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Episode #214
Christian Stadler

How Consultants Can Create & Implement Winning Business Strategies

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Summary

The only way to prevail as a small consulting firm is to do something different. In this episode, Christian Stadler talks with host Michael Zipursky about the winning business strategies you can use to grow, adapt, and beat your competition. Christian is the Professor of Strategic Management at Warwick Business School. One exercise is the nightmare competitor exercise, where members question business ideas to find holes and weaknesses. In doing so, you eventually come up with a winning, bulletproof strategy. Want to know more? Tune in!

I’m here with Christian Stadler. Christian, welcome.

Thanks for having me.

I’m excited about this conversation. You are more than halfway across the world in Africa. You teach at Warwick University, which is in the UK, but you are in Africa. That’s fascinating for me. I want to explore that. You’re a professor of Strategic Management at Warwick Business School. Your expertise has been featured in places like Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC and a whole bunch of others. Your real focus is on how to enable companies to grow, adapt and beat their competitors with a superior strategy.

I want to get into strategy and how consultants can apply more strategic thinking to their businesses because people often focus on tactical day-to-day and don’t sit back and think intentionally about strategy. I see this as a very powerful opportunity as an advantage. Let’s set the stage for how you get to where you are. You did work in a consulting firm before getting into the world of academia. Take us back to your early days from high school into the next stages of your career.

I grew up in a small little village in Austria. The town is called Niederndorf, with 2,000 people halfway between Munich and Innsbruck. If you’ve seen The Sound of Music, you know where I’m from. That’s exactly what it looks like. When I was fourteen, I went to a military high school that is close to Vienna. I did my national service a bit longer afterward and became an officer in the Austrian Army.

I did a degree in Innsbruck. I spent some time abroad when I did my PhD. I was with Shell for three years or so. I spent some time on headquarters in Shell. My degree was in History and my PhD was in Business History. I swerved into the world of business step-by-step. I had a very short stint in consulting in Roland Berger in Germany. Are they active in the US as well? I think so.

I’ve known the name Roland Berger for many years. I don’t know their presence in North America, but it’s certainly a very well-known European consulting firm.

I was with them for a short while. I did notice that this was not my world. It felt like every day, you were on a job interview. I remember you have to prove yourself in front of your partners every day. I’m all natural in the academic world. I have a longer time to think about where I can develop whatever idea I want to. I have an idea and I want to pursue it. I might work with the company on that, but I have every freedom I want. I can do that for five years and dive into this. That is certainly something that I enjoy a lot.

The only way to prevail as a small consulting firm is to do something different. Click To Tweet

The book Open Strategy was done together with a German consulting firm called IMP, Innovative Management Partners. In that way, there’s certainly a connection. Over the years, I interacted a fair bit with Martin Reeves, who heads the BCG Henderson Institute and Chris Zook, who used to run the Strategy Practice for Bain for many years. There are connections, but I’m not cut out to be a consultant myself.

This is a bit of a different type of interview than we would usually do because we focus on active consultants, consulting firm owners, or working with organizations. The reason why I want to have you on the show is to get your perspective around strategy. It’s an area in which you’ve done a lot of work, and I can see this directly benefiting consultants. You went to a military high school. When I hear that I’m wondering, “Was Christian a bad kid?” Was that by choice? Were you forced? What’s the backstory of going to a military high school?

My dad was a high school principal. He went to all these fairs where they gave him information about various schools and stuff. One of them was this military high school. I visited it together with my dad and thought as a fourteen-year-old that it was pure adventure. You’re out there. You’re not hunting the bad guys yet but if you’re watching too many movies, you start to feel this is going to be super cool. It was very enjoyable. It was a bit different, not quite as militaristic as one would expect. I got good friends. I did enjoy the whole boarding school experience a lot. I’m not a bad kid. On the contrary, I’m a very good one.

I want to dive right into strategy. It’s a word that people throw around. Oftentimes, they talk about strategy and what they mean is tactics. When you think about the context of business or entrepreneurship, how do you define strategy and strategic management?

I’ve had a conversation with Ashok Vaswani. He’s one of the board members of Barclays. I talked to him about the time when he was in charge of Barclays in the UK. He had a very simple way of defining it, which I liked a lot. He was saying, “Strategy tries to answer three very simple questions. Where are we at the moment? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?” It’s simple, but it summarizes well.

Let’s put that in the context for the independent solo consultant or even the small boutique consulting firm owner. How do you believe strategy should best be applied or thought of? How can people use this concept of strategy in a small business?

