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am 4. Juli 2000
Did you ever see that amusing little sitcom, Get Smart? In "Hypercompetition", Dr. D'Aveni's approach suggests that he was stuck in a management science "cone of silence" from the mid-50s until 1981 and from 1982 until 1994. He has almost completely omitted from discussion a major stream of research that identifies potential sources of competitive advantage such as resource heterogeneity and resource mobility (the resource-based view, Wernerfelt, 1984; Barney, 1986, 1991). He has also omitted developments in systems dynamics dating back to the 1950s (Forrester, 195x, Maruyama, 1962, Weick, 1968). No reasons are given for such omissions.
What are the consequences of the omissions for the reader? In terms of sources of competitive advantage, he has narrowed this book's coverage of the domain substantially. Moreover, within his chosen domain, Dr. D'Aveni has somehow managed to focus his discussion of limitations almost exclusively on one aspect of the Porter work--static vs. dynamic competitive processes. You know, I would swear that more than this one aspect of Porter's work could be made dynamic. Also, that there are other criticisms of Porter's work prior to 1994. However, Max (oops, I mean Dr. D'Aveni) doesn't let you in on them.
In "Hypercompetition", D'Aveni also dutifully outlines processes that resemble the complex feedback networks suggested by systems dynamics. However, he never quite makes the connection to this body of literature. By not doing so, he deprives the reader of systems dynamics theory regarding how to intervene in such feedback networks before they become too complex. The systems dynamicists suggest that in less complex networks, critical points and loops can be identified and can function as the targets of interventions. Dr. D'Aveni, on the other hand, provides the reader with 7Ss, and precious little justification for why and how they would work in the feedback networks he describes. In such feedback loops, a 7S move could result in no change, a small change in which advantage is not very sustainable, or an exponential change in which sustainability over time is more possible. In other words, the results of his 7Ss approach are indeterminate without considering the nature of the feedback loops. The same limitations apply whether discussing one or a series of moves, and he, therefore, never arrives at an explanation for how to arrive at a "series of short-term advantages" (=sustained advantage to him).
The systems dynamicists also argue that as these feedback networks grow larger and more complex, they become indeterminate. That is, you and I may not be able to resolve the more complex networks into strictly positive or negative feedback loops or to predict the results of our own interventions at all. Therefore, by grounding his approach in cycles, loops, and recursions within and among his domains, Dr. D'Aveni limits analysis of the competitive process to resolvable feedback networks that are probably low in complexity.
Fortunately, complexity theory ostensibly resolves this problem by focusing upon the dynamic properties of larger complex feedback networks. Dr. D'Aveni can not be faulted for ignoring this approach because much of the literature in complexity theory that addresses his position has appeared since 1994.
To paraphrase, Dr. D'Aveni's attributes increased connectivity and rapid change to reductions in sustainability of competitive advantage. Kauffman (At Home in the Universe, 1995) suggests that D'Aveni is only observing half of the puzzle. According to the theory of self-organized criticality, complex systems self-tune. That is, influences that increase the rate of competition are eventually met by countervailing forces that reduce competition, resulting in a system that resides at the edge of chaos, at maximum performance. Therefore, D'Aveni may only be observing half of a larger process.
Kauffman's work suggests circumstances in which D'Aveni's advice (7Ss) may lead to less, not more sustainable competitive advantage. Admonishing firms to speed up their competitive moves, if accompanied by other firms' increased pace of change, may result in the "Red Queen" effect. In this effect, the system moves away from maximum performance. Both performance and sustainability of performance would then be reduced for each firm.
Kauffman also proposes (and simulates) variables in addition to connectivity that may affect firm and system performance. For example, he proposes N (firm traits) and S (# of species that interact) in addition to connectivity variables. As long as other variables could be implicated, the effects of connectivity (D'Aveni's premise) on performance and sustainability of performance will remain indeterminate until further tests are run.
I have more detailed criticism of the book that I will delineate in a subsequent review. However, I have attempted to discuss the major limitations that I am aware of in this review.
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Although this book offers a useful compilation of tools, they are hardly original. D'Aveni simply draws--if not plagiarizes--most of his insights from many other books and cases on strategy that have been out there for decades. Many of the passages in D'Aveni's book seem to have been copied from Michael Porter's infamous triology on Competitive Strategy. For example, when D'Aveni lists the strongholds that a company can establish, he lists the very same Entry Barriers that Michael Porter listed in his book over a decade ago. Furthermore, most of the examples that are listed in the book are examples of companies that D'Aveni found in HBS cases--and not his own original case studies.
D'Aveni argues in his book that the environment in which companies compete has transformed into a hypercompetitive environment that breaks all the traditional rules of competition. This hypercompetitive environment has made it more difficult for companies to compete in the marketplace. He also argues that traditional frameworks (e.g., Porter's 5 Forces) of analysis are inadequate and that he has developed a new revolutionary set of analytical tools. However, there are two major flaws in D'Aveni's reasoning:
1. The nature of competition has always been this way. Granted, companies have become more sophisticated and faster when it comes to implementation, but this is simply an evolution and not a revolution.
2. Traditional tools of analysis are not static instruments that only look at a static competitive environment. They are only static, if you use them in such a way, e.g., Porter's 5 forces analysis can be used to evaluate multi-period competitive responses...
Finally, D'Aveni tries to develop his own analytical framework, which he calls the new 7 S's. But D'Aveni needs to do more than just try to associate his model with McKinsey's old 7 S's model. Although some of his S's are useful, most of his model (e.g., "strategic soothsaying") is not very intuitive or useful for critical analysis of an indust! ry.
In conclusion, D'Aveni's book disappoints because it offers seldomly original insights. If you are looking for more "revolutionary" material consider "Value Migration", "The Profit Zone", Michael Porter's trilogy, Jefferey Ellis' classical treay, or Jean-Pierre Jeannet's book on Global Strategies.
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am 7. Februar 1999
Having seen or listened to hundreds of people describe their strategies, I am always struck that most strategies are built around taking the current conditions and assuming they will continue in similar fashion. A key weakness of this thinking is the assumption that the competitor will keep moving in the same direction.
By emphasizing that competition is dynamic (the world is changing, the competitors are changing, trends are changing, and so forth), the author leaves one with a sense that a strategy had better be based on an enormous superiority of concept and performance, against a back-drop of unpredictable changes in the industry. Using overkill (a large hammer to strike at an ant, perhaps) may make strategies more difficult to conceive and execute, but they also leave a company with less risk that the whole thing will turn out terribly wrong.
Intel's strategy is used as an example in this book, and you can think about this as the theoretical underpinnings for Dr. Grove's, ONLY THE PARANOID SURVIVE.
I do not think this work is original enough to be an alternative to Michael Porter, but it is a useful reminder that in highly competitive situations it is very easy to underestimate the size of the task. This book could be good for a company that has tended to develop strategies that were too timid or mild to be effective in light of what the competitors are doing, as a way of changing the mind-set in the company.
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am 28. Mai 2000
D'Aveni manages to convey and explain the current competitive environment. Why nobody has defined it so easily before, I don't understand (everything is simple after you've had it explained to you).
The great thing about D'Aveni, is that he in principle challenges the Porter's and Ansoff's of this world, and explains that competition today is intense, not very well-ordered and competitive advantages is fleeting and has to be constantly renewed. In short, this is the first book in Strategy that I've read and immediately felt at home with. You can't loose, buy it, read it and contemplate it. If you don't agree with its main theme, you're probably of a dying breed of managers, otherwise you need this book to make sense of the competitive landscape of today.
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am 2. August 1997
I had read Hypercompetiton recently and I realized changing our way of thinking about business is one of the biggest challenges of the end of the centuri. D'Avenis model is a breaktrough description about how the market realy works, and how the managers must become more agressive in order to survive to the atack of foreign new game players.

