THROW out the old rule books of corporate strategy that teach
managers to seek certainty in their markets, attack competitors at
their weak points, and adapt their organizations to succeed in the
current market environment.
In a word, the new business environment is "hypercompetition,"
says Richard D'Aveni associate professor of business administration
at Dartmouth College's Amos Tuck School of Business in Hanover,
N.H. The term, he says, refers to a business environment where
rival companies "strike quickly with unexpected, unconventional
means of competing."
At the annual conference of the Academy of Management here last
week, Mr. D'Aveni, author of "Hypercompetition: The Dynamics of
Strategic Maneuvering" (Free Press, 1994), told fellow
business-school professors that a fundamental shift in the economy
has taken place. As a result, business schools, he says, must teach
future managers how to adapt to this environment.
"The game is now about disruption," says D'Aveni, whose talk was
one of the best attended at the two-day conference.
For example, the most successful firms - from the newly
competitive telecommunications industry to Southwest Airlines -
find ways to reshape the playing field in their favor and challenge
opponents' strengths, making them obsolete.
He contrasts the innovations needed to succeed in
hypercompetition with the current trend of reengineering, which he
describes as learning to do "the same old things" faster.
But has such a revolution actually occurred?
"There is always some exaggeration" when such dramatic claims
are made, asserts Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at the Harvard
Business School in Cambridge, Mass. But her own words echo
D'Aveni's concerning a more uncertain economy, in which innovation
The increasingly global economy, Ms. Kanter says, includes a
work force that is more and more mobile. People who develop
marketable skills can have successful careers spanning several
companies and industries.
But the turmoil is wrenching, she says. Many people, especially
the less skilled - who are most at risk - "are very angry about
To hear D'Aveni tell it, however, going back to more static
models of industry is not an option.
The forces at work
While his colleagues might not label them "forces of
hypercompetition," as D'Aveni does, few experts dispute that these
four "forces" are at work:
*Rising consumer expectations, meaning customers want low
prices, high quality, customization.
*Rapid technological change affecting almost all industries, not
just high-tech ones. …