You might’ve seen it. I’ve written an article in Forbes on this. If they’re trying to do what McKinsey, Bain or BCG does, they last before they started for the small consulting firms. They have a massive machine with super smart people and huge marketing. You can’t beat them on their own game. You need to try and do something different. That’s the only way how you can prevail as a small consulting firm.

You could do that in different ways or if you’re super-specialized in a particular industry. Some consulting firms do that where they’re all about the pharmaceutical industry, for example. That’s one way. Another one is that you are completely focused on a particular topic. We find more and more of those who are somewhere in the tech space like AI-driven. You get critical mass in this particular area. You can compete. Some of those in some countries are in that particular area of expertise larger than BCG or McKinsey.

CSP 214 Christian Stadler | Winning Business Strategies

The other one would be that you have a very particular idea and you are able to push around this idea. We’ve seen that it’s typically associated with some well-known personalities like Clayton Christensen’s idea about disruptive innovation. I did see a consulting firm emerge from that space. That’s another option. One other thing which might work is if you have particularly strong relationships. The business model from the large consulting companies is based on the big guy selling the product, but then you have young people fresh out of MBA doing the work.

Some companies don’t like that. They would like to have people with long-term experience working throughout and closely with them. That’s what some small consulting firms do as well. Often, people who left the company but still stay close to that company or know others in this industry do that type of work. Basic specialization is my answer. You can’t do everything, but you’re good in one particular area.

You broke down ways to think about charting your strategy or a direction at least, one would be based on industry and another would be around a type of specialization. For example, you’re an expert in machine learning, but it’s not just for one industry. It could be across multiple industries or maybe you’re working with one industry like pharmaceutical. That was the second. The third was having a big idea that could stand out and building around that idea.

The fourth is relationships. That’s an area where so many consultants don’t focus enough on. They try and compensate for their weaknesses instead of focusing on their strengths. Big firms will have junior people going in and doing the work. If you’re a boutique or a small consulting firm and you’re doing the exact opposite, you or a core team are doing a lot of the work, you want to show that from the rooftops and make sure that people are very aware that that is the case because that is a point of differentiation.

You talked about the person from Barclays and their definition of strategy. You’ve listed four different ways to think about strategy. When you compare and contrast strategy to tactics, what will you say about that? I very often will hear people say like, “We have three strategies. One of our strategies is building our online presence through social media.” Is that a strategy? How do you think about the separation and distinction between strategy and tactic?

It’s fluid. The tactics is maybe a bit more on the implementation side. You have your overall strategy but you have several tactics to make that happen. The strategy is likely to stay alive for the longer while the tactics adjust more often, according to what the situation is on the ground. It’s not black and white. I don’t mind so much about the semantics either. If you call it strategy and somebody else calls it tactics, so what? You have a goal. You want to reach it. You figure out how to get there. Whatever you call it, that’s the big picture you’re trying to drive at.

In all of the studies that you’ve done and all the conversations that you’ve had with different consulting firms, people or businesses, when you look at where you see the most success when it comes to strategy, is there any limitation on how many strategies a firm or a company has that they’re working towards at one time? Is it possible to have 3 or 4 strategies within a company that is all happening concurrently? Is it one strategy where you push that forward, get it across the line and then look at the next?

If you had asked me years ago, my definite answer would have been no more than three. Chris Zook used to say that always. “If a company tried to do more than three things, they get lost in detail.” As I’ve looked at this idea that the strategy should be a more open process, in the end, the strategy consists of hundreds, sometimes thousands of mini strategies or mini actions on all different levels of an organization. It resonates with me.

You can only do things where you have the appropriate resources. Click To Tweet

You might have this big idea that is fantastic on paper, but it doesn’t work without hundreds of people out there in a large organization doing things that go in sync with it. Maybe sometimes it’s also okay if things have even diverged a little bit. With these various divergencies, one thing emerges, which is particularly fruitful and another one that’s left by the wayside. It’s one way of saying, “I’m not entirely sure.” I used to be in the camp of, “Don’t you do more than three things,” but I’m moving a bit to, “You might be able to do more things. It’s just that it happens in very different parts of your organization.”

Would it be fair to say that you would still want to be much more focused for a smaller firm? Rather than adding a lot more things, you might even subtract some things you have so you can focus on a couple of things or one thing that would make the difference? A larger organization has greater capacity, more people and resources. Therefore you might be able to handle effectively more strategic initiatives. Would that be accurate? What are your thoughts on that?

