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Executive Summary

About Scaling Edges: A pragmatic pathway to broad internal change

The world as we know it is changing. Increased globalization and rapid advancements in technology, collectively referred to as The Big Shift, are profoundly altering our economy and creating new market opportunities for the firms which can understand and anticipate their impact. Companies such as PopCap and Amazon have grown rapidly by identifying two such market opportunities, e-books and social gaming, that just a decade ago, were all but nonexistent. While some firms have benefitted handsomely, these same fundamental shifts have exposed other companies to significant performance pressures. Look no further than the rise of Amazon and concurrent fall of Borders as proof of the growing imperative for firms to change and adapt.

In order to thrive in a post-Big Shift world, today’s companies should consider how they move from innovating at a product and service level (i.e. flooding the market with new, marginally improved products) to innovating at an institutional level. This change requires firms to rethink even the primary objective of why they exist and drastically change their management mindset; in today’s rapidly changing landscape, a focus on scale efficiencies is not enough. Though transformative change is required, it is admittedly far from a simple task.

In order to thrive in a post-Big Shift world, today’s companies must move from innovating at a product and service level (i.e. flooding the market with new, marginally improved products) to innovating at an institutional level.

Pragmatic Pathways is a framework for executives seeking to embark on this difficult, but necessary transformation. This paper will introduce and break down the three prongs of the Pathways framework, while the Appendix section offers a deeper look at the rationale behind each. First, by focusing on edges rather than the core of a company, change agents can better identify projects which align with Big Shift forces, and therefore, are most likely to achieve significant and sustainable returns. Second, by leveraging external resources rather than internal support to scale, these edges can circumvent the scrutiny and organizational resistance that change initiatives are typically met with. Finally, by accelerating learning rather than focusing solely on short-term outcomes, edges can become conduits of transformation, helping the companies of today achieve institutional innovation and tap into the opportunities of tomorrow.

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