Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Within Eagle’s fine nest, Strategy is at its finest… on its crest, Innovation is at its best!

Courtesy - Google's eagle images assembled/modified with our inspiration

Over the last few days, I have received quite a few informal questions - the most notable one being is about -the recent “Redefined Value equation” principle, not complimenting our earlier principle of “Strategize from the Core and Innovate from the Edge”. In other words, how is it possible for “Core and Edge” to perform their respective “strategize and innovate” functions, and yet balance each other as a “cohesive whole” simultaneously?

While these principles might sound like a paradox on the surface –beneath them, they indeed complement one another. As I was thinking about the best way to explain this paradox, I was immediately reminded of our Eagle metaphor (http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/07/strategy-is-like-eagles-mounting-up.html) -and so, decided to go back to the eagles for additional inspiration. With most of eagle’s characteristics being already covered in our earlier blogs, I was definitely challenged to come up with yet another compelling inspiration to explain this paradox. However, with eagle being symbolized to the “Almighty God” in the scriptures- the mother eagle did not disappoint us again- with her never-drying reservoir of compelling inspirations!

With that said, I must admit that it is not an exaggeration to say that eagle’s life is full of poetical inspirations- whether it be their structural beauty, rhythmic energy or inspirational insights - and, today’s inspiration is no exception either–as it is about “the mother eagle stirring up her nest” within the context of its seasons. As I started visualizing this stirring up event in eagle’s life – I was amazed how God’s creatures are wonderfully made to be the best strategy teachers. In other words, the mother eagle herself has become our strategy teacher today, explaining this seemingly opposing paradox, with an eagleical* poetry –

Transforming our quest in to her inspiring thirst, by
Turning her fine nest in to strategy’s fine nest (finest),
Making her crest as innovation’s bee nest (best), yet
Sustaining her thirst without going to rest, until
Re-cycling our (strategic) zest in to her seasonal quest!

With all the pun aside, I guess it is time to stir up our inspiration! We all have seen eagle’s nest being knitted together very high on the branches of a tree or in the edges of a cliff. However, not many of us, perhaps, have had the opportunity to glimpse at it from inside though. Apparently, the mother eagle starts the nest knitting process with wild thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and a number of other construction materials like a seasoned “strategist/operator” from “Eagle Nest Inc”. But then, she lines up her nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from the wild animals on top of them making it soft and comfortable for the eggs. By the time, the eaglets reach the flying age, the comfort of the nest make them quite reluctant to leave the nest. That’s when the mother eagle decides to stir up the nest. With her strong talons, she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As more and more of the comfortable cushion gets plucked up, the nest becomes uncomfortable for the young eaglets to live there anymore– and eventually, making them to move on to its crest.

Similarly, by the time the core reaches its maturity (or the flying stage), the comfort of the nest, or the so called, continuous revenue streams indeed make them reluctant to innovate. That’s when our “purpose-profit balanced strategy” (like the mother eagle) must start “stirring up the core” with its strong talon like “differentiating strategies” -and pull up the thick carpet of “easy revenue streams”, thus bringing the reality of disruptive innovation opportunities (or threats) to the surface. As more and more of these opportunities come to the surface (both from within and from the competitors), the nest becomes uncomfortable for the core, and eventually making them to re-examine their successful products and business models- and to prepare them to innovate with an edge.

Yet another insightful part of this stirring up event is- how the mother eagle starts the stirring up process within the context of its seasons. As it turns out, the mother eagle takes good care of its eaglets during their growing up stages with a fine nest –symbolically making - “strategy to be its finest” (or in alignment with the strategize from the core principle). However, as the season starts changing – the same mother eagle, starts stirring up the nest (or disrupts the core) - symbolically making –“innovation to be its best” (or in alignment with innovate from the edge principle).

The stirring up event does not stop there either. The mother eagle (after stirring up the nest), apparently starts walking down deep in to its nest (eagle’s nest can be of 10 feet deep!), gathers all of its eaglets on to its wings, and then starts the flight to its crest. What happens in the air is all the more intriguing – the mother eagle, apparently starts shaking those eaglets off -just to teach them the strategy lesson– “what it takes to be an eagle”– symbolizing, how a “purpose-profit balanced strategy” is supposed to use an edge (or disruptive innovation) opportunity to disrupt the core. On situations, when those eaglets slip and fall – the mother eagle,apparently stoops down below, lifts them back on to its wings - and the acrobatic flight lesson continues till the eaglets start flying on their own.