I like that you bring in the resource question. Sometimes in business, when they say resource, they mean financial resources. In business strategy in the academic world, it’s massive literature. It’s one of the things we occupy ourselves since 1991. There was a big article. There are some precursors. They go all the way to the ’50s in this field. There are thousands of articles in this space. One thing that becomes clear out of this work is you can only do things where you have the appropriate resources.

I’ll give you a nice example. It’s a few years old. My brother-in-law finished university here in Nairobi. He has visited us in England and ate some guacamole, that avocado spread. He liked it a lot. It was not so common over here. “Everyone has an avocado tree in their backyard, so why not start an avocado business?” It sounds great. I start to be bit of the devil’s advocate here. I ask him, “Do you have any experience in producing or manufacturing?” It’s something that he didn’t have. He was fresh out of university.

“Do you have any R&D experience where you know how to turn a product which works at an industrial scale into something that people can eat and stays well after a few days?” He didn’t have. “Do you have any connections to a supermarket chain who would put this on their shelves?” He didn’t have. I asked him, “Do you have any capital to make this happen?”

He thought I would be the capital but having talked about the other things, plus professors, not quite as capital rich, we came to the conclusion that the idea might be great but he doesn’t have the resources that it takes to pull this off. You’re right. The resources are limited. Larger companies that have more resources can probably do more things. Smaller most likely have less and will concentrate more.

CSP 214 Christian Stadler | Winning Business Strategies

I was hoping that you’re going to say that it’s against all odds. I was hoping that this story is going to be that he said, “Forget it, Christian. I’m going to go off and do this myself.” Instead, he turned it into a multimillion-dollar business. I was hoping for that entrepreneur story, but maybe it’ll happen later. Let’s shift into your new book which is called Open Strategy: Mastering Disruption from Outside the C-Suite. What is an open strategy? How is open strategy different from the typical definition of strategy?

The core is pretty simple. In most companies, you have a small core group developed strategy, CEO, the board members, maybe a strategy team or an outside consulting firm, but it’s pretty close to how this whole strategy is developed. Once it is developed, then you start to spread the news. There are some downsides to this.

One downside is if the same people work together year in, year out, they’re most likely to have the same ideas. They know each other’s thinking. The chances that you come up with something entirely fresh are reduced. The second even bigger problem is the implementation side. Depending on which study you look at, most strategies, somewhere between 50% and 90%, failed because the implementation didn’t work out. It doesn’t work out because people either don’t like what they hear and think I can sit it out or they don’t understand what it means for them.

They stay involved in the whole development of the strategy process, which is the core idea of open strategy. You open up and bring people into the conversation who are usually not there, employees who work on the frontline on the shop floor, maybe some outsiders from other industries or even a competitor into the conversation. That way, you get fresh ideas. On the implementation side, people can figure out what exactly that means for that.

In 2012, Ashok Vaswani took over the retail business in the UK and it started to become probably known that the world is moving towards online, maybe even towards mobile. He could’ve done something himself, but then he was very aware that he has this massive legacy business. They have 30,000 people working in retail in Barclays in the UK. You need to figure a way that they also know what to do, which brings me back a bit to this strategy that lives out of 1,000 small decisions or two big ones.

He set up a two-stage process. The first stage was working groups where he had one set of working groups for young people, fresh out of university, less tainted by the dominant thinking in Barclays and another one with various functions where represented a bit more senior people. They brought some basic thinking broad trajectories up, but it didn’t iron out the details.

Try to list as many high processes as you possibly can about the outside world. Click To Tweet

In the second stage, with the help of IBM, they have this software. He set a strategy demo which is a little bit like a big online conference. You have moderators or technology afterward to find out where the big discussion streams are going on and what major topics are. They also had town hall meetings where they rented out 70 cinemas or something like this in the UK and had big meetings.

Hosting these meetings in the gym, people saw an opportunity to think through, “What does it mean for me? How can I adjust myself?” Conversations like Domino’s Pizza, one of the big pizza delivery chains in the UK, can tell you when you ordered a pizza, when they put it in the oven, when it’s coming out, and when it’s coming to you.

In mortgage, we don’t know anything about what’s happening. We can’t tell our customers anything in between. We can tell them we’ve got the application. In the end, we tell them you get it for this condition or you don’t get it, but everything has a black box. People started to think through what it meant for them.

