Emergent vs. Deliberate Strategy

Traditional product strategies tend to drive toward deliberate execution. We present another essential kind of strategy: Emergent.

Emergent vs. Deliberate Strategy

Deliberate strategies are those we’re most familiar with and are aimed at executing what we understand.

Emergent strategies, on the other hand, are planned, coordinated actions aimed at learning. For example, if we want to create a new product/service or expand the reach of one already in a market, we can design “experiments” to learn what we don’t yet know.

Sustainable growth requires that we carefully distinguish deliberate and emergent strategies. We have observed the tendency to assimilate all planning to deliberate mode. For instance, I recently interviewed someone working in a long-established firm. They had decided that they needed “an incubator for new ideas.” But I discovered that even those in their “learning group” were designing all of their work as if they already understood the interplay of market, product and people.

Both kinds of strategy must exist in various places and stages in a long-term successful firm. By distinguishing whether we are planning to execute or planning to learn—and feeding what we learn into a deliberate process—firms can more easily capture growth opportunities, while maintaining health in the core.

The design of this lens was influenced by:

The Emergent vs. Deliberate Strategy lens is introduced as part of our live, online Innovation Science Bootcamp.

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