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The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World



The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World

Amanda Setili

ISBN: 978-1-118-96443-9 August 2014 Jossey-Bass 256 Pages


How to win market leadership in a fast-changing world

In the past, companies could pick a strategy and stick with it, maintaining a competitive edge for years. But today, companies surge ahead, fall behind, or even disappear in mere months. If you and your company are going to thrive for the long run, you need to continuously evolve, change, and stay a step ahead of your competition.

The ability to see and capitalize on new opportunities is the cornerstone of agility. Successful technology-based firms like Google, Tesla,  and Amazon have all mastered agility within their core business practices, but companies in any sector can—and must—learn to spot new opportunities and make the right choices about what to invest in, what to change, and what to abandon.

The Agility Advantage first shows how to identify those aspects of your business where agility is most crucial—where the business environment is changing fast—and which elements have the  greatest impact on the customer’s decision to buy. Amanda Setili then shows how to master the three components of agility:

  • Market agility: Gain ideas from your most demanding and forward-thinking customers and from outside your industry.  Engage, observe, and mix with customers to identify the opportunities created by their changing demands.
  • Decision agility: Anticipate the changes that may affect you and turn even troubling trends into opportunities. Design your strategy to maximize learning and to manage risk.  Generate diverse alternatives and make fast, fact-based decisions about which to pursue.
  • Execution agility:   Build new capabilities, shed what doesn’t fit, and take the first steps in a new direction. Experiment, then reinforce and build on what works. Enlist and inspire your organization around a compelling purpose and grant employees the autonomy and resources to continuously adapt and adjust course.  

The future will present more opportunities but narrower windows to capture them. With a wealth of valuable information and practical strategies, The Agility Advantage is essential reading to help any organization adapt and thrive—both today and tomorrow.

Preface ix

1 What Is Agility—and Why Is It Valuable? 1

2 See Through Your Customers’ Eyes: How to See What Your Competitor Can’t 21

3 Right Customers, Right Value, Right Time: Identify Your Most Attractive Customers and Pivot with Them 43

4 Love the Problem: Dig Deep to Find New Insights 67

5 Turn Trends into Opportunities: Stop Preparing for the Future and Create It 89

6 Create Breakthrough Strategies: Generate Creative Alternatives for Capitalizing on the Changes You See 113

7 Manage Uncertainty: Be Courageous, Anticipate What Might Happen, and Address Risks Head-On 139

8 Turning a Strategic Corner: Take the First Steps, Shed What Doesn’t Fit, Experiment, and Reinforce 161

9 Agility as a Way of Life: Leverage the Power of Purpose, Autonomy, and Continuous Adaptation 185

Conclusion 209

Notes 211

Acknowledgments 221

About the Author 225

Index 227

“Amanda Setili’s book provides practical techniques and insightful examples to guide companies in becoming more agile. Haier is a large, global company, but it is also an innovation platform for multiple agile, small companies. I highly recommend The Agility Advantage to any CEO or leader who seeks to quickly and effectively respond to fast-changing markets throughout the world.”
—Zhang Ruimin, CEO, Haier

“With constant changes to technology and customer expectations, I have not yet found an industry that reinvents itself as quickly as wireless. This pace of change calls for true agility, and AT&T puts agility in action by staying flexible, looking for innovation from any source, and acting quickly on new ideas. The Agility Advantage is a must-read for companies that want to become more agile.”
—Glenn Lurie, CEO, AT&T Mobility

“Velocity is our primary competitive advantage at The Weather Company, especially as user-generated content, social media, business partnerships, and data innovation become more critical to our success. Amanda Setili’s study of agility, and how it leads to faster knowledge, decisions, and actions, helps us—and any company—identify the potential game-changers in our industry and move quickly in new directions.”
—David Kenny, chairman and CEO, The Weather Company, and cofounder, Digitas

“With The Agility Advantage, Amanda Setili provides a practical guide for how any organization—large or small, high-tech or no-tech, local or global—can read the winds of change and jump on new opportunities as they emerge. The Agility Advantage is a critical read and should be added to your business book collection this year.”
—Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and former president, Arby’s

“Kabbage disrupts financial services by leveraging big data to serve customers that traditional banks cannot. We’ve recently started partnering with the very institutions we sought to disrupt. When I first heard about Amanda Setili’s book, I figured it would be the ammunition I needed to convince larger companies to quickly deploy our platform so that they can effectively serve small businesses throughout the world. However, not only have these strategies helped in advancing our activities with partners, we’ve also been able to capitalize on them to accelerate our own growth and effectiveness. The Agility Advantage is remarkable.”
—Rob Frohwein, CEO, Kabbage