Bring Your Questions for Strategy Guru A.G. Lafley

by Carlos Dominguez


A.G. Lafley, former Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble is my hero among businessmen.  He doubled sales and quadrupled profits of P&G: need I say more?  And not only will I have a chance to engage him in conversation tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Executive Symposium, but you’ll have an opportunity to ask him to address your specific questions as well.  In reading his book(with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management) Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (a copy of which is included in your conference packet), here are a few of the questions I’m considering asking him.  Post your questions in the comments field and I’ll ask them as well.

Here’s some background: 

Lafley defines a strategy as a coordinated and integrated set of five choices

  • A winning aspiration
  • Where to play
  • How to win
  • Core capabilities
  • Management systems

Lafley outlines some of the ineffective ways that companies view strategy

  • Strategy is not just vision
  • Strategy is not just a plan
  • Strategy is not optimization of the status quo
  • Strategy is not following best practices
  1. You talk about ‘emergent strategy’ as a way some people view strategy in turbulent times; you say in rebuttal that strategy – long-term and medium-term – is possible in times of change.  How should the strategy be different or morph to respond to times of upheaval?
  2. PLAYING TO WIN: Lafley says there’s a difference between playing to win, and playing to play.
    a. Are the majority of organizations just playing to play?
    b. Do you perceive that it’s getting worse, that people are blaming the bad economy etc. on their inappropriate plan to just survive instead of win?
  3. WHERE TO PLAY: I’m particularly interested in the “where to play” decision.  Have too many companies adopted the old ‘build it and they will come’ concept?
  4. Where to play is also a decision on where NOT to play.  And deciding to change where you’ve been playing is a more difficult decision.  Let’s talk about the difficulty of divesting, or changing the status quo with regards to where to play.
  5. He cites “three dangerous temptations around where to play:
    a. Refusing to choose, or trying to play in all places at all times
    b. Buying your way out of a bad choice
    c. Being resigned to an unattractive choice”

Should be a great conversation! Post your questions here, or come prepared to take the mic and engage! 

An Abundance of Insights from Day 1

by Carlos Dominguez

Wow! Great first day at the Executive Symposium. Post your own perceptions here in the comments field: I really want to hear what you think.  My favorite nuggets of wisdom from the day came from Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize and co-founder of Singularity University, author of Abundance: the Future is Better than You Think.  Executives I spoke with afterward had mixed reactions to his view of the future: cortical implants (gulp!), global literacy (yes!).  

  • As soon as things or services are digitized, they harness exponential growth and then are subject to dematerialization (books and CDs on the phone for example); demonetization (e.g. free maps and directions; craigslist’s impact on classified); and democratization (now everyone’s a movie producer).

Dean Kamen’s invention of a product to purify any type of water no matter how polluted or salinized.  It’s the size of a dorm fridge (as opposed to enormous desalination or purification plants), costs just $2,500 to manufacture and the water costs $0.02 per liter, with the ability to produce 1,000 liters per day.  He calls it Slingshot in honor of the weapon David used to slay Goliath and it has potential on that scale: addressing the needs of the 783 million people without access to clean water.  He’s recently partnered with Coca-Cola to place his machines throughout Africa and Central America in hopes of eliminating the millions of deaths each year related to waterborne disease.

Diamandis outlined the six areas where we can next expect exponential growth:

  1. Computation/Networks
  2. Artificial Intelligence
  3. Robotics
  4. Synthetic Biology
  5. Digital Medicine
  6. 3D Printing

In perhaps the most controversial statement of the day, Diamandis said “if you’re relying on innovation from inside your company, you’re dead.”

What do you think?


Cisco Networking Academy Meet-up

map of Networking academies.jpg

by Carlos Dominguez with Jess Wells

As the Cisco Executive Symposium, IT Management Program, and Cisco Live open their doors, I’m reminded that it takes a village, and working hard in the village here are students from the Cisco Networking Academy who – alongside Cisco engineers – are building the wireless network to support the event.  

Anybody who’s met me knows I love young people: their confidence, their honesty, the world of potential in their eyes. During my annual meet-and-greet with the Academy students at Cisco Live I’m inspired by stories of mothers who have raised their children and now chosen network administration as their new career; of former U.S. Marines who now excel in cyber defense; of an Academy student who dreams of living in Japan; of former teachers; a winner of the Army Achievement Medal while part of the Chemical Defense Program who’s now applying his determination to network defense. Each story a testimony to the ability to reinvent yourself, to adapt to changes in the economy, to follow a dream.

Ten students competed with essays and video to be selected from across the US & Canada to attend. There’s also a large group of students from local Orlando-area academies -- like Polk State University, DeVry, and Valencia College -- that are also working the event as interns.  A total of 40 students and four instructors over the course of the week -- a large presence, which demonstrates the faith we have in the competence of our students! Many of them also plan to take their Cisco certification while onsite.

Founded in 1997, the Cisco Networking Academy program -- with 10,000 academies in 165 countries --now teaches the skills needed to build, design, and maintain networks to hundreds of thousands of students worldwide every year.  And to me, each one contains an inspiring story.  Hats off to the Networking Academy!