"An emperor could be created somewhere other than at Rome."
We often hear of the "death of distance" and the "global village," which give the impression that space is irrelevant in today's global economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The world might have grown smaller on a communication-based scale, but space has not shrunk. Spaces are social and cultural constructs issuing from human interaction. Managers who aim to discover new growth opportunities for their enterprises should move to the frontier of the known markets and businesses.
The unexplored spaces are in the periphery, where, instead of having sharp borders, border spaces are ever-changing. Occupying these spaces means creating value for the business and its clients.
The notion of space may be the most fundamental underpinning of strategic thinking. Strategy is all about exploration and movement through a space: we must leave our current location, navigate through uncharted and perhaps changing space, and arrive intact and on time at a destination favorable to further departures.
We can choose the spaces we want to inhabit, but apart from any given moment and the near future, we are not free to move in time. This is where the opportunities and the challenges arise for the strategist of spatial thinking.
Publications on Metaphorical Thinking
Constructing Strategic Spaces
This brief article argues that "space" is an important modality of strategic thought. Strategic spaces are the fruits of free imagination and disciplined construction. Tiha von Ghyczy shows that our minds allocate attributes to space in an act of creative construction and divide space into the categories of physical, social, and representational space.
Constructing strategic spaces is essential to a successful segmentation, which thus fosters a clear focus on innovation and success.
BCG Perspectives, November 2006
Center and Periphery
History teaches us that the center does not always remain uncontested. Outsiders in the periphery often traverse the distance to the center and conquer it. By contrast, it is much harder but not impossible for the center to make its way to the periphery. However, says Bolko von Oetinger in this article, those who occupy the center usually recognize their vulnerability only when it is too late. Every business competes in a dialectical space between the center and the periphery.
BCG Perspectives, June 2007
Die Renaissance des Raumes (The Renaissance of Space)
In this article, Bolko von Oetinger explains how we can adapt the spatial turn in humanities to business strategy. A well-known application of spatial thinking concerns the contrast between center and periphery. The center of a business or industry is always a depository of beliefs describing its historical success. These beliefs work to hamper innovation.
Nothing hinders the emergence of something new more than the successes of the past. Fundamental innovation in any given industry, therefore, often comes not from established market leaders, but from outsiders-that is, from the periphery.
Bolko von Oetinger, "Die Renaissance des Raumes" ("The Renaissance of Space"), Harvard Businessmanager (October 2004), pp. 34-43.
Available only in German.