How crises disrupt our mental models and what that means

The Covid-19 epidemics constitutes a major event that completely disrupted world life, rendering all forecasts and plans based on them obsolete within a few weeks. The very nature of a surprise is to bring to light an element of our mental models and invalidate it. Because a disruption is a process, the effects of the virus on sanitary, social, economic, business, and political dimensions unfold progressively and over a long period.

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Does uncertainty mean we live in a post-strategy world?

The Covid shock in the spring of 2020 shattered strategic plans. The continued uncertainty, two years after the beginning of the pandemic, has led some managers to question the very possibility of having a strategy when everything keeps changing. Do we live in a post-strategy world? The short answer is no; we need strategy more than ever, but it depends on how one defines strategy.

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Being yourself: The four strategic lessons from the Coinbase story

Faced with the challenge in legitimacy they are currently facing, companies are often tempted to react defensively, conceding to the zeitgeist, and hoping to get by. Often, the only solution is to build a mask to protect themselves. The problem is that it creates a gulf between who they really are and who they pretend to be, which only accentuates the suspicion. The story of Coinbase, a U.S. startup that found itself in the spotlight last year, shows that a radically opposite approach of asserting one’s uniqueness is not only possible, but pays off.

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It’s the economy, stupid! Europe’s strategic dilemma after Ukraine

[Version in French here]

The invasion of Ukraine is a rude awakening for a Europe that had been asleep for many years in a naive idealism. If the response to the invasion was quick, Europe remains very weak. Beyond the next few weeks, its strategy must involve a profound change of mental model for its economic development.

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Ukraine: the cosmological episode of Europe

[Version in French]

It takes a brutal shock to bring a dreamer back to reality. This is what has just happened to Europe with the invasion of the Ukraine, a transformative event which has led to a questioning of fundamental mental models. Will Europe finally get real?

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Putin, Ukraine and the paradox of strategy

[Version in French]

Strategy is a complex art governed by a paradoxical logic where failure can lead to success and vice versa. The Russian attack on Ukraine offers a good illustration of this nature.

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The market as a living institution: Why Adam Smith must be rehabilitated

[French version here]

Ask anyone with some knowledge of economics about Adam Smith, and they will probably tell you that the great economist is the symbol of unbridled and dehumanized capitalism, with his famous “invisible hand”, which seems to turn us into machines at the mercy of a mechanism that escapes us, and his promotion of selfishness. This is the idea that I myself had for a long time. Yet, this view does not reflect his writings, which instead promoted the market as a living institution governed by ethics. Given Smith’s importance in economic thought, and at a time when the societal role of business and the market is in question, it is important that the debate not be based on a caricature of his thinking.

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Why asking a innovation unit to be more disruptive is not a good idea

[Version française ici]

That innovation units created within large organizations have a difficult life is not new. Most of them disappear after three years on average, because after the euphoric start, they fail to become part of the life of the organization. But those that survive are not out of the woods yet, because they are caught between a top management that demands “more disruption” and an organization that, through its budgetary and control processes, removes any chance for a disruptive project to see the light of day. Getting out of this difficult situation requires being very clear about what “disruptive” means, and understanding the real nature of innovation.

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What Should your Kids Study to Prepare for an Uncertain World?

Why study? The question seems incongruous when asked by Andrew Abbott, professor of sociology, in his welcome address to students at the University of Chicago in 2002. From the outset, Abbott dispels any illusions: what determines success is much more about getting into college than what you do or learn there. Very little of what one learns there is actually useful for a future profession, and non-academic skills, such as the ability to write or think clearly, are rarely the ones that determine professional success. As for the specific knowledge of a trade, apart from the very technical ones, it is most often acquired on the job. It wasn’t until I started running a business that I realized that very little of what I had learned during my MBA was directly useful.

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What A Dead Economist Can Tell Us about Risk, Uncertainty, Profit… and Ourselves

What can we learn from the book of an almost unknown economist, published exactly one century ago? A lot. Is it useful to us in the face of current issues? Yes, very. It turns out that Risk, Uncertainty and Profit, published by Frank Knight in 1921, is an essential book, even if it is difficult to read. It is the first book to really define uncertainty, and to show what this notion implies in decision making. And in doing so, it also tells us a lot about who we are by revealing us as fundamentally speculative.

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