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Tuesday Tip | How to Outthink COVID in Four Easy Steps

Kaihan Krippendorff
Tuesday, Sep 22, 2020


We are dealing with unprecedented change invoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. What we need more than ever is a sense of hope. So, we’ve taken The Outthinker Process – a strategic process that helps business leaders step outside of conventional thinking to redesign their business models and strategies – and reformed it specifically for what we’re going through right now.

We distilled insights and advice from personal interviews with some of today’s foremost strategic thought leaders – Renee Mauborgne, Rita McGrath, Efosa Ojomo, Bharat Anand, Alex Osterwalder, and Scott Anthony – into a succinct set of steps you can follow to make sense of the future then design a strategy to help your business thrive through the crisis.

We have found that by following four steps, you can quickly apply emerging strategic concepts to your business strategy, rethink your business model, and redesign your business to be fit for the future. We have customized these specifically for the COVID-19 crisis. The entire process should take 3.5 hours to complete. You can do it in one sitting or spread over several thinking sessions.

Imagine (30 minutes): Think through potential future scenarios.
Dissect (30 minutes): Break down your business model to assess which parts you may want to change.
Expand (90 minutes): Expand your strategic options by ideating potential strategies.
Analyze (60 minutes): Assess and prioritize your options.

Below is a brief summary of each step. For a thorough description that walks you through the entire process in detail, click here to review our free white paper on this topic.

COVID-19 has introduced such uncertainty into our businesses that traditional strategic visioning techniques are often irrelevant. As futurist Amy Webb advises, we cannot predict the future, but we can put our companies into a state of readiness.

By thinking through potential future scenarios, you and your team can shift from a state of fear to one of curiosity and determination.

The next step is to think expansively about how your business model may be impacted. There is a tendency to focus myopically on just a few elements of your business model (e.g., just product or how to deliver the product). But often opportunities and threats emerge in unexpected areas.

It helps to think through eight areas we call the 8Ps – positioning, product, pricing, placement, promotion, processes, physical experience, and people – and ask yourself if you need to consider new approaches for each area.

Having dissected your business model, it’s now time to brainstorm new business model innovations and strategies you might consider. We work with a set of 36 strategic patterns that help people ideate creative, new strategies. View our white paper to see which patterns are particularly potent to apply right now.

For each strategic pattern, brainstorm as many ideas as you can for how to apply the pattern to your business.

The final step is to analyze and select which of the strategic options you generated you will prioritize. In normal times, a strategy’s primary function is to create clarity and direction. In times of great uncertainty, your strategy’s goal should be to create readiness and options.

Identify a few number of priorities you are reasonably confident in, and a handful of potential “pivots” you are planting the seeds of that could bear fruit depending on how the environment evolves. Assess each idea’s level of ease and impact on your business. This will give you four types of ideas, as outlined in the white paper.

Finally, pick a set of priorities to pursue now. Those priorities are your strategy.

You have outthought COVID-19.

Kaihan Krippendorff is committed to helping organizations and individuals thrive in today’s era of fast-paced disruptive technological change. He has insider knowledge of the world’s most innovative businesses through his popular Fast Company blog and is the best-selling author of Outthink the Competition. Known for his ability to turn difficult concepts into easy-to-understand ideas that drive meaningful outcomes and action, he is an internationally recognized thought-leader, battle-tested consultant, and sought-after keynote speaker on the topics of business strategy, growth, transformation, and innovation.


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