Dr. Alexandro Armour
Dr. Alexandro F. Armour is a Technology Entrepreneur and Founding Board Director focused on the operation and acquisition of firms at the intersection of the healthcare and technology industries.
Dr. Armour currently leads an executive board specializing in technology, healthcare, finance and accounting, legal, mergers and acquisitions. Dr. Armour’s academic research interests include strategic innovation at the intersection of the technology and healthcare industries.
He has served a diverse client base including commercial, higher education, and federal and state government organizations. Prior to BoldBrix, Dr. Armour’s positions included Senior Product Consultant at PeopleSoft, Inc. (now Oracle), Senior Consultant with KPMG Consulting, LLC (formerly BearingPoint), and U.S. Air Force officer, honorably discharged at the rank of Captain.
Dr. Armour received his BS in Management from the U.S. Air Force Academy, MBA from Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, and an In-Residence Executive Doctorate of Business (EDB) from Georgia State University.
A polymathic and polyglot aspirant, he enjoys research and development (R&D) activities in emerging technologies and the lifelong pursuit of dot-connecting.
I recall the genesis of this book arriving to me in thought form while sitting in one of my courses during my doctoral studies. With the wave of cognitive technologies starting to gather momentum in the industry, I had become particularly interested in the landscape of strategic innovation models and futurist methodologies. As the business media sounded the alarm, I suspected that these methodologies, coupled with cognitive technologies, would eventually set up a “winner takes all” scenario for those executives that pivot their business models appropriately.
Over my last 16 years of technical entrepreneurship, I had become fascinated with the spectacular rise and fall of companies, both large and small. What really made that happen? I had also come to a fork in the road of my own entrepreneurial pursuits. Would I keep doing what I’m most familiar with doing for as long as I possibly could…basically wringing the last drop of revenue out of a highly mature industry? Or would I hop to the “next big thing”, whatever that might be? The most important question started to become…what exactly IS the next big thing? And will my company get it right?
So, with that as a backdrop, I became particularly interested in the strategic innovation of large companies. How did successful large companies stay relevant over such a long period of time? How did small ones become so relevant so quickly during this Fourth Industrial Revolution? And would they stay that way? How much of their consistency would be attributed to the management team? Or product mix? Did they simply “build a better mouse trap” than most or something more revolutionary? The overriding question that always remained was: How could a company (large or small) BALANCE the continued exploitation of their current core competency with the exploration of a potential future competency, without failing in the process?
With that question driving my innate curiosity throughout my entrepreneurial pursuits and into my first year of doctoral studies, the fall of my second year began to shape it more clearly. And as I delved deeper into a Theory and Practice of Collective Action course, I could now give a name to it: Contextual Ambidexterity. And now with a theory to describe it, I decided to set a path to discover if I could successfully master it. And, after much thought, it evolved into a simple and useful name…SOLVES. Ultimately, this mastery will take considerable time with many ebbs and flows along the way. I consider this book its documented initiation.
There’s often a tug-of-war between two classes of thought around one particular word in business: Focus. Some of our highest profile businessmen, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, give much of the credit of their success to the ability to focus.
While not denying that focus should be paramount in business, there’s often a reason to pay attention to market opportunities that are beyond the horizon.
My mission is to help decision makers to consider the virtues of actively exploring alternative futures in order to create value for themselves, their clients and the world around them.
Business media is replete with examples of large businesses that have shuttered because they were a bit too focused on their present at the expense of their future. Although we may never hear of them, it’s safe to assume that many more Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMB) might suffer the same fate.
WHAT’S IN A WORD? A BETTER UNDERSTANDING AND PRACTICAL USE
When engaged in conversations with colleagues, I would often try to explain the term contextual ambidexterity. The word “ambidextrous” is often understood as the ability to use both hands. However, applying that to business is often met with initial confusion.
Ambidexterity is all about the balance between exploitation and exploration. In a seminal 1991 article, Stanford professor James March stated that the essence of exploitation is the “refinement and extension of existing competences, technologies, and paradigms. Its returns are positive, proximate, and predictable”.
The essence of exploration is “experimentation with new alternatives. Its returns are uncertain, distant, and often negative”. In order to bring this ideal from the halls of the academy to the practical business world, I recasted contextual ambidexterity to the term “systemic balance”.
AN OPTIMAL BALANCE OF THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE IS PARAMOUNT
It seems clear that an organization that only focuses on exploitation will eventually suffer from obsolescence and an organization that solely focuses on exploration will never have the gains from the knowledge they obtained.
Although finding the appropriate balance between exploitation and exploration is hard to specify, there is empirical evidence that contextual ambidexterity (or “systemic balance”) leads to superior performance in the long run.
Organizations that engage in exploration to the exclusion of exploitation are likely to find that they suffer the costs of experimentation without gaining many of its benefits. They exhibit too many undeveloped new ideas and too little distinctive competence. Conversely, organizations that engage in exploitation to the exclusion of exploration are likely to find themselves trapped in stable equilibrium; going nowhere fast but efficiently. Maintaining an appropriate balance between exploration and exploitation is a primary factor in the survival and prosperity of any system.
SYSTEMIC BALANCE AND YOUR POSITION IN THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Technology has allowed both people and organizations to connect on worldwide scale.
First coined by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Fourth Industrial Revolution is “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”; a progress defined by “velocity, scope, and systems impact” unlike ever seen before.
This opportunity has enabled ambitious businesses and individuals to flourish. Today’s leaders and visionaries recognize that there is a tremendous opportunity to reconsider their current state and opt for a better one…one created with them prominently in mind.
The systemic balance at the individual level might be demanding and imposing – but nowhere as difficult as achieving success in a world where people are not equipped for the work that needs to be done.
Jim Rohn once said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains in life: the pain of Discipline or the pain of Regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs a ton.” Indeed.
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THE GENESIS OF SOLVES
Dr. Armour introduced the concepts of systemic balance in the book, S.O.L.V.E.S. How The Balanced Company Solves Unseen Market Challenges For Radical Success
SOLVES is a six-step process. It describes how a company can discover emerging demand for—and successfully deliver—a new Market Offering (or “M.O.”).
If you scan the horizon you will find a Story that describes a particular customer experience—with a clue as to how the experience could stand to be improved.
What unique market Opportunity appears within this story? This can be thought of as the opportunity to move customers “from A to B,” where A is their problem or desire, and B is a new solution.
What resources could your organization Leverage to address this opportunity? Resources aren’t limited to what you have in-house.
Using Leverage, what Vehicle can you create to move customers from A to B? The Vehicle could be a product, a service, or some mix of the two. Ultimately it will become your new M.O. (Market Offering).
How can you Explore the market to test your Vehicle? A number of good methods are available. The trick is using an approach that will tell you what you should know in order to proceed. Last but not least,
If the testing gives you a green light, you’ll want to Scale up the offering to secure market share. What challenges might this pose, and how will you meet them?