Salt Flats: A Revolution in Corporate Strategy

by Rod Collins, Innovation Sherpa at Salt Flats

The two timeless jobs of business leaders are strategy and execution. Strategy is “doing the right thing” and execution is “doing things right.” While both of these jobs are equally important, more often than not, far greater time and attention is devoted to execution. This is understandable because, historically, the work of strategy has usually been done in annual planning sessions whereas the work of execution is a daily preoccupation. This disproportionate focus on doing things right combined with a sense of overconfidence about what’s the right thing can sometimes foster an inadvertent occupational hazard: doing the wrong thing right. And as Peter Drucker once astutely observed, “There’s nothing more useless than doing the wrong thing right.”

When companies fall into this hazard, it’s often because business leaders become victims of their operational excellence. When you are very good at what you do, it becomes difficult to envision a future that is very different from the past. And while some within the company may clearly see the forces of creative destruction gathering on the horizon, their voices are often muted by a misplaced sense of confidence in current product and operating models.

Unfortunately, this occupational hazard can have fatal consequences as happened to Kodak when they couldn’t envision a world without film or Blockbuster who became over dependent upon late fees as their prime source of revenue. Each of these companies was operationally excellent at doing what once the right thing, but, which suddenly and surprisingly became the wrong thing because of disruptive innovations that dramatically transformed their long-established industries.

A Dynamic Strategic Discipline

Our mission at Salt Flats is very clear: to do everything possible to enable our members to always be on the leading edge of both defining and doing the right thing. The key to continuous market leadership is to follow a dynamic strategic discipline that understands that competitive market advantage belongs to those who know how to move beyond innovation, not to those who steadfastly work to preserve the status quo.

Those who know how to move beyond innovation understand that the new context of competition is not the industry, but rather the ecosystem. That’s because, in digitally transformed markets, disruptive innovation rarely comes from another industry player. It’s more likely to come from a start-up that is well-connected within an ecosystem of ideas and talent that’s unconstrained by the status quo. This new context of competition calls for a revolution in corporate strategy.

The New Work of Strategy

Corporate strategy is no longer an annual planning process that extrapolates recent industry trends into future business forecasts. The new work of corporate strategy is a continuous discipline of rapid learning focused on staying a step ahead of relentless change.

The Salt Flats Innovation House is a place where companies can hone their skills in the practices of rapid learning. Salt Flats Innovation House is a vibrant ecosystem where people from your organization can step away from the status quo and have the opportunity to leverage a diversity of perspectives from staff within your organization, from adjacent players in your industry, from start-ups who are exploring new product solutions, and from innovators whose transformative ideas may be transferable to your products and processes. Our innovative ecosystem accelerates the rapid exchange of information and ideas by bringing together specialists, entrepreneurs, operators, start-ups, engineers, and innovators in our highly powerful Collective Intelligence Workshops to identify breakthrough strategic opportunities for continued growth through innovation in business, product, or delivery models.

Applying the proven methods of Design Thinking and Lean Start-Up, we work together with you to leverage the full knowledge of our ecosystem to rapidly prototype ideas into products and verify that strategic innovations can translate into meaningful customer experiences that reinforce your reputation as the trusted and forward-thinking brand.  Rapid Prototyping within a robust ecosystem provides our corporate members with the necessary insight and certainty about what’s the right thing to do in fast-changing markets before committing major resources to full-scale execution.

Preparing for the Next Wave of the Digital Revolution

Within the next decade, the speed of digital disruption will rapidly accelerate as the Internet of Things connects everyone and everything into a single hyper-connected network. We are likely to see more change in the next decade than we have seen in the past twenty-five years. This means that the cadence of disruptive innovation is likely to increase and the landscape of competition will continue to shift from the industry to the ecosystem.

Competitive advantage will belong to companies who can rapidly adapt their business and delivery models to leverage the inter-connected platforms made possible by the exponential advances in IoT technology. And the market leaders in this next wave of the digital revolution will be those companies who have the skills and the tools to tap into the power of the ecosystem to envision a future that may be very different from the past.

Key Strategic Questions

What will your business look like when your product is digitally disrupted and fully networked? Are you prepared to leverage new technologies, new markets, new business models or new sales strategies into game-changing innovations that will transform your industry? These are the key strategic questions that business leaders across all industries will need to answer to remain viable in the next wave of technological transformation.

At Salt Flats, our purpose is to make businesses smarter and faster, and to help turn new ideas into huge innovations. Our members are the forward-thinking leaders who understand that the best way to prepare for the future is to create the future. And when you have the skills and the ability to create the future, you have a winning sustainable competitive advantage because in a rapidly changing world, it’s the most adaptable that thrive by making sure they never fall into the trap of doing the wrong thing right.


Rod Collins

Salt Flats, 1260 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL, 60607