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Book Review: Balance The Boxes

The Three Box Solution is a clear winner as it provides what I now would love to call as any leader’s innovation tool kit, writes Vinod Ganesan

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A quick look at the most valuable startups that have mushroomed over the last decade or so will tell you that “Innovation and Disruption” is the new norm. How does one really explain the fact that Uber is the world’s largest taxi fleet company without owing a single taxi or AirBNB has shot past the valuation of giants like Marriott without owning a single property? Well, they couldn’t have created disruption without innovating or without challenging traditional thinking. They have capitalised on the potential of today’s web economy where people have crossed the chasm from being CONsumers to PROsumers; where it is no longer about consuming one’s product and services but being the brand advocates. Needless to say, corporate leaders today are far more aware that innovation is no longer a boardroom discussion but a serious execution challenge and requires different sets of approaches, metrics , skills and mindsets. The Three Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan is a perfectly timed book that helps leaders and organisations address these challenges by providing a simple yet powerful framework for implementation.

The whole framework is essentially built around three important boxes:
1) Managing the present very effectively and optimally: This is the current lifeline of the organisation and generates the cash and momentum for the future
2) Forgetting the past: This requires identification and discarding of practices and processes that might be relevant and fuelling the current, but may not be relevant in future
3) Creating the Future: Essentially by inventing a new business model

Govindarajan is Coxe Distinguished Professor at Tuck School at Dartmouth and the Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School. The whole book is neatly organised in four essential sections that are dedicated to each of these three boxes and, more importantly, the fourth one around how one balances across all the three boxes — which lends the crucial ambidextrous capability to any organisation. Each box is beautifully demystified by accompanying practical case studies across different sectors that help the reader understand how these companies successfully addressed the challenges to build their future. In doing so, the author very skillfully addresses every aspect of an organisation be it people, processes, skills and external ecosystem impact.

The Three Box Solution is a clear winner as it provides what I now would love to call as any leader’s innovation tool kit. The author has managed to keep it simple unlike most frameworks that adorn the libraries for B-School pontification. This one will definitely stick for a long time and should be a part of every organisation’s DNA.