John Kay (1948- )
Scottish expert on corporate strategy and business success (pictured right) who writes regularly for the
Foundations of Corporate Success
(see for more detail Foundations of Corporate
Success in the Business Books section)
An organization’s success is dependent on its distinctive capabilities - strengths
that can’t be copied by competitors - called core
competencies by Gary Hamel (pictured right) and CK Prahalad (pictured
A successful strategy uses these capabilities to:
- exploit market opportunities.
- delight as many customers as possible.
To put it another way, an organization’s strategy is concerned with:
Matching its capabilities with its markets.
(called a resource based approach to strategy).
A distinctive capability must be:
- sustainable (lasing a long time).
- appropriable (exclusively, or mainly, benefiting the organization).
So there are three main distinctive capabilities:
1. Continuous innovation
To be continuous innovation must be supported by architecture and reputation (see below).
A system of uniquely superior relationships with the organization’s customers, employees and suppliers.
Based on innovation and/or architecture.
BMW’s distinctive capabilities are
its reputation derived from the quality of engineering from its highly skilled workforce.
Key quote on core
Corporate success derives from a competitive advantage which is based on distinctive capabilities.
Obliquity is the principle that success is best achieved indirectly.
For example, the most profitable companies don’t primarily focus on profitability but on the best ways to
- visionary purpose (stonemasons built great cathedrals for the glory of God).
- personal fulfilment in work and leisure.
- employee and customer satisfaction.
For successful people money is a by-product of doing something that they’re passionate and
knowledgeable about - for Bill
Gates (pictured right) it was business and computers).
Oblique decision making is:
1. Creative and adaptable to
change - requiring:
- constant experimentation.
- different solutions and ways of thinking.
- continuous evaluation of objectives.
2. Based on limited choices and
3. Aware that the consequences
of decisions can’t be totally foreseen
Key quote on organizational
The most profitable businesses are not the most profit-oriented.
Key quote on
Happiness is where you find it, not where you go in search of it.
Key quote on decision
Effective decision makers are distinguished not so much by the superior extent of their knowledge as by the
recognition of its limitations.