Monday, October 10, 2011

Tapas for Tweeters: From Moroccan Cuisine to Fading Finnish Stars

The "real thing": a Barcelona tapas bar
Think metaphorically! That's one of the enduring lessons from The Idea Hunter, and in the spirit of that thought I have appropriated the metaphor of tapas from my visit to Barcelona last week, and am going to try to use it to serve-up, from time to time, small morsels of thought that have seen their first light in the form of tweets, but which need more explanation than Twitter's 140 characters allows.

 From Moroccan cooking to fading Finnish stars:  Here's the logic of what is clearly a prototype -- first the original tweet in bold, and then my extended thoughts on it:

  • If you read one bookreview this weekend, make it this one! Moroccan cuisine: tradition vs.  (& Kerouac too)   My wife Marie is the most amazing, and instinctively natural, cook that I have ever met, and a professional one at that. Over the years, certain names in her life have become instantly recognizable in my own, and one of these is Paula Wolfert, originally from Brooklyn [as are Marie & I] and well-known for her Mediterranean cookbooks (especially France & Morocco).  Ms. Wolfert now has a new Moroccan cookbook out and the The New York Times book review cited above is both delightful but also professionally provocative, at least if you're interested in the contradictions between innovation and tradition. What they did was to review Ms. Wolfert's book in parallel with a new book by Moroccan-born, San Francisco chef, Mourad Lahlou.  The argument is that Ms. Wolfert, who lived in Morocco many years ago, but who is still an "outsider",  is nonetheless "the stickler for authenticity and tradition," whereas Mr. Lahlou, the "insider" yet living abroad, is struggling to break-out of the "few narrow ruts" that has confined the development of Moroccan cuisine.  To be fair, Ms. Wolfert observes of Mr. Lahlou: "He has made this incredible jump, but his food is not the Moroccan cooking I know. He took steps that only he could take." I find this fascinating. Wolfert was a catalyst in the evolution of Moroccan cuisine when she started collecting recipies from families who had no tradition or sharing such treasures. Her recipes are "the real thing" -- authentic Moroccan cuisine. Without such codification of knowledge, it might never have been possible to move on to the next step of evolution of the cuisine? Lahlou, on the other hand, is sort of a "lead-user", struggling to find that next step that he feels the authentic receipes are not providing. He needs the foundation of knowledge that Wolfert codified for such exploration, but it is his "unique" experiences, as an insider living outside, that prepare him to "take steps that only he could take."  In a very real sense, both Lahlou and Wolfert are coexisting in similar but different universes -- or S curves-- but they are, nonetheless, still indespensible to each other, and we are all better off for their efforts! 
  • Iberia's new low-cost airline: what chance do I give this? Zero without a completely new star!  I was delighted when my assistant @KatrinAtWork saw fit to retweet this the other day! Why? Because this is very much a part of the leitmotif that runs through so much of what we have been working together on: Strategy is all about choice & execution! This is the familiar IMD mantra, but yet we see it violated over and over again. Here's an example: Iberia, the Spanish airline part of International Airlines Group [which resulted from the merger with British Airways] has announced the launch of "Iberia Express", a new low-cost airline. It has kept the "Iberia" name as part of the new one, and the new airline's routes are explicitly tied to the hub & spoke needs of the parent airline. The question arises immediately: How different is this really going to be? And, why do we think that with simply a new name [I realize I'm exaggerating here, but not by much] that anything is really going to change? Not surprisingly, the Spanish pilot's union has already claimed violations of contractual agreements as a result of this new offer, and cabin-crew grievances are also expected. What a mess, and they're not even operating! Real change needs new choices, and frequently new organizational cultures as well, and there's no immeditate reassurances here that that is really going to happen. Instead, it appears to be a "half-way" effort to reduce costs and "half-way" nearly never work. My reference in the tweet to the "star" is to Jay Galbraith's framework for considering managerial choices that are necesary to achieve the "cultural outcomes" one hopes for. This is one of the most useful frameworks that we rely upon, and I've blogged about it earlier on these pages. 
  • Look at the smile on Carlos Ghosn's face in Brazil. You can tell that he's in a BRIC & not back in Japan or Europe!  The smile says it all! You can tell that Ghosn is in a market where growth is possible, where the future appears limitless, where people are dreaming bigger! Not so long ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner in an emerging market and was seated next to a young European who was an IMD-alum. I asked him "why he was living out-here" and his response was perfect. He said "At home [in Europe], people have stopped dreaming. Here they dream big!" Is there any wonder why Mr. Ghosn's smile is so big? Can you imagine what his face looks like when he gets back home --either Europe or Japan -- and once again has to listen to the litany of why nothing is possible? 
  • "If U're in a commodity business, it's because U deserve it!" Words by Tom Vollmann; proof by Steve Jobs! C: Tom Vollmann was someone who changed my life. A close friend for many years, an IMD colleague, and someone who was instrumental in the  launch of at least three revolutions within the Operations Management field. Tom had a gift for insight and the ability to articulate in memorable ways. He always said of struggling competitors: "If you're in a commodity business, it's because you deserve it!" This all came back to me while reading James B. Stewart's Common Sense column in the International Herald Tribune, New York Times. The pc business has been a commodity business for a long while, and, to be fair, Apple's fate was to languish near the bottom of the pile, condemned to single-digit market shares. Dell, on the other hand, currently unfashionable today but a real high-performer in this industry for over two decades, loved being in a commodity business because it knew what it was doing and made great choices. Apple often appeared to be confused -- price and elegance were not what the consumer was looking for. What Apple did that so many other players didn't do, however, was to hold true to its beliefs. It would rather remain desirable and unaffordable in the pc industry than to compromise who it was and how it went to market. What really saved Apple, however, was not that steadfast allegiance to its values in the unappreciative pc business, but, rather, the ability to open-up entirely new markets in music [iPod], smart phones [iPhone] and connectivity [iPad], where the very essence of each of these industries today is a reflection of Apple's inner beliefs. So, when Steve Jobs is quoted in this article in The New York Times, as saying: "Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends-up expressing itself in successive out layers of the product or service"  this speaks to everything that we are trying to do in advancing a product or service through multiple generations of S-curves. If we can ever figure out what that "fundamental soul" is we will know what the ordinate of the "progress" curve's graph really is as well.
  • Elcoteq from  star 2 bankruptcy.  suggests value-chain failure, I hear  Tom Vollmann, who was mentioned in the comment just above this one, and another IMD colleague Carlos Cordon published a small book a few years ago on supply-chain management that I absolutely love. The Power of Two recognizes that once you strip-down the strategically abstract concept of a supply-chain to its' essentials, it's all about people dealing with other people. Did Elcoteq plunge from the heights because it chose the wrong value-chain partners? Or, did it not work well with the ones it had? I guess that either way you answer, it's all about leadership!

1 comment:

Babar Khan (GM @ Sociality360) said...

The process my creative team undergoes for idea generation usually involves searching for alternative solutions in the market, searching for vendors that can deliver on those solutions and finally, crafting or customizing the idea to suit the region in a more relevant manner.

My company deals in social and experiential media marketing for B2C companies in Pakistan.

No doubt the idea's nature you discuss vary far from the realm of campaign idea's, but I thought I'd share the thought process nonetheless