The idea of the unsustainability of the advantages - the core idea of the book- directly destroys Porter's traditional, builded arround researches made inthe 50's.

I strongly recomend this book to be readed by all the executives from a company that wants to become -or remain- a market leader. This is and all-new approach that can make the difference. It is maybe the most remarkable book the 90's has been produced.

Read it
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am 16. Dezember 1997
D'Aveni's view of competition in our global era is right on. Few competitive advantages are truly sustainable, and long-term strategic planning is ineffective. The only long-term sustainable competitive advantage comes from a firm's ability to create short-term advantages that span across numerous competitive arenas - from cost/quality, to know-how, to various types of stronghold positions, to financial muscle. How is that accomplished? By continually disrupting the status quo, changing the rules of the game, by taking an industry in new directions in which competitors' strengths become irrelevant. Strong recommend: lengthy book but "executive summary" is in the 35 page Introduction. Short form paperback version coming out?
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am 3. November 1998
Contrary to some of the more pedantic opionions noted here, Richard D'Aveni's book on Hypercometition has proven to be highly useful in our strategic planning process. While it is true that one may adapt Porter's traditional approaches, Hypercompetition stimulates more focused thought on the competition - who they are, how you can take them out, etc. Deliberately planning to confront, outwit, and defeat your opponent has been decidedly lacking in modern business lore as of late - the current Microsoft case not withstanding. Hypercompetition may not be the sole game in town, but it gives everyone else a run for their money.
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am 22. Oktober 1999
The strategy challenge is "to know all gurus, but to follow none". You need to resolve your own strategy paradoxes by creatively combining aspects from different approches. There is no one best way to make strategy. However, D'Aveni offers training manual for managers to formulate the desired strategy. Excellent. MUST HAVE.
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