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E297 | The Strategic Problem of Change with Martin Reeves

Martin Reeves, Chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, delves into the nuanced world of strategy, addressing its complexities in both personal and business spheres. In an engaging discussion, he highlights the scarcity of truly exceptional strategies and underscores the necessity of evaluating success progressively over time. Through his conversation with Dominic Monkhouse, Reeves elaborates on CEOs’ critical role in executing strategies and the hurdles involved in preserving an innovative culture as organisations expand. He sheds light on why keeping strategies confidential can be beneficial, the adaptability required in strategic planning, and the risks posed by complacency and an inward focus.

This podcast highlights the vital role of imagination and creativity in spurring innovation and fostering organisational change. They dissect the challenges associated with implementing transformative ideas, emphasising the need to move beyond conventional procedures and navigate internal politics effectively. The power of storytelling and the ability to mobilise enthusiasm for new ideas are discussed as pivotal tools in driving change. The conversation touches on the importance of framing the right questions, the paradox of hierarchy and innovation, and the need for depoliticisation and depth of debate in business. Martin shares insights from his book ‘The Imagination Machine’ and recommends other books on innovation and strategy.

On today’s podcast: 

  • Great strategies are rare and enduring success is hard to achieve.
  • The role of CEOs in strategy execution
  • Secrecy in strategy is not as valuable as having robust and evolvable scripts.
  • Complacency and internal focus can hinder innovation and change.
  • Imagination is a crucial aspect of strategy and should be given more attention. Change is a strategic problem that requires understanding the forces of change and resistance and working on both sides of the equation.
  • Selling ideas and driving change requires storytelling, galvanising energy, and making it clear why the change is in everyone’s best interest.
  • Mental models can limit creativity and innovation, and it’s important to challenge existing mental models and embrace counterfactual thinking.
  • Depoliticisation and depth of debate are crucial for effective strategy and innovation.
  • Ambidexterity is the ability to balance the focus on running the current business with preparing for the future.
  • Diversity is important for variation and selection, but it requires a focus on both ethical and evolutionary aspects.
  • Curiosity drives innovation and learning, and listening is a skill that can be continuously improved.
  • Simplicity and focus are more valuable than comprehensive and exhaustive lists of strategies and actions.
  • The biggest myth in business is that it’s mostly a financial equation when in reality, it’s about serving human ends and using human means to achieve them.

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Your strategy needs a strategy

Who is Martin Reeves

Martin is the Chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute and one of BCG’s most prolific strategic minds. He is a regular contributor to HBR, MIT SMR, Fortune and other management journals on business strategy and management, as well as a regular public speaker and a repeat TED@BCG presenter. Martin is co-author of The Imagination Machine, an executive’s guide to systematically harnessing imagination for corporate reinvention and rejuvenation. 

He also co-wrote Strategy Needs a Strategy, which proposes the strategy palette as a tool to enable business leaders to tune their approach to strategy to the environment of each business. Martin is the editor of the Inspiring the Next Game book series, published by De Gruyter. Finally, he hosts the BCG Henderson Institute’s flagship Thinkers & Ideas podcast. Since joining BCG in 1989, Martin has led a broad range of strategy assignments in the Financial Institutions, Consumer Goods, Industrial Goods and Health Care sectors. He has particular expertise in the areas of adaptive strategy, strategy for multi-business systems, sustainability strategies, ecosystem strategies, collective learning and innovation, corporate vitality, and trust. Martin holds an MBA from Cranfield University School of Management and an MA in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge.

What you’ll learn from Martin

06:23 The Rarity of Great Strategies and Enduring Success

13:10 The Value of Robust and Evolvable Scripts

30:26 Depoliticisation and Depth of Debate in Business

38:05 Curiosity and Continuous Learning

51:25 Business as a Human-Centric Endeavor

Co-Intelligence: Living and working with AI

Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly

The Intelligence of Intuition

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