I’ve talked to several executives, including Mr. Vaswani. They said there was an energy around strategy and types of discussions, which they’ve never had before. The results were great. Shortly after they launched their mobile app, it quickly got 9 million users. It’s one of the most successful FinTech products in the UK. They turned around a legacy bank in a way that people understood what it meant. They’re digital literate.

I have one funnier story in that context to share. They told me that an older gentleman was once coming to one of the Barclays’ branches with his new iPad. He asked them to help him set up the iPad because his grandson had told him, “If you have digital problems, you can go to the Barclays.” People understand these guys know digital. I don’t think it would have been possible without this open process where everyone was involved.

There is so much of it that’s applicable to even smaller firms yet some people might look at that example and go, “That’s a whole other universe in terms of size and scope.” Let’s pull this back. I want to reign it in for the independent consultant or the consulting firm that maybe has 5, 10 or 20 employees or team members. How do you feel that they could implement or get the benefits of open strategy even when there are significantly smaller than Barclays?

CSP 214 Christian Stadler | Winning Business Strategies

First of all, it is a business opportunity for them. I’ve worked with this German consulting firm who developed a set of different tools that you can help your clients with. One of them is cool. They call it the Nightmare Competitor Exercise. The core idea is that over three days, you come together with your clients. You set up teams where in each team, half of the members are from the clients and half of them are outside people that you bring from different industries with very different perspectives.

Each of those teams develops what they call a nightmare competitor, a firm that doesn’t exist in reality but would destroy this client’s business. They can use that as a reflection point once they’re done. They do that in Dragon’s Den-style atmosphere. They have these competing teams. There are votes. Some teams get voted out because the idea is not good enough. You have full-fledged business models from few of those nightmare competitors.

The client can then try and see how solid they are doing if they are attacked this way. Some clients say, “I want to turn this nightmare competitor into real business.” IMP found that about 25% of the clients do that. Things like this are a great opportunity for consulting firms to help clients open up their strategy or process.

There is Dragon’s Den in Canada and in the US, it’s called Shark Tank. It’s the exact same concept. Fun fact, one of the Shark Tank participants who’s known as Mr. Wonderful, his name is Kevin O’Leary. He used to be on the Canadian Dragon’s Den. In the previous business that my cousin and I cofounded, I interviewed him way back in the day. It’s somewhere out there, but that’s a difference between those two. This example you shared is extremely powerful.

To take a step back, create that nightmare competitor and then look at, “How can I maybe bring some of those things into what we’re doing?” Thinking creatively to me is so powerful. We’re heads down day-to-day working on client deliverables, marketing, or different things for so many of us that we don’t take a step back and look at these bigger opportunities that you don’t usually see. They’re not visible to you. You can’t act on them because you’re so busy in the day-to-day. Could you offer one other example that you feel is powerful?

Another one that IMP developed is called Trend Radar. The core there is about finding big trends. You might see 1,000,001 tools for this already, but there are a couple of differences. The core idea in this tool is not so much that maybe you come up with something that no one could find at all, but you find a way to involve enough people that is consensus around this, which is often the difficulty. You have various people in the company. Everyone has their favorite trend but finds a way to develop a consensus.

You need to be explicit. Otherwise, you raise expectations. Click To Tweet

The second one is it’s done with the help of outsiders. Let me talk a bit about how they structured this whole thing as well. They bring in outside experts together with people from inside the company. The first thing they do is try to list as many hypotheses as possible about the outside world. They come up with a long list of things that might happen. Be as crazy as you can potentially be.

I’ve done that with a small media production company in Nairobi. They thought of all sorts of things, from the political world all the way down to climate change, how that could affect their business. Once you’ve got this long list, you then put it in a little survey tool. Have everyone assess how likely they think it is to happen, how much of an impact it would have on their company and how prepared they are for that.

You put all of this into a radar where you have probabilities of how likely it is. The more likes, the more decent it is. You have a bigger populace. If you are having more of an impact, then it’s smaller. If it’s less of an impact, you can color code to make sure that the preparedness is there. Green, you’re prepared. Red, you’re dead if this happens. That way, you have a nice picture of trends, but it was a social exercise. People can buy into this and feel that this makes sense for them. You can repeat that regularly as well. That way, you also see how things might change.

One of the clients that have done that produce super tech special printing machines. There was more growing demand they felt in the space for something to be less sophisticated but cheaper. They started to work on this as they collectively realized that. I might’ve spotted this elsewhere, but by doing it together, that’s helpful. The consultant can set up the process and run this in the workshop. We have opportunities to talk about this as well.

