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Stacked plans strategic growth

Stacked plans strategic growth


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After opening three restaurants in six months, the founders of the fast-casual Stacked concept are focused on efficiency as they prepare for more strategic growth next year.

Paul Montenko, founder of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Stacked Restaurants LLC, