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Mutation Strategies: Embracing Bold Change for Disruptive Business Growth
Unleashing the Unique Skills Required for Highly Innovative Strategies
“Disrupt or be disrupted.”
In an ever-changing business and technology landscape, you face a critical question: How can you stay ahead of the curve?
This is where Mutation Strategies come into play. These innovation strategies encompass bold moves such as changing the business model, exploring entirely new use cases or categories, or developing a unique value proposition to meet different user needs.
But how you define and execute these strategies differs significantly from how you would do it in the last two types we explored in this series.
The problem? We spend more than 90% of our time working with optimization and expansion. So it’s natural that teams fail to recognize and act accordingly when shifting to a mutate strategy.
In the next section, we will go step by step in the product development process and highlight these differences.
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Note: this article is part of a series describing three types of strategies and their corresponding execution playbook! (Read the first one here)
Table of contents
Successfully executing Mutation and Innovation Strategies (this article)
Portfolio strategy and managing different types simultaneously
The execution playbook for Mutation
Let’s review how we should think for such a strategy in terms of the elements that connect Direction and Execution: (1) Vision, (2) Strategy & Models, (3) Goals & Assumptions, (4) Opportunity space & definition, and (5) Delivery cycles & iterations.
In this case, having a solid product vision is critical. As we will see, we need to test many paths and approaches, so staying true to where we want to get to is paramount.
2. Strategy and Models
Considering the level of risk and innovation involved in these bold moves, strategies must consider more extended time frames and enable room for maneuvering based on learnings. So the strategic drivers are high-level, giving direction and not prescriptions.
Similarly, the models (how the product serves the customer and the business) are also uncertain and will emerge and be refined during the execution.
3. Goals and Assumptions
As said previously, in these strategies being explicit about the higher risks enables better alignment and conversations with stakeholders, especially for the upcoming discovery and delivery phases that need to be much more experimental.
One of the most fundamental differences (and critical for execution success) is how we measure success. Unlike the previous types, we are primarily focused on understanding if we can deliver user value that we can monetize. This will require a mix of satisfaction, retention, and engagement which are only the leading indicators that we expect to serve as a proxy for future revenues.
4. Opportunity Space and Assessment
Since we are entering new territories, the opportunity space mostly “starts from scratch.” Of course, if our strategy is betting on this space, we will likely have some info! But uncovering, grouping, and refining opportunities through customer development and discovery will require a significant time investment.
Similarly, opportunities will start with high uncertainty. We will need to climb the evidence ladder from the lowest steps, becoming strong at rapid prototype experimentation and other techniques to quickly shape and clarify the potential of each idea.
5. Delivery cycles and iteration
Finally, our delivery cycles are focused on validating user value faster. This means that we expect to do sharper pivots and throw away quickly what doesn’t work.
Even when we want to filter out “bad ideas” as much as possible during opportunity discovery and prototype experimentation, we will still be highly uncertain about what we are building.
An interesting side effect is that if we agree with our engineering team to do rapid experimental versions, for the ones that work, we need to be willing to give enough room later to remake them into robust products that can scale.
This strategy type has execution differences in the entire spectrum. Recognizing that this is a bolder strategy, with more uncertain ground, enables:
Better stakeholder alignment, “gaining” room for more aggressive experimentation
Prepares the team to be more courageous in finding innovative solutions
This later point seems obvious, but as said, most companies and teams do not operate frequently with this strategy. 90% of the time, we are “cashing in” previous successes.
The role of leaders
Teams are not used to this level of daring execution. So leaders play a critical role in helping them succeed. They need to:
Be very clear on expectations. Let them know this is a bold strategy and requires them to think accordingly!
Allow room for experimentation and learning.
Constantly push to expand their thinking and embrace more innovative ideas and experiments.
The following article will focus on how companies must have the three types of strategies simultaneously! We must shape our portfolio, balancing our products to enable growth in multiple time horizons.