Would you consider a consultant who might be running a small firm if they were to have a conversation? Rather them deciding the strategy by themselves and then having contractors, freelancers or employees implement it, if the founder was to take the concept that they have and conversations with our contractors, freelancers, even with some of their best clients and maybe other people in the industry, is that also a form of open strategy?

Yes. There’s this massive flexibility. Whenever we write the book, we try to make it applicable to many places. Opening up is, in that sense, fluctuant. As soon as you go beyond the C-Suite, as the title suggests, you have some form of openness, but you can go to various extremes where you could even include competitors. You have to carefully decide whom you want to involve based on how much information you disclosed.

CSP 214 Christian Stadler | Winning Business Strategies

If this is a closed workshop, you get outsiders as well, but they’re all signed nondisclosure agreements, then you can talk openly. Sometimes you might want to engage a large crowd, but you don’t want to tell them exactly what’s going on. That’s possible as well. You could ask questions, put it even in a different setting where it sounds like people are answering which color of paint you want, but you have asked a very different question. Dress it up in a way that looks different and you can use that in this way.

I’m thinking about our team as an example. It would be straightforward for myself and Sam as Cofounders of Consulting Success to go, “Here’s the path that we’re going to take,” then talk to the team and everyone that touches our organization and work together to implement it. However, what we’ve been trying to do more and more is to actively include all key team members and even clients or different coaches that work with us in different directions that we’re going. Ultimately, the decision needs to come from one person. The influences of seeing different things and perspectives are extremely valuable.

For those of you who are reading, maybe it’s you who run a small team. That’s okay. There are people around you, whether contractors, freelancers, past clients, current clients, people in the industry, and other consultants. You can get a lot of interesting inputs in different places. It doesn’t mean that you need to agree with those inputs but at least listens and be open to them. That can help you form a much better strategy. The second thing that you touched on is the power of having people in alignment with that strategy. They don’t feel like, “This person making the decision. We haven’t even been involved in it.” The feeling of, “I played a role in that or at least I was head as part of this process is extremely valuable.”

It’s not a democracy. You need to be explicit because otherwise you raise expectations. If people feel disappointed, you get the opposite effects of mobilization. If you’re explicit about this like, “I’m listening, I’m trying to get more input but that doesn’t mean that we do whatever you say,” then that’s good. It’s based on the examples of companies who were not explicit or clear enough of the decision rights.

A company in Germany, Premium-Cola, is a nice one in this respect. It got completely unruly because people thought they can have an opinion on everything. It was not clear of which person will take final decisions. The whole initiative fizzled out. It never succeeded. It started off because there was a popular type of cola, Afri-Cola, that stopped. They got the recipe and then try to revive that but with this democratic approach, that didn’t work either. In the end, it’s still a few executives who run the show but as you point out, they consult more widely to get more opinions to find smart ways to engage the crowd.

I have a real love for travel, different cultures, places around the world and all that stuff. You’re originally from a small little picturesque town in Austria, then being in the UK at the business school there. You’re in Nairobi. What took you to Nairobi? What does it feel like to be in a completely different culture and part of the world? You spent all there in 2020, especially due to COVID. You’re still doing the same thing as if you were in the UK. What’s that like being in Nairobi?

Create ways to be more flexible in dealing with the world because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Click To Tweet

First of all, I had a few other stops. I lived for a few years in Holland and in the States as well. What took me to Kenya was I met a girl from a small village. That’s how we ended up here for a little while because we want our children to experience where mom is from as well. We met during an internship at the United Nations in New York. In our case, we’re true to the United Nations’ mission.

Sam and I often joke about this because we say that our friends when we were growing up and our client base is like the United Nations. When we look at where our clients come from, it’s all around the world. It’s different cultures, religions and backgrounds. That’s one of our values in our company.

When people go to our story page on Consulting Success, you’ll see one of our values. We are worldwide and it’s the whole idea that we love that diversity in the world. Anything that’s been challenging for you, though, to operate in the same way that you would when you were in the UK being in Nairobi?

I was in Zanzibar for a little while before as well. I remember we sometimes had power outages. I had shown the students who were back in England online my porch lookout on the Indian ocean and then there was a power outage. That was not ideal. The students were not too pleased with this particular morning. I was hectic. I’m trying to run to a hotel and find a connection. Eventually, it got solved. I spent a bit long in the evenings. I end the whole issue out, but some of these infrastructure challenges could be a problem.

