This is where you learn from failing. The idea is to play the strategy out and then dissect everything that went wrong. Was it pricing? Marketing? Product Quality or simply the competitors offered a better value proposition?
Persevere-Performing – This is where you stay the course because you believe in the long-term validity of the strategy and believe it wall play out well over time like Amazon and Tesla.
Pivot -Learning – This is where you change course and aggressively try new things for learning. “What do we have to lose? Let’s slash our prices and move our factory to Asia to become the low cost producer. I’ve always wanted to try that.”
Pivot-Performing – This is where you pivot your strategy to take an advantage of an opportunity. The team I was working saw that no competitor was taking advantage of the low cost / low quality segment of the market and they could sweep right in and grab up to 50% of the market if they wanted to,
At the end of their discussion, they decided to Persevere-Perform. They increased their R&D budget by over 25% and were determined to be the #1 innovator of the market. Just like the real world, markets don’t often change overnight with one set of bold decisions. It takes time. Unfortunately, the team only had a slight improvement in year 3. However, they are really set up for year number 4.
Based on what I saw today, I would be disappointed if the team didn’t come back to this conversation and think the entire thing through again now with even more data to assess and analyze.