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Leading the Revolution was written by Gary Hamel and published in September of 2000. Hamel writes a how to book on creating the new dynamic organization. His main theme is that old business strategies are not going to survive in what he calls the age of Revolution. In his premise to the book, he states that he will show the reader how to become a revolutionary in the business world. He completes his stated task by explaining the difference between contemporary strategy and revolutionary strategy, by explaining how a reader can begin to think revolutionary, and finally by explaining how a person can act revolutionary in their own company.
Hamel introduces the topic of revolutionary strategy by explaining the differences between contemporary strategy and revolutionary strategy. Contemporary strategy in his opinion coincides with the “Age of Progress”. The Age of Progress tries to improve current processes and production techniques and attempts to squeeze every last penny from the same strategy that has always been used at a given company. In Hamel’s opinion, this will not work in his “Age of Revolution”. The revolutionary strategy will try to turn an industry upside down. He pounds home his point by illustrating the differences between companies that still try to improve and companies that revolutionize an industry, by stating the differences in the new wealth that revolutionaries create for their stockholders. At first, I felt that he would only be describing internet companies, but he pointed out examples such as Midwest Airlines , who has a higher income percent than the rest of the industry. He talked about companies such as the Body Shop, Virgin-Direct, Dell, Sony and IBM. Hamel shows how even stodgy companies (IBM and Sony) can become revolutionaries.
His next step is to show individuals how they can begin to think in revolutionary ways. He uses examples from these same companies that he believes to be revolutionary and they tell their own stories of how they try to think of revolutionary ideas for companies. Some examples include reading magazines from all over the world, attending industry conventions for industries outside of your own industry, travelling to places that are unfamiliar, and meeting new people. These are simple steps, but they have a profound impact if the person is truly trying to experience the differences in each situation.
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His final task to transform the reader into a revolutionary is to describe ways in which a person begins to act revolutionary within their organization. He discusses the fact that revolutionary strategy does not come from above, but from below. A point he makes when he discusses traditional strategy formation at a large corporation. He states “Generally the same 10 people are talking to the same 10 people for the last 5 years. They can finish each others sentences and no revolutionary strategy will ever emerge.” This was an interesting insight that I remember well from a company I worked at for 5 years. The same people over and over deciding which direction or lack of direction they would head in. Hamel feels that the revolutionary must do three things to bring about change in large organizations. First, have a clear goal that you are willing to risk your job over. Second, find a supporter at the level of management that can protect you from dismissal. Third, find small successes within your overall goal that can be achieved and presented before upper management to help encourage buy-in in the overall plan. There are many other small steps in between these large steps that could be added, but these were the main three that were repeated. He used examples at Sony, IBM and Shell to illustrate his point. All three revolutionaries at these companies helped to transform their respective companies into the company they are today.
In my opinion, this book is a must read for anyone who wishes to lead the company of tomorrow. Hamel has showed me that I need to look for other ways of doing business, regardless of the success of our current model, or other companies may dominate our market. As an MBA student, and future CEO, I feel that this book has helped me to gain a better perspective of possible growth opportunities within industries.