The 3C’s of Strategy in a Disrupted World

4 minute read

15 December 2017

By Insights Team

Innovation Reporter, Upstart

In this last of four posts from D:Health The Annual Strategic Forum In Health Technology Dominic Pride outlines the Upstart view of how strategy should look in the future.

So far in previous posts we've seen how health is being disrupted by players large and small.  We've also seen how how denial, defence and deception are standard responses, and how corporates seem paralysed by the challenge of reacting to disruption. Here we argue how the process of strategy itself needs to change to respond to disrupted times.

1. Future Strategy Should Be Continuous.

You can’t control events. But you can control how you respond, and - crucially - how quickly you respond. Below is a typical snapshot of the handover from teams to C-Suite to implementation. It can take months to bake a 120-slide deck, weeks to review and years to implement as it’s cascaded down the organisation.

Like London, strategy is never finished. It’s dirty, imperfect and inconclusive.


If you build constant feedback loops though, you can get feedback in weeks, instead of waiting for the next strategy juggernaut to leave the station in a couple of years.

It’s 2017 - let's leave the 5 year plans in the era of Stalin.

2.  Future Strategy Must Be Creative

The word “creative” is easy to discredit and devalue. To a traditional strategist it will conjure up images of people in trainers (that’s sneakers y’all)  who know everything about making things beautiful and nothing about how to make money.


Yet creative processes can unlock new points of view and push back some of the functional fixedness which can prevail amongst strategists in the C-suite. Above is the British Design Council's double diamond technique for defining reframing and solving a problem. It’s used for service design problems such as getting people into and out of a pharmacy.

But the same approach can help us reframe strategic questions and make sure that we're asking the right questions of the strategy process.

Strategy should deliver numbers but it’s much more than just a numbers game. It’s about unlocking creativity and seeing new ways of addressing the same problem.

3. Future Strategy Must Be Collaborative

And the last of our three Cs, collaborative.

Start-ups solve problems quickly not just because of their process or their youth. They literally put different skill sets round a table to and empower them to solve a single customer problem.


You’ll also need to involve and empower those who will be delivering the strategy. Most strategic initiatives fail, and they fail because the change required does not resonate and is foreign to the teams being asked to implement them.

Involving different part of your business, and even outside stakeholders in co-creation, can smooth the path to more effective buy-in.

Strategy must involve not just different divisions but also diverse skill sets and mindsets: it’s too important to be left solely to dedicated strategy teams or consultants.

Takeaways - So What?

Looking back over these four posts, here’s what we’ve seen and learned.

If you’re an incumbent in pharma, medical devices or health delivery you’re going to be challenged by disruptive business models by the GAFAs and asymmetric competition from tiny startups.

We’re running out of strategic plays we can lift and shift from textbooks. In fact, like yellow pages the age of nation states and symmetrical warfare, grand strategy belongs in the 20th century. We should leave it there.

If you’re in a corporate, I’m  sure the constant mantra to “think like a startup” is wearing a bit thin. You can’t and shouldn't pretend you are a seedfunded operation in a garage.

But you can borrow tools and techniques from disruptors and other disciplines and make your strategy process:

  • Continuous
  • Creative
  • Collaborative

It won’t give you certainty. But if you add flexibility to your approach, a least you’ll have a chance of navigating the permanent uncertainty.

And if you remember nothing else remember this: the cost of do nothing  used to be very small. Now the cost of doing nothing is far too great.


Start here, start now. Begin the creative destruction of your strategy process yourselves before you inevitably get disrupted. If you want to know how, please feel free to get in touch.

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