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Six nuggets of advice from the World Business Forum

The World Business Forum is running in Sydney. SmartCompany has got six nuggets of advice from the event to help in your business:

1. A clear strategy is even more important for SMEs

Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School professor regarded as the “father of modern strategy”, told the forum a clear strategy is probably more important for SMEs than for larger corporations because resources are finite so choices matter more.

He said where most companies make mistakes is they can't clearly articulate the unique value proposition. Porter claims the only way to create positive-sum competition is to be clear about your business’s unique proposition. He believes it should be evident in everything you do.

2. Don’t worry too much if competitors copy you

“Strategy is about creating a positive-sum competition,” Porter said.

“Even if competitors copy you will ultimately win if you are clear.”

Porter told the forum the test of a successful strategy is continuity.

“Think of strategy as a path that you learn every day how to do it better.”

3. Be prepared to make some customers unhappy

Porter told the conference to have a solid business strategy you have to be prepared to make some customers unhappy to turning them away.

“The key in strategy is which customers we want to make happy and which we don't care about,” he said.

Porter said IKEA is an example of a business that knows what it is doing and that it is about style, functionality and no customer service.  

“With IKEA the strategy comes alive with all of the choices they made in the value chain,” he said. 

4. Start with the question first

Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist at Amazon, told the World Business Forum people get caught up in data without first knowing what question they want to answer.

According to Weigend, if you start with the question, the data sets required become obvious.

“Making decisions based on data is the only value data has, so start with the question,” he said.

5. Think of customers as connected individuals

Weigend believes successful businesses will be thinking of customers as connected individuals rather than simply as individuals.

“We've moved from e-commerce to me-commerce to we-commerce,” he said.

Access to the conversations between customers to determine who is sharing and recommending what is, in his opinion, the key.

That's why social data is of increasing interest in business decisions.

6. Take risks and work outside of your comfort zone

Lyn Heward, former president and chief operating officer of Cirque du Soleil, spoke about the importance of “treasure hunting” and creative transformation for staff.

“So as an individual, leader or manager, this means four things: working outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, taking risks – never repeating yourselves, and applying inventiveness and creativity to every day tasks and problems," she said.

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Cara Waters

SmartCompany editor

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Cara Waters is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.
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