What we think

We have a long track record of conducting applied research on business issues of relevance to senior executives. The outcomes nourish our conversations with executives and stimulate intelligent debate between them. Below are examples of recent articles and books in the fields of strategy and organization. You can download or order them.

Fad-free Strategy

Fad-Free Strategy

Many strategy books suggest simplistic solutions to complicated problems. They offer rules based on anecdotal evidence pieced together from today’s hero companies, and they promise top line and margin growth to executives applying those rules. Unsurprisingly, many business strategies fail, despite great execution. “Fad-Free Strategy” provides a ground-breaking alternative. It recognizes that the choices that customers make rather than supposedly universal rules ultimately determine the success of a business strategy. It offers rigorous yet highly accessible economic tools to uncover hidden customer preferences. As a result, executives will be able to predict with confidence which strategic options will lead to commercial success.

Visit the Fad-Free Strategy website for more information: endorsements, Q&A, tutorials, reviews, articles, interviews and much more. You can order the book at Amazon or the publisher Routledge.

Fad-Free Strategy website

How Airlines Can Cut Costs — Without Annoying Customers

As behavioral economics research tells us, the effectiveness of traditional “a-la-carte pricing” practices, through which airlines charge passengers for all kinds of ancillary services, is limited. The “a-la-carte options” approach is better because it applies a reward-instead-of-penalize logic. The article explains how airlines can use frequent flyer miles to reduce those costs that are under their control without annoying customers.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
why pricing decisions need more than management intuition

Why Pricing Decisions Need More Than Management Intuition

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced executives to question some of their long-held beliefs about the best way to deal with rapidly changing customer needs. The article describes six common challenges with regards to customer strategy and pricing, explains why the intuitive responses may not be that sensible after all, and suggests more thoughtful responses based on sound economic and strategic logic.

Read the article published in MIT Sloan Management Review.

Read the article
how to improve revenue forecasts from strategic investments

How to improve revenue forecasts from strategic investments

Obtaining reliable estimates of the likely revenues and profits from making a strategic move remains a critical management capability. The traditional methods for doing so are simply inadequate. The article presents a proven approach based on an in-depth understanding of differences in customer preferences and willingness-to-pay.

Read the article published in Strategy & Leadership.

Read the article
joint ventures reduce the risc of major capital investments

Joint Ventures Reduce the Risk of Major Capital Investments

When economic growth is slow and investments costs are rising, even cash-rich companies understandably tend to put a brake on the addition or renewal of production capacity. Yet by doing so, they risk lagging behind competitors when good times return. The article presents seven alternative asset ownership & operation models to escape from this dilemma.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
How to know if a spinn-off will succeed

How to Know If a Spin-Off Will Succeed

There are enormous differences in the performance of businesses after divestment, be it as a standalone company or under the stewardship of a new parent. While exogenous factors explain some differences, there are also factors that the divested business’s (new) management and new owners do control. This article presents four questions for prospective new owners. They should invest in the spin-off only if they are comfortable with the answers.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
How to gradually become a different company

How to gradually become a different company

“Core shifting” is about how a company, through a sustained process of acquiring and divesting assets, changes the mix of its business portfolio and thus purposefully shifts the core of its activities. This article explains what it takes to pull off a core shift successfully: tenacity, vision, boldness, transparency, and results-orientation.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
Don’t Write Off the (Western) Focused Firm Yet

Don’t Write Off the (Western) Focused Firm Yet

The success of emerging-market conglomerates such as Tata makes some business thinkers claim that the traditional Western focused firm is a doomed business construct. This article argues that a conglomerate may thrive in environments with a large public accountability deficit, but that otherwise the focused firm has a clear advantage. It is all about some simple micro-economics.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article

Making Silos Work for Your Organization

Incitements to “bust the silos” within organizations are quite popular. Silos (or “verticals”) indeed have undesirable side effects such as insular mindsets and turf wars. But they exist for good reasons: to aggregate expertise, assign accountability, and provide a sense of identity. The article explains how to preserve the strengths of the inescapable verticals while minimizing their side effects: build bridges between verticals and institute checks and balances.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
A smarter process for managing and explaining organization design change

A smarter process for managing and explaining organization design change

An organization design is never perfect – but at some point you’ve got to decide and go for the “least bad” design. Afterwards you continually add checks and balances to make up for the imperfections, until your organization gets completely unwieldy and triggers a wholesale redesign. The article presents guidelines for explaining and managing this inescapable cycle, and thus preventing cynicism about “yet another organization change”.

Read the article published in Strategy & Leadership.

Read the article
When to Decentralize Decision Making, and When Not To

When to Decentralize Decision Making, and When Not To

Debates about centralization vs. decentralization are often fraught with emotion and protectiveness. On the one hand, business responsiveness calls for decentralization of decision-making to the operating units. On the other hand, concerns about business reliability, efficiency and perennity may pull the other way. The article presents a proven way of thinking to help rationalize that debate.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
Making Matrix Organizations Actually Work

Making Matrix Organizations Actually Work

A matrix is a tool to strengthen lateral coordination. When deployed sparingly and wisely, a matrix can improve the quality and speed of decision-making without obfuscating accountability. The article briefly describes five guidelines for doing so. The goal is to gain enough trust in the matrix to let it do its work, sensing the matrix is there without noticing it.

Read the article published in the Harvard Business Review.

Read the article
How Global Is your C-Suite?

How Global Is your C-Suite?

By analyzing the prevalence of non-native CEOs at the largest global companies, the article indicates what companies can do to attract diverse management talent from outside their home country. By the same token, it informs aspiring managers about the data they should gather to identify companies outside their home country offering the most promising career prospects.

Read the article published in MIT Sloan Management Review or excerpts in FortuneHarvard Business Review (x2), Nikkei Asian Review or Economist.

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How to write a company value statement that will achieve strategic impact

How to write a company value statement that will achieve strategic impact

Stated values at most companies fail to have much of an impact: they don’t boost performance, they don’t set the company apart, and they don’t steer employee behavior. That is because they are defined as generic, non-negotiable points of perfection. The article presents a novel approach that leads to values that do reveal and reinforce the company’s distinct and desired culture.

Read the article published in Strategy & Leadership.

Read the article
The Executive Action Writer

The Executive Action Writer

Borrowing insights from social psychology and behavioral economics, the author advises businesspeople how to craft texts that will evoke the response they want from their target readers. Think of a presentation to your Board, a letter to a prospective client, a one-page memo to your boss, an e-mail to a colleague or any other business text written to persuade your reader to take the action required.

Watch a short video clip, read a summary with 7 tips in Fortune, or order the book directly at Amazon.

Watch the clip