Shaping firms mold or reshape an industry by influencing the development of a market in its favor through coordination with other players. A shaping approach both permits and requires a firm to collaborate with others in a diverse ecosystem that distributes risk, supplies complementary capabilities and resources, and builds the market quickly through strength in numbers. A shaping firm operates with a high degree of unpredictability because it faces an early stage of industry evolution and because of the participation of multiple stakeholders that it must influence but cannot control.
Deploy a shaping strategy when there is an opportunity to write or rewrite the rules of an industry at a nascent stage of its development. Highly fragmented, young, dynamic industries; freshly disrupted industries; and emerging markets are all ripe for shaping. The opportunities are intrinsically unpredictable regarding size, growth rates, and profitability, and are malleable because of low barriers to entry and the unfamiliarity of regulators with new products. Timing and positioning are key. Shaping strategists must seize an inflection point in the early development of a market or in the disruption of an existing one and must also have enough influence to attract other powerful stakeholders to its ecosystem.
Shaping firms engage other stakeholders to create a shared vision at the right point in time, to build a platform through which they influence and orchestrate collaboration, and, finally, to evolve the platform and ecosystem by scaling it and keeping it flexible. Therefore, the way to win is through codevelopment of the market and industry by multiple players. As with the adaptive approach, the shaping strategy eventually emerges from continuous iteration of three elements: repeated engagement, orchestration, and evolution of the ecosystem.
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