November 9, 2005

News & Opinion: It's All In the Approach

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:35 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Wharton School Publishing has a new book out called Big Winners and Big Losers. Author Alfred Marcus has done some interesting things with this book.

Marcus first started with a Built To Last model. He picked nine sectors, ranging from retail to food to technology. He then used stock market returns to label companies winners or losers. He picked a winner and loser for each sector.

Marcus then moved to a Wisdom of Crowds approach and enlisted the help of 500 managers (i.e. students from his classes). Teams of five to six managers reported on the two firms in the sector. This was repeated five times for each sector with different groups bringing their findings. The questions they were asked to answer included:

  • What were the external challenges the companies faced?
  • What were the internal strengths and weaknesses the companies had to meet these challenges?
  • What moves did the companies make?
  • Why were the moves of one of the companies more successful than the moves of the other?

The first three groups gave similar themes as to why the winners are winning:

  1. They occupied sweet spots
  2. They had the agility to move into these spots
  3. They had the discipline to protect these spots
  4. They has the focus to exploit and extend these spots

The final two groups of managers were asked to try and challenge these ideas, so Marcus could fine-tune and improve the theories.

I will give you a little more tomorrow on the theories and how they apply to other business books.

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.