Saturday, November 28, 2015   

Follow the leader

Apple Lam

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

As consumers, we all want durable products that can last us a lifetime. But from a company's point of view, the longer it takes for a product to wear out, the less likely it is that the next one sitting on the shelf will sell.

In the 1970s, an American manufacturer of glass cookware found growth slowing because its products were too durable. The firm began developing fiber optics - a necessity for broadband internet today.

What made it possible for the company to realign its expertise in glassware to a profitable new technology was strategic thinking - a skill that is the focus of the Senior Executive Strategic Leadership Program.

Organized by the Hong Kong Management Association in partnership with Cornell University, the program will cover topics such as models for assessing a company's effectiveness, and decision-traps and collaboration in the executive team.

The two-day course takes place on April 28 and 29 and will cost each non- HKMA member a whopping HK$33,000.

Program instructor Michael Hostetler, lecturer at Cornell's Graduate School of Management, will travel to Hong Kong to deliver the course.

He defines strategic planning as being prepared for future events and thinking about how to position one's company in a rapidly changing environment.

"The global business environment is dynamic - we could even say it's turbulent," Hostetler says.

"New capabilities in strategic thinking can add value to a company by helping them think about what area they
want to compete in and if there are specific business units that could be made more profitable by adjusting their strategy."

Victor Lee Sze-kuen, executive director at HKMA, sees creative solutions driven by strategic thinking as a type of entrepreneurship.

"Entrepreneurship is not just about young people starting new companies from scratch. If you use your company's resources well, you can develop a different line of business - that's entrepreneurship too," he says.

Lee adds that if some senior executives put strategic thinking skills into practice, it could help strengthen Hong Kong's retail sector, which is a major source of employment for young people.

"We need more innovation in Hong Kong, especially to come up with new services we can provide and to improve our existing services," Lee says.

The three top factors that hinder the ability of senior executives to think creatively, Hostetler says, are a lack of time, focusing too much on immediate problem-solving and overestimating the executive team's ability to make decisions. "Senior executives should be transparent regarding their goals and constraints, align incentives for managers in favor of experimentation, model the willingness to challenge the status quo, and stay out of the way."

Through scenario planning and class discussions of case studies and examples from participants' companies, students can work through similar real-world problems with Hostetler and fellow participants.

By partnering with Cornell, Lee hopes to offer a similar course once a year centered on different themes.

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