The Whole Foods Strategy…Isn’t (Whole)

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There’s an interesting strategic play being made by Whole Foods Markets, in the midst of the company’s nearly $2 billion one-day drop in market value a few weeks ago, on the announcement of a shareholder lawsuit. Whole Foods had already come under legal pressure concerning claims of overcharging, but this new lawsuit claims securities fraud.

Now, when shareholders file a lawsuit like that, it’s not a good thing. Especially not when Millennial buyers, a segment Whole Foods has failed miserably in attracting, snicker at the chain’s exorbitant prices and call the chain “Whole Paycheck.”

In the midst of all this, Whole Foods has decided to take a market segmentation strategy to reverse its downward trend, a strategy aimed squarely at Trader Joe’s, a solid Millennial brand: launch a chain of smaller, lower-priced stores that focus entirely on stock with the Whole Foods private label, 365.

Whole Foods is going to try to out-Trader Joe’s Trader Joe’s,

This should be fun to watch, strategically speaking.

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Nomination Wanted: 2015 Thinkers50

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Not until this year’s Thinkers50 nominations would I have ever given the possibility of being nominated a glancing thought. I consider myself to be more of a solid practitioner of others’ ideas than a high-concept thinker. My three areas of focus — strategy, innovation, and lean — are all founded on the ground-level, everyday application of Roger Martin’s Play-to-Win framework (strategy), IDEO/Stanford d school-originated design thinking (innovation), and Toyota-born systems thinking (lean).

That’s why I perked up when the guys at Thinkers50 announced some new categories, including “Ideas into Practice.” That just about sums me up in three simple words.

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What Apple Can Learn From Tires

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I am happy to see more and more companies providing product information in a form that is actually meaningful to people. I’m not sure why so many companies delight in listing the technical specs of their products, as if they relate to anything remotely useful to human beings trying to make a decision in the real world.

Take, for example, Apple. Nearly all of the information they provide requires at least one step to translate into something meaningful. And by meaningful, I’m referring to a useful and actionable answer to the question of “so what?” In still other words, I want to know why a certain spec matters to me.  (more…)

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A Strategy Test: Does It Nest?

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A few days ago, as I was waiting for an item I purchased in my local Apple store to be brought out to me from the back of the store, I had the opportunity to observe Apple’s frontline strategy be played out in front of me. It revolved around another floor associate assisting a gentleman considering the purchase of an Apple watch.

Now, you might be thinking, what possible strategy would or could an Apple associate on the floor really need? Apple devices sell themselves, right? Wrong. Especially in the case of the Apple watch, which was a strategic product choice seemingly unrelated Apple’s core business. Many pundits questioned Apple’s decision. For many, it was a head scratcher.

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The Gremlin Strategy, or How to Ward Off Disruption

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It takes a special kind of person to be inspired by a mandate riddled with risk and having little margin for error, such as the one issued in the early 1990s by NASA to its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California: “Take risks but don’t fail.”

Such a person is Brian Muirhead, who at age 41 in 1993 accepted the job as flight systems manager of the Mars Pathfinder project and with it the NASA challenge to land a cutting-edge, remote-controlled robotic all-terrain rover on Mars that would reliably beam back images, collect samples, and return scientific data on the red planet.

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