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Book Review: Powered Up

This is a timely book written when the world of business is rapidly changing. Old ways of doing business are being challenged, sacred cows upended and disruptions are becoming the norm, writes Sushma Rajagopalan

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Organisations need to change because the world around them is changing. Innovation outside has to be met by innovation from within. How can a business be effective in existing markets and at the same time lay the groundwork for the future? How can they create a culture of innovation so that contenders are not eating their lunch tomorrow? In his new book, Jens Maier writes about the organisational attributes necessary to be effective today and thrive tomorrow. In doing so, he creates a bridge between individual competencies and organisational capabilities. The terms exploitation and exploration run through the book.

Exploitation refers to the execution of dominant core capabilities of the organisation. Exploration refers to innovation activities beyond core capabilities, which are typically non-dominant. An ambidextrous organisation is one that can be effective at both. The book is in two parts, Challenges and Solutions. Both parts are rich in cases from manufacturing to financial services, drawn from the author’s personal experience and written in an easy style. In the section on Challenges the author addresses strategic, leadership, process and mindset challenges from the perspectives of organisational and individual leadership. This provides grounding for the reader without making it an ivory tower exercise suitable only for B-school pontificating. In the Solutions section, the author points to exploration needing to be a purposefully installed corporate capability rather than a random activity possibly leading to achievement. The final chapter on robust organisational architectures deals with derisking for both organisations and individuals.

This is a timely book written when the world of business is rapidly changing. Old ways of doing business are being challenged, sacred cows upended and disruptions are becoming the norm. Consumers are demanding more. Structural frailties in organisations are being exposed faster. The drumbeat from stakeholders and shareholders comes in a steady staccato. Organisations ignore them at their peril. Yet, it is not an easy matter, being ambidextrous: running the business effectively today while purposefully transforming to thrive tomorrow.

Most organisations have capability models for their business. The author of this book does well to show how the capability to be future capable should be part of the organisational DNA.

Rajagopalan is MD & CEO, ITC Infotech


This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated 'Feb. 22, 2016' with cover story titled 'Internet of Things: New Technology is Connecting Homes, Cars and Cities'



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