Strategic Learning: How to Be Smarter Than Your Competition and Turn Key Insights into CompetitiveAdvantage
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More About This Title Strategic Learning: How to Be Smarter Than Your Competition and Turn Key Insights into CompetitiveAdvantage


How to use Strategic Learning to rapidly respond to change and gain a sustainable advantage over your competitors

What's even harder than creating a breakthrough strategy? Making it stick. As companies are fighting to survive in a tough economy, this new book by Willie Pietersen demonstrates the power of the Strategic Learning process, a four-step dynamic cycle guaranteed to create and sustain winning performance. Adopted by a wide range of corporations and not-for-profit organizations, the Strategic Learning process builds on eight years of practicing, adapting and honing the original concepts Pietersen first introduced in Reinventing Strategy to explain how organizations can generate superior insights about their customers and competitors, craft a Winning Proposition, focus on a vital few key priorities, create buy-in throughout the organization and achieve success – again and again.

  • Teaches organizations to make smarter decisions that help them win customers and earn superior profits
  • Explains how to instill a culture of openness, learning, and courage that can face and respond to the constantly changing business environment
  • Is a tool that can benefit leaders at all levels, in organizations both large and small, global and domestic, for-profit and not-for-profit
  • Author Willie Pietersen, a former president of Tropicana and Seagram USA, is a professor of management at Columbia Business School, and the author of Reinventing Strategy, from Wiley

Strategic Learning shows you how your business or nonprofit organization can develop better, more effective strategies for long-term competitive advantage.


Willie Pietersen was raised in South Africa and received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. After practicing law, he embarked on an international business career, serving as the CEO of multibillion-dollar businesses such as Lever Foods, Seagram USA, Tropicana, and Sterling Winthrop's Consumer Health Group. Since 1998, Pietersen has been Professor of the Practice of Management at the Columbia University Business School. He has served as teacher and advisor to many global companies, including Boeing, Deloitte, DePuy, Ericsson, ExxonMobil, Novartis, SAP, and the Girl Scouts of the USA. He is the author of Reinventing Strategy, which is widely used by organizations as a guide to the creation of winning strategies, and has been translated into Spanish and Chinese.

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The New Competitive Context.

Winning in the New Environment.

Reinventing Strategy with Strategic Learning.

Why This Book?

Getting to Excelling.


CHAPTER 1 The Real Job of Strategy.

What Is Strategy?

What Key Questions Must Strategy Answer for Us?

Choice-Making in Action.

Strategy and Planning Are Different.

Closing the Doing/Excelling Gap.

CHAPTER 2 Defining Competitive Advantage: How Much More Value Do You Deliver Than Your Competitors?

Mind the Gap.

Stretching the Elastic Band.

GM’s Race to the Bottom.

Value Leadership through a Winning Proposition.

What’s Your Winning Proposition?

The Moment of Truth.


CHAPTER 3 Strategic Learning: Four Key Steps, One Cycle.

Do You Have a Robust Method?

What Were We Thinking?

The Theory of Natural Selection.

Complexity Theory.

Learning Organizations.

Strategy’s New Mission.

The Five Killer Competencies.

The Strategic Learning Cycle.

What We’ve Learned from Deming.

Building Capability through Deliberate Practice.

CHAPTER 4 Learn: Using a Situation Analysis to Generate Superior.

Insights about Your External Environment and Your Own Realities.

The ‘‘Sense and Respond’’ Imperative.

Learning through the Situation Analysis.

Analyzing Customer Needs.

Who Are Our Stakeholders and Why Do They Matter?

Analyzing Competitors.

Interpreting Industry Dynamics.

Taking a Broader View.

Facing Your Own Realities.

Pulling Together the Situation Analysis.

Winning the Battle for Insights.

Doing a Great Situation Analysis: The Rules of Success.

CHAPTER 5 Focus: Clarifying Your Winning Proposition and Identifying Your Key Priorities.

Making Your Strategic Choices.

The Parmenides Fallacy.

Value Proposition versus Winning Proposition.

Where Does Your Vision Fit In?

Delivering Superior Profits.

The Three Bottom Lines.

Your Key Priorities.

How the Girl Scouts Did It.

Deciding What Not to Do.

CHAPTER 6 Align: Mobilizing Your Entire Organization behind Your Strategy.

Leading a Journey.

The Golden Rules of Successful Execution.

Closing the Gaps.

The Business Ecosystem.

Changing an Organization’s Culture.

Avoiding the Values Trap.

CHAPTER 7 Overcoming Resistance to Change and Driving Momentum.

Dealing with the Sources of Resistance.

The Lessons of the Sigmoid Curve.

The Curse of Success.

Launching the Second Curve.

Maximize Participation.

Generate Short-Term Wins.

Deal Directly with Resisters.

Set a Shining Example.

CHAPTER 8 Translating Your Strategy into a Compelling Leadership Message.

What Is Leadership?

Building a Cathedral.

Commander’s Intent.

Who Are the Leaders?

Developing Your Leadership Message.

The Power of Storytelling.

The Need for Repetition.

CHAPTER 9 Execute: Implementing and Experimenting in the Strategic Learning Cycle.

Learning through Experimentation.

Learning from Others.

Learning from Mistakes.

Experiential Learning: The After-Action Review.

Strategic Learning 365 Days a Year.


CHAPTER 10 Leading through a Crisis.

Dealing Successfully with the Unexpected.

Learning Your Way Out of a Crisis.

Building Readiness.

Seizing Opportunities during a Crisis.

The Human Dimension.

CHAPTER 11 Becoming an Integrated Leader.

The Three Domains of Leadership.

Articulating Your Leadership Credo.

The Quest for Self-Knowledge.

The Lifeline Exercise.

Applying Strategic Learning to Yourself.


The 5 Cs: Choices, Clarity, Change, Courage, and Compassion.

The Five Cs.