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Using Curveball Strategies in Competition

Based on article "Curveball Strategies to Fool the Competition", Harvard Business Review

Question Two:

In a recent article about strategy, the following advice was offered by George Stalk, Jr. suggesting the use of strategy moves to confuse the competition for the purposes of getting the competition to "Do something dumb that they otherwise wouldn't have" or to "Not do something smart that they otherwise would have"

Specific examples included: (a) employing unfamiliar techniques, such as in sales or marketing, that traditionally were not used in this particular industry, (b) hiding the real source of your success via unlikely means such as using service forces to act as sales forces, and (c) allowing rivals to misinterpret your success because they act on a plausible and conventional, but purposely incomplete, set of assumptions about the real root cause of your success; for example squeezing costs rather than aggressively using assets.

(A) Discuss (a), (b), and (c) in terms of their being either offensive or defensive moves. Are these moves offensive, or defensive, or both? Explain and offer examples. What are some of the advantages and challenges of this approach?

(B) Do you see the opportunity to use any of Generic Strategies here, or are the generics being â??cloakedâ? here to achieve this "masked intent" around an operational strategy? What impact does this have on strategy communication and execution?

Solution Preview

(A) Discuss (a), (b), and (c) in terms of their being either offensive or defensive moves. Are these moves offensive, or defensive, or both? Explain and offer examples. What are some of the advantages and challenges of this approach?
(a) employing unfamiliar techniques, such as in sales or marketing, that traditionally were not used in this particular industry,

This is more of an offensive, rather than, a defensive move. Offensive in the sense that in order to growth in the business you have to be creative enough to gain market leverage. George Stalk, Jr. gave some example:

In the UK, Halifax Building Society was only a 'second tier' bank earning a return on equity but experiencing a "diminishing share" of its core home mortgage market. Customers of other banks are loyal to their respective banks and are "seldom changing banks". This was the challenge to the new CEO (Honsby) to run the Halifax like a world class retailer instead of a stodgy bank. He entered into a merger the Bank of Scotland, became HBOS as was highly publicized as the "Best deal on the Street". It became a major competitor of other financial institutions. To let customers of other banks to switch bank, he offered attractive loans.

Surprisingly, existing banks in the area did not follow HBOS cue fearful that any action "would destroy the profitability of their business.

HBOS established branches and remodeled to resemble High Street Retailers. To widen its market base it " ...

Solution Summary

This solution was based on article "Curveball Strategies to Fool the Competition" and how this can be used to business advantage. There is also a discussion of how companies (HBOS, Medictec and Diadevice) use this strategy in the successful operation of their business.

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