What do the Atlanta Braves, Microsoft, 3M, Nike, and Intel all have in common? According to Shona Brown and Kathleen Eisenhardt, authors of Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos, each of these organizations are predictably unpredictable. They're leaders not because of their ability to predict the course of their markets; rather, these companies have learned to embrace the notion of change. They're successful because they've learned to find that edge between structure and chaos that allows them to be innovative and creative, while maintaining just enough discipline to focus on executing a plan.
The authors contend that competing on the edge is not an efficient or predictable way to do business. Instead, it's learning how to adapt and lead in a business environment that's in a constant state of flux. "The underlying insight behind competing on the edge is that strategy is the result of a firm's organizing to change constantly and letting a semicoherent strategic direction emerge from that organization. In other words, it is about combining the two parts of strategy by simultaneously addressing where you want to go and how you are going to get there."
Brown and Eisenhardt offer dozens of examples of companies that are successfully and not so successfully finding that balance between anarchy and order. If, on the one hand, you feel like your company is bogged down by rules and bureaucracy or if,on the other, it seems like no one in your company knows exactly what they're doing, you'll find that Competing on the Edge is a valuable handbook for change. The book is clearly written, full of insight, and belongs on every manager's bookshelf. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards