Thursday, April 10, 2008

“Predatory leap” metaphor of Prof. Rumelt

Some metaphors just stick to you. One such metaphor which I got hooked on to is what Prof. Rumelt describes in an interview with The McKinsey Quarterly as “Predatory leap” through the window of opportunity. According to Prof. Rumelt, strategy is about taking positions in a world that is confusing and uncertain. And how does a company take a good position?

Prof. Rumelt talks about his talk with Steve Jobs in 1998 after he’d come back & turned Apple around. Prof. Rumelt mentioned his observation to Steve that in the personal computer business Apple will always have a small niche position. It is tough to break “wintel” duopoly. “What’s your long term strategy?” Apparently Steve Jobs neither agreed nor disagreed with Prof. Rumelt. He just smiled and said, “I am going to wait for the next big thing.”

Prof. Rumelt further says, “Jobs didn’t give a doorknob polishing answer. He didn’t say, we are cutting costs and we are making alliances. He was waiting until the right moment for that predatory leap which for him was Pixar & then, in an even bigger way, the iPod.”

Prof. Rumelt says, “That very predatory approach of leaping through the window of opportunity and staying focused on those big wins – not on maintenance activities – is what distinguishes a real entrepreneurial strategy”.

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