Richard A. D'Aveni, Professor of Strategic Management

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Strategic Supremacy through Disruption and Dominance

Strategic Supremacy through Disruption and Dominance

Whereas companies once focused primarily on outplaying competitors at a fixed game, now their central focus is on understanding the relationship between an environment's turbulence and their choice of strategy. By doing so, managers can develop better strategies that lead to and maintain strategic supremacy.

This process begins with analysis of a firm's current competitive environment, followed by an understanding of the rules of the game in that industry. If a firm lacks the capabilities to succeed in the environment or wishes to challenge the status quo to improve its position, it might consider changing the rules. The ability to establish the rules of the game to control evolution is one facet of strategic supremacy. The player with strategic supremacy shapes the field and basis of competition for its rivals.

Studies of hypercompetitive environments provide insight into the inextricably intertwined relationships among disruption, patterns of turbulence, the rules of competition, and definition of the playing field. Why is changing the environment important? Some strategies may work well in one environment but not in another. For example, strategies that are successful in fairly stable environments may be a liability in unstable ones. Whereas profits previously depended on stability and lack of rivalry, profits in hypercompetitive environments like those of the 1990s result from increased rivalry that focuses on defining a new basis of competition for customers.

Extending the insights gained from hypercompetitive markets, D'Aveni suggests that turbulence creates competitive environments characterized by distinct patterns of disruption determined by frequency and their competence-destroying or competence-enhancing nature. The four competitive environments (equilibrium, fluctuating equilibrium, punctuated equilibrium, and disequilibrium) require different strategies. The goal of incumbent leaders and challengers in each environment is to achieve strategic supremacy by controlling the degree and pattern of turbulence. But, because rivals and customers are never content with the status quo, the battle for strategic supremacy is continuous.

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