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Competing for the Future Paperback – 1 Mar 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875847161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875847160
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.1 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 325,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

Winning in business today is not about being number one--it's about who "gets to the future first", write management consultants Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad. In Competing for the Future, they urge companies to create their own futures, envision new markets and reinvent themselves.

Hamel and Prahalad caution that complacent managers who get too comfortable in doing things the way they have always done will see their companies fall behind. For instance, the authors consider the battle between IBM and Apple in the 1970s. Entrenched as the leading mainframe-computer maker, IBM failed to see the potential market for personal computers. That left the door wide open for Apple, which envisioned a computer for every man, woman and child. The authors write, "At worst, laggards follow the path of greatest familiarity. Challengers, on the other hand, follow the path of greatest opportunity, wherever it leads". They argue that business leaders need to be more than "maintenance engineers", worrying only about budget cutting, streamlining, re-engineering, and other old tactics. Definitely not for dilettantes, Competing for the Future is for managers who are serious about getting their companies in front. --Dan Ring,


Named one of "The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books" by "TIME Magazine" (

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Few companies that began the 1980s as industry leaders ended the decade with their leadership in tact and undiminished. Many household name companies saw their success eroded or destroyed by tides of technological, demographic and regulatory change and order-of-magnitude productivity gains made by nontraditional competitors. "Do you really have a global strategy", the first HBR article by Hamel and Prahalad, developed the theme that small companies could prevail against larger, richer companies by inventing new ways of doing more with less. Differences in resource effectiveness could not be explained by efficiency, labor or capital, but by amazingly ambitious goals that stretched beyond typical strategic plans, raising the question how such incredible goals could get past the credibility test and be made tangible and real to employees? Frequently the small challengers rewrote the rules of engagement; flexibility and speed were built atop supplier-management advantage, built atop quality advantages. Companies made commitments to particular skill areas a decade in advance of specific end-product markets. How did executives select which capabilities to build for the future? Some managers were foresightful, others imagined and gave birth to entirely new products and services. These managers created new competitive space while laggard companies protected the past rather than creating the future. Existing theory throws little light on what it takes to fundamentally reshape an industry and the gap provoked this book in which the goal is to enlarge the concept of the industry and not just the organization. Being incrementally better is not enough because a company that cannot imagine the future won't be around to enjoy it.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Although I'm no longer completely convinced that the "core competencies" approach is always the right approach to stategic planning, Hamel and Prahalad's work is important reading. Every organization should understand its core competencies and take them into account in their strategic planning process. Having said that, however, I personally prefer the "Key Strategic Driver" concept laid out by Mike Robert in his book "Strategy Pure and Simple". When working with my clients on strategic planning activities, we often discuss core competencies as a prelude to exploring the company's "driving force" or "strategic heartbeat". Adam Lefton
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Format: Paperback
If your really want to understand how to compete for the future, read Crossing the Chasm, following by Inside the Tornado (Geoffrey Moore). Competing for the Future will largely waste your time. It is a 100 page book crammed into 300+ pages. The authors spend lots of time repeating fuzzy feel good ideas, and criticizing current managers, but say little that would actually help you compete for the future. They continually cite Apple as the poster child for Competing for the Future (ignoring the fact that the Mac was created in a skunkworks -- a concept they poo-poo.) Yet you can see from Apple's plight today that Hamel and Prahalad have certainly not found the most important thing for long term success. Companies that spend too much time looking 20 years out will never see it, as Apple will not. The truth is that top management can certainly ask themselves "What will competition mean in 20 years?", but they will most certainly be wrong. We live in chaotic times, and the best companies know how to turn on a dime and exploit current emerging markets (Microsoft is great at this). Hamel and Prahalad's books is destined to sit on many shelves, looking very impressive but doing nothing for its readers.
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Format: Paperback
It's been a number of years since Hamel co-wrote this seminal work, and its essence has been re-worked frequently, both by him and others. Indeed, it's a testament to its importance and relevance that it forms the backbone of so much of today's 'accepted wisdom'.
However, neither nostalgia or originality are the reasons to buy this book - rather it's simply that it's so well written - each argument is clear, progressing through why competitive strategy is not quite as mechanical as Porter would have us believe, and then illustrating how this has been achieved by well-known companies.
The result is a compelling and convincing read, which has stood the test of time - if you're looking for a framework for understanding how to compete with other firms, grab a copy.
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Format: Hardcover
This book popularised the important insights and ideas that came out of resource based strategy in the early nineties because it's one of the few strategy books that crossed over into the mainstream management books. It was written at a time when business process re-engineering and restructuring were the popular panaceas for business success but there was one fundamental can't cut your way to growth.

The authors were intrigued by the question of why smaller rivals could beat much bigger, richer companies and why market power and market share advantages were not a strong enough defence. This focused their attention on the entire process of creating future competitive advantages. They noticed that some management teams had more foresight and competed to build future competencies rather than immediate market share.

I particularly like the power of these three questions asked early in the book to focus attention on how much time you really spend thinking about what may happen.
1 - What percentage of your time is spent on external rather than internal issues?
2 - Of this time, how much is spent considering how the world will be different in five to ten years time?
3 - Of the time devoted to looking outward and forward, how much of it is spent consulting with colleagues to build a shared, well tested view of the future?

They found a 40/30/20 rule which meant that just 2.4% of time was spent building a shared view of the future. In some cases it was less than 1% and that's a sobering thought.

They argue that strategy should be about competing for future opportunity share rather than market. It is based on building competencies that give you the opportunities to compete in multiple markets, many of which don't exist yet.
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