The other one in which I was a bit annoyed was this perception issue. I do a lot of stuff on TV as well. I can’t remember what it was about exactly. I think about the KAI Industry because I often comment that there was an interview to be set up for the BBC. When they found out that I was in Zanzibar, they said, “We can’t do it.” My impression was that it was the feeling that the viewers would think that my expertise got lost because I was somehow set in Africa. I’ve done CNN interviews in Niederndorf once. I remember I put Niederndorf on CNN, which was no problem then, but this is still in Europe.

Sometimes the perception that smart and expert ideas need to come from the Western world was driven home at this point in time for me. Thinking of the people I met and interacted with, there’s no difference. You’ve got smart and stupid people any place in the world. That’s no different here than it is in New York, San Francisco, Vienna or anywhere. That’s a couple of things that I found a bit challenging. It was a mode of operating and can be a bit different. Traffic is horrendous in these big cities like Nairobi. My work is mainly in front of the computer, so it doesn’t affect me too much.

What are your thoughts on the gig economy or the ability for people in Europe or North America to tap into expertise in Africa specifically since you have a connection to the continent? Most people in North America, maybe less so in Europe, think about going to India or the Philippines to find virtual assistants or help out at a low cost. This is a very wide casting net in Africa. There’s a lot of diversity within that. From what you’re seeing, do you believe there are opportunities or not there yet?

Kenya can pride itself on the first functioning mobile payment system. It’s called M-Pesa. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but certainly for years. It quickly had a quarter of the country’s GDP running through the system. Everyone has an M-Pesa account. In that, they’ve been miles ahead. On the back of that, there are lots of FinTech startups. I started a research project looking at FinTech companies in the early stages. I have no findings yet. There’s clearly a big and vibrant community.

You have quite a lot of people from the US and Europe coming over here as well, partly because this is a fresh opportunity and lots of growth. There’s a slightly annoying aspect to it as well. The investment money comes from the West. If you’re looking for big dollars, it’s here as well. You then have people who worked in Europe who speak that language but often have ideas that don’t work here.

Nonetheless, they get the big dollars in a startup world while others, which are sometimes cool ideas, struggle a bit. One nice one I’ve come across is a company called Janngo. AI might even get involved a bit in this one. I like it a lot. I know the owner. They had this idea where they do something on the back of a very established tradition. If you’re in Kenya, you need funding for anything. You typically don’t go to the bank because A, you don’t get it and B, the interest rates if you’re lucky is 15%, 16% a year but more likely 20% and higher. What you do is you come together with family and friends.

Let’s say you plan a wedding. You get family and friends together to help you or you want to do an investment project. You want to build some apartments. You come together with a group of friends and put money together. One of the things that are difficult in that context particularly is the larger group. How do you keep track? Who is given what? When have they been given? You can have a bookkeeper, but then it’s tedious.

You have the same people come to the meeting, but the bookkeeper is not there. The other data is saying, “You paid already,” but they haven’t paid. It takes a bit longer. He developed a software system where all of these are done through an app. It’s growing fast and is massive. It makes it easier for everyone to keep track. It’s linked to the M-Pesa, so people can easily make payments online. You have cool stuff happening. I’m at the beginning of finding these things, but I love it.

There are lots of opportunities and new developments coming down, which is fantastic. Christian, is there one book that you’ve read or listened to that you would recommend? It could be business or fiction.

I have a couple. One that I liked a lot that I’ve read is from Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, The Imagination Machine. It’s a surprising one coming from somebody who is a partner in a big consulting firm. It finds all these partly playful ways to get your imagination going in the whole strategy domain, thinking of different ways and new ideas. It becomes more and more important as we go into an unpredictable future, which brings us to the second book.

The second book is Margaret Heffernan’s Uncharted. It says we’re addicted to predictions on the base, but it’s somewhat stupid because we can’t predict the future. Instead, create ways to be more flexible and deal with a world that we can’t know what will happen tomorrow. From A World of Art, it’s a lovely story of how Goudi builds Sagrada Familia, the big cathedral in Barcelona, which happened on the way. That’s often how things happen in business, which is successful as well. I would recommend these and also read mine. Open Strategy comes first.

For those who want to learn more about your work, books and everything that you’re up to, where’s the best place for them to go?

It’s www.OpenStrategy.info for the book. If you want me as a person, it’s ChristianStadler.org.

Christian, thank you so much for coming on. I appreciate it.

Thanks for having me. It was fun.

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