Geoffrey Moore is chairman emeritus of three Silicon-Valley-based consulting firms he helped found: The Chasm Group, the Chasm Institute, and TCG Advisors, all of which provide market development and business strategy services to many leading high-technology companies. He is also a Venture Partner with Mohr Davidow Ventures, a California-based venture capital firm investing in IT, bioinformatics, and clean tech, where he provides market strategy advice to their portfolio companies. Geoffrey is a frequent speaker and lecturer at industry conferences and his books are required reading at Stanford, Harvard, MIT and other leading business schools.
Escape Velocity is Geoffrey’s sixth book. His first two, Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, focus on the challenges of market development for disruptive innovation, with his third book, The Gorilla Game, co-authored by Tom Kippola and Paul Johnson, address the investor implications of these models. In the past decade Moore shifted his focus to the challenges established enterprises face in keeping up with technology disruptions, resulting in a second trilogy, made up of Living on the Fault Line and Dealing with Darwin, as well as his latest book, Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future from the Pull of the Past.
Here is an excerpt from the interview. To read all of it, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Velocity Escape, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Moore: I’d have to say my wife Marie, and my three children, Margaret, Michael, and Anna. Each one of them exemplifies character traits I aspire to (and regrettably fall short of all too often!). Some of these traits include the ability to be silent (hardly my strong suit), to produce art both as performers and creators, and to empathize in situations where it would be far easier to criticize
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Moore: My very first boss in business, Don Parr, hired me as a training director into a software company. completely on the basis of all potential, as I had no direct experience in business and certainly none in technology. I remember telling him after a few weeks on the job that the only person who did not have a training program was me. He said, “Oh no, you do have a program. It’s called the pretend method of training.” I asked, “How so?” His reply: “Well, when you applied for this job you pretended that you knew how to do it, and I pretended that I believed you, and now you have to make it so or you will make us both look foolish.”
Morris: Was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) in your life that set you on the career course that you continue to follow? Please explain.
Moore: I was teaching literature at Olivet, a small college in Michigan, and Marie and I realized we wanted to raise our family closer to our families on the West Coast. There was no chance that we would be able to do that and have me stay in my chosen profession. So we sort of just jumped and trusted that something good we be there at the other end. It certainly has worked out that way, which I think is a testimony in part to a good liberal arts education preparing one, really, for anything.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education proven invaluable to what you have accomplished in your life thus far?
Moore: Literary criticism is all about inference, analysis, and synthesis—and so is marketing. Both are all about understanding and creating stories, testing them for appeal, credibility, consistency, and so forth. Particularly in venture capital, the story is the most credible part of the pitch—the spreadsheets by far the most fictitious.
Morris: In your opinion, who should be centrally involved in formulating an organization’s strategy?
Moore: Strategy has to be owned and sponsored by the CEO—period. How much the CEO engages the rest of the team is a matter of culture, style and preference. There is no right answer. That said, in our practice we have found that when people are involved in creating strategy, they are much more likely to commit deeply to implementing it
Morris: By what specific process should it be formulated?
Moore: As outlined in the book, we propose taking three passes at it, the first focused on vision¸ to set the context, the second on strategy per se, and the third on execution, to ensure its implementation. We believe that these dialogs are typically best conducted on an annual basis, and scheduled the quarter before next year’s annual planning and budgeting process begins.
Morris: What are the most common misconceptions about what strategy is…and isn’t. What in fact is true?
Moore: Strategy is all about aligning with forces in the world so that you can accomplish your mission or goals. It must start with an act of description¸ therefore, in preparation for an act of prescription, that specifies how you are going to act in order to achieve the alignments and outcomes you desire. The most common mistake with strategy is to start with a focus on what you want, and even worse, what metrics you want to achieve, and then to go out and try to impose that on the world without other considerations.
Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations. Please respond to each. First, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Moore: Possibly redoing it might trump this, but not much else. So yes, doing the right things has to take priority over doing things right. But strategy should not denigrate staying the course or steady as she goes. There are times and places where that is by far the most effective path forward.
Morris: And next, from Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Moore: I disagree. I do think this is a good litmus test for testing an organization’s level of commitment to strategic action—if you won’t give up anything, then you are not making much of a commitment. My nominee for essence is the asymmetrical bet, doing something that your direct competitors simply will not copy because it goes beyond what is reasonable and prudent. The only justification is that it defines your core so directly that it is worth the risk to you—but not to anyone else.
Morris: In your opinion, what is the single greatest challenge that CEOs will face during (let’s say) the next 3-5 years? Any advice for them?
Moore: Two challenges in tandem—globalization, which will reward them for taking the long view, and financial markets, which will drive them to take the short view. Like Odysseus, they have to sail the right path between cave of Scylla and the whirlpool of Charbydis.
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To read all of my second interview of Geoff, please click here.
To read my first interview of him, please click here.
He cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Bob Morris is an independent management consultant based in Dallas who specializes in accelerated executive development. He has interviewed more than 100 business thought leaders and reviewed more than 2,200 business books for Amazon. Each week, we will add to the Networlding Business Bookshelf abbreviated reviews in which he discusses a few of his personal favorites. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.