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Yesterday’s Brainzooming article discussed strategic analogs. These are organizations that perform comparable functions to your own brand, even if they are in far-removed industries. Strategic analogs are great sources of ideas and learnings to shape your organization’s strategic moves.

Here is a strategic thinking exercise we’ll be incorporating in an upcoming Creating Strategic Impact workshop to help a client identify strategic analogs. It is a two-step process. The first step involves describing what the organization does in a general fashion; the second connects those descriptions to other organizations.

Brainzooming Makes More and Faster Strategic ConnectionsStrategic Thinking Questions to Generalize What Your Organization Does

These questions for step one help generalize what you do to pave the way for identifying possible strategic analogs:.

  • What are the big drivers/buckets of cost in our organization? What are the big revenue sources for us?
  • List the major activities we do as an organization. How would we translate each of them into simple words a grandparent or parent unfamiliar with our company could easily understand?
  • What are the processes associated with why customers actually buy from us?
  • What are the titles of employees who interact directly with customers? What words in their titles provide a more general sense of what we do?
  • If we could see what we do from a low-flying airplane or a car driving by a building, what would be the big processes we’d be able to see and describe?

After using these strategic thinking questions to generalize an organization’s business functions, you’re ready to find other companies who perform one or more of the same activities.

Strategic Thinking Questions to Identify Strategic Analog Companies

Step two involves listing companies you can look at now and in the future for strategic ideas, cautions, and lessons. Simply by looking through functions you’ve identified in step one, companies you could be tracking for ideas may come to mind quickly. If not, these additional questions can spur new ideas:

  • If we were going to school about the important functions in our business, who (outside our own company) would we want teaching the course?
  • If we had to recreate what we do or completely outsource our operation, who would we ask to handle the most important parts?

Another approach is to use the “What’s It Like?” strategic thinking exercise, a standard in the Brainzooming repertoire. It integrates generalizing what you do with finding other comparable examples in one strategic thinking exercise.

Force Yourself to Identify Strategic Analogs

The important thing is not letting yourself off the hook with the old “we are unique, no one does what we do” excuse.

A set of strategic analogs can help you track is tremendously valuable, especially if they are in industries  developing ahead of your industry’s pace.

For example, within the portion of the transportation industry that moved goods, we looked at airlines and phone companies as examples of “formerly regulated, network dependent, yield-management oriented businesses” whose pace was faster. It was helpful to track what was happening because the same developments would come to our industry a few years later.

So get started now creating your own set of strategic analogs. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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