As we observe this this end-to-end stirring up event - the mother eagle, not only, stirs up the eaglets, but also, shakes them off in the air, until they start flying on their own. Let us face it – had not the mother eagle started stirring up those eaglets (and shake them off in the air), those eaglets would be just enjoying the cozy life, never would have learned to fly at all (as there is no incentive for them to leave the nest). And, above all –they never, ever would have got the opportunity to build the nest of their own in the future (symbolizing the edge becoming the core in the following season) and make the eagleical cycle moving - very much like the” redefined value equation”, balancing “core and edge” within the context of their seasons- and, yet continuing the seasonal value equation cycle- (http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/10/balancing-opposites-using-redefined.html) as outlined in our earlier blog.

A point of clarification about seasons - seasons, (although primarily are defined with a time dimension), also have other dimensions (i.e. place, money, opportunity etc.), and so, our concept of seasons should take in to account all of those dimensions in a holistic manner. For example, while it might be relatively difficult to balance “core and edge” simultaneously within the time dimension, under the place (or opportunity) dimension, they both can be easily balanced simultaneously , provided they are executed in different business segments/geographical places (or different opportunity spaces) using one of the organization models, we had laid out earlier (http://strategywithapurpose.blogspot.com/2010/08/strategize-from-core-and-innovate-from.html) .In other words, within the time dimension of the seasons, we are better of sequencing core and edge -whereas within the non-time dimensions, we are better of executing them simultaneously.

Yet another point of reinforcement within this context is- our principle of “redefined value equation” is not at all against structuring the businesses in to core and edge (or stars and dogs etc.) – as these structures are very much needed for better manageability and faster decision making. On the other hand, what the “redefined value equation” encourages is that core and edge should be treated or given its due importance (not necessarily equal importance)- very much like how the mother eagle does both (caring and stirring/shaking) within the context of their seasons to make them to be part of a cohesive whole – which, by the way, was exactly the key complimentary point intended by our paradox (with those two principles) as illustrated on the “eagleical picture” on the top of the page.

Bottom line: The principle of “strategize from the core and innovate from the edge” is relevant only when we have the “redefined value equation” mind set - of balancing core and edge as a “cohesive whole” by giving their due importance within the context of their seasons -very much like how the mother eagle does both “caring and stirring /shaking” of their eaglets within the context of their life seasons- to keep the eagleical* cycle moving. With that said, I guess it’s time to come up with yet another poetical slogan – “Strategize from the nest, for the strategy to be its finest- and innovate from the crest, for innovation to be its best - all within the eagleical* seasonal quest”!
Source: Scriptures and few other Eagle research sites


  1. Hello Charles,

    This post provides a deep insight on bifurcating between strategy from the core and innovating from the edge. Yes, I feel very comfortable with the approach of this post. Truly, like order and disorder exist together at all times so are strategizing and innovating. It is NOT the chicken or the egg: it is both together. However; like you correctly stated the proportion changes with time. One season strategizing is more important than innovating. As the system stabilizes (the comfort of the nest) there comes the need to innovate from where interaction with the environment is best practiced, which is the edge. The eagle does it perfectly well as you explained masterfully: one season to build the internal strength in a safe environment to be followed by innovating new ideas and practices. Strategy helps in securing the safety of the eaglets and so should the strategy of corporations (risk management). But staying within this domain and isolating the eagles in their safety zone is not going to help their life purpose. They have to venture and fly out. So companies should do the same by strengthening their staff and let them innovate afterwards. Let the staff soar with some protection at the start (eagles give eaglets support at their first flying endeavors).
    The lesson is extensible to many other areas in our life. Take soccer for example (sorry as I am not familiar with cricket). The strategy emulating eagles would be to strengthen the defense and then create new ideas for scoring goals and tricking the opponent. Failing to do so will only end up in defending, but not scoring. The slogan I propose: strengthen the company and then innovate. This is a repeating cycle.
    Charles, you scored very high in this post. Now, you have strengthened your eagle metaphor. Soon, you shall fly into new zones and come up with even greater ideas.

  2. Thanks Ali – and I must admit that the follow-up questions (and insightful feedback) from you and few other “behind the scene” readers played a critical role in the quality of this post. I am glad, that it turned out the way it did (in a balanced manner being acceptable to variety of audiences) – and, so the credit goes to you all – as, without your part, it would not have turned out the way it did.

    With that said, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all, the readers first.

    Let us keep this collaboration going.