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 Wisdom to Win
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Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

 Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

Hugely influential thinkers in corporate strategy.

Hamel (an Amercan, pictured right) runs the management consultancy business, Strategos.

Prahalad (born in India, pictured right below) was a business school professor in Michigan,USA, who died in 2010.Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)


See also...

Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad in the Management Gurus section. 


Book summary


How to be successful in business


1. Exploit “core competencies” and create new ones

Core competencies are:Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

  • skills and technologies in business activities (like production, customer service and innovation) that make a company uniquely better than its competitors.
  • big long-term contributors to customer perceived value.
  • gateways to tomorrow’s markets (so satisfying future customers)

An example is Sony’s ability to miniaturize leading to successful products like the Play Station.


2. Strategic intent

This is an inspirational and challenging statement of an organization’s purpose that gives:Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

  • direction - focus on the future.
  • discovery - finding new industries and customers.
  • destiny - a belief in something worthwhile that gives customers a better life.

For example in the photocopier market Canon’s strategic intent was ‘Beat Xerox’.

 Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

3. Create the future

To create the future a company must do one of these:


a) invent new industries 

(as Apple did with the PC).

Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)


b) reinvent existing industries by:

  • fundamentally changing how an industry is run (as Amazon did with book selling), or
  • re-drawing industry boundaries (e.g. ‘edutainment’ mixing education and entertainment).

A company must ask itself what it wants its industry to be like in 5 to 10 years time.

So, during that time period, it must anticipate and resolve the company’s key concerns:Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

  • customers and products. 
  • channels of distribution.
  • competitors and core competencies.
  • profit margins. Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)
  • sources of competitive advantage.

Such planning and foresight will achieve revolutionary results (profitably exploiting the future first) through evolutionary change, driven by calm urgency (not forced by a crisis).


4. Expeditionary marketing

This discovers tomorrow’s market opportunities by finding imaginative and creative solutions to customers’ future problems faster than competitors.Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

This means amazing future customers by:

  • anticipating and satisfying their future needs (so becoming the industry’s “intellectual leader”).
  • being “benefits driven” (bringing “unanticipated benefits to humankind”).
  • believing quality and continuous improvement aren’t enough – you need to be different, not just better.

Customers’ needs may be clearly stated by them through market research (articulated needs).

But sometimes customers can’t explain their future requirements (unarticulated needs), because a product is so revolutionary and out of their experience.

So an innovative company (like Apple) may successfully sell the product without prior customer approval.

 Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

5. Creative and committed employees

Employees make core competencies and customer satisfaction possible.

They must be empowered to take responsibility for results through:


a) fairness

(accepting that managers as well as employees are to blame for failure).

 Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

b) empathetic and ethical management

(leading to mutual trust and respect).


c) dedication to the organization’s purpose 

“Community activists” are vital, because they combine change with commitment.


d) vision and stretch goals 

(to “challenge employees to accomplish the seemingly impossible”)

 Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

e) inspirational organizational purpose

A “shared sense of direction” is crucial to stop empowerment turning into chaos.


f) avoid redundancies (if you can)

Redundancies (downsizing):

  • demoralize people.
  • can lose your best talent.


6. Productivity improvement and resource leverageGary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)

Successful businesses get to the future first and for less by:

  • maximizing productivity.
  • using resources to maximize present and future customer satisfaction (“resource leverage”).


7. Continuous learning

  • discard (or unlearn) obsolete practices and policies but keep the good of the past like company values.Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)
  • learn from experience.
  • benchmarking – humbly seek solutions from the world’s best organizations.
  • genetic variety – create a curious and innovative workforce of “community activists” who consistently challenge the status quo with new revolutionary ideas.


8. Strategic architecture

This is how a company makes the future a reality through:

  • information architecture – information technology and communication systems.Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, Competing for the Future (1996)
  • social architecture – accepted values and behaviour.
  • financial architecture – accounting systems.
  • strategic architecture – top management’s strategy to achieve present and future customer satisfaction.


Key quotes on human resource management

What employees hear is that they’re the firm’s most valuable assets, what they know is that they’re the most expendable assets.

Downsizing, the equivalent of corporate anorexia, can make a company thinner, it doesn’t necessarily make it healthier.


Key quote on finance and cost control

A company must not only get to the future first, it must get there for less.


Key quote on innovation

See the future before it arrives.


Key quote on business success

In business, as in art, what distinguishes leaders from laggards, and greatness from mediocrity, is the ability to uniquely imagine what could be.


Key quote on customers

Companies that create the future do more than satisfy customers, they constantly amaze them.


Key quote on competitive advantage

A company surrenders tomorrow’s businesses when it gets better without getting different.


Key quote on strategy

The genesis of the strategy process must be a purposely created misfit between where the firm is and where it wants to be.


Key quote on the learning organization

A company must unlearn much of its past before it can find the future.



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