Strategies for handling chaos
The hallmark of a “wicked” situation is a rapidly transforming business environment in which established models of profitability and success are undergoing unpredictable changes, according to John Camillus in his book Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors. These complex, intractable and threatening wicked problems cannot be addressed by conventional strategies; instead, wicked problems require wicked strategies.
In the world of wicked strategy described by the author, conventional competitive strategies are replaced by wicked strategies:
- Feedback, or learning from the past, is replaced by Feed-forward, or learning from the future
- Resistance to external disruptive change and doubling down on sustaining innovation are replaced by embracing disruptive change and exploiting opportunities for competitive advantage
- Episodic organisational transformation occurring only as a survival response is replaced by stimulation and support of continuous organisational transformation
- Competitive strategy which is threatened by external disruption and organisational transformation is replaced by intrinsically enduring organizational identity which transcends disruptions and transformations.
The author does not provide neat solutions for difficult problems, but it does provide some general categories of wicked problems and some general categories of strategies that can be used for addressing them. Problems such as unknowable futures, disruptive technologies and conflicted stakeholders can be addressed by strategies such as feed-forward, innovative business models, and co-creation of value.
In my view this book is likely to be appealing to a reader who likes to think conceptually and is happy to plunge forward into an uncertain future, while it will be frustrating for a reader who likes to make precisely defined evidence-based strategic decisions.