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Published on January 10th, 2008 | by Tom

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Are You Driving the Decision Curve in Your Industry, or is Someone Else?

Before Sony knew it, Apple was driving the “decision curve” in mobile music players. If Starbucks isn’t careful, McDonalds is about to drive the industry agenda in third places. In fact, the destiny of every industry–including yours–is shaped by those few companies that step up to set the pace of industry growth and development. The question is, are you driving the decision curve in your industry?

Every industry turns on myriad decisions. Everything from standards to price competition. Some companies–often not the largest players, by the way–seem to wield disproportionate strategic influence and power. They may not be the market share leaders today, but one day they will be. When you drive the decision curve you set the agenda, set the pace of innovation and change, frame the terms of the debate and basically keep your competitors in a permanent reactive mode. Indeed, it can seem that companies that drive the decision curve get so deep into their competitors’ heads that it is eerie. For every move, the decision driver has a preemptive strike. For every parry there is a thrust. By design those who drive the decision curve drive the competition to distraction.

This tendency for some to shape the strategic context is even more pronounced in times of transformational change like the period we are about to enter. As I lay out in my new book, Jump Point: How Network Culture is Revolutionizing Business (McGraw-Hill, February 2008), we are about to see such profound change in the business landscape that the status quo in most industries is about to be scrambled. We can easily expect a changing of the guard in most segments. Looking ahead to the next thousand days, you have to ask yourself, “am I driving the decision curve or am I being driven? Do I have what it takes to grab the mantle and drive the curve? How can I reset the terms and wrest the steering wheel from the current driver?”

Feel a headache coming on? Take a copy of my book and call me in the morning.

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