Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight


To bring a knife to a gunfight means entering into a confrontation or any challenging situation without being adequately equipped or prepared.

A wave of change has washed over the business world and thrust so many companies into a very challenging business environment. Business leaders know this. Boards of directors know this. Employees know this. However, in spite of such a challenges and change businesses still are continuing the way they always have.

Recalibration, Not: Digital, Social, Innovation, Data, Transformation

A decade ago Digital and Social were the buzzwords. More recently came Innovation and Data and Digital Transformation. The thing is, none of these things matter in isolation.

What business needs is Recalibration.

To recalibrate means to adjust precisely for a particular function. You will often see it in a map app for example. You calibrate your compass when it is off direction, out of sync or not in flow.

Fig 1: A map app being calibrated.

As you can see from figure one above the phone is brought on a journey to be recalibrated. Similarly, businesses need to go through a similar journey and ask themselves a series of fundamental questions.

Is my proposition in flow?

The usual methodology is a retreat of sorts or as I have written about before a forced fun day.

· A team of senior executives go away

· They partake in a team building exercise

· They go for a few drinks and a meal

· The next day meet to develop a strategy

· Several Flipchart pages are gathered

· A mission and set of values are created

The problem? The insights and data informing the strategy all come from the same place, from within the company, from within the industry and from the same places everyone else reads.


So many businesses are in need of recalibration because they are not in flow. This because of seismic shifts in business and society. This is because of the evolving patterns of people and things. People’s values are changing; they are evolving from value system to value system. This of course happens at different times in different societies. The UK will be at a different evolution than Australia for example, so business models and marketing messages need to be adapted to the value systems of different societies.

Creative agencies have been saying this for years.

Localising an advertising campaign IS NOTsimply a case of changing the currency symbol and dubbing in local voices

It goes much further than marketing communications and advertising, businesses need to truly be global and act local by adapting to the local value systems as well as a plethora of other elements.

Likewise with “things” (products, business models, technologies). The evolution of things needs to be considered for the various value systems in which they are to be proposed.

Lock and Key

Consider the image of a key entering a lock. Think about the precision and craftsmanship required to ensure all variables are in sync. When you look at the key passing each element; consider those elements to be different variables such as value systems, geographies and propositions.

Focusing on the same things everyone else focuses on and relying on the same information leads to ~me too~ propositions. How about instead focusing on interesting interfaces and interactions between key elements of your business, value chain and view each element as a system that can be evolved and revolutionised.

Without this kind of thinking a business may be lucky for a period of time, but it will eventually catch up and the company will find itself ripe for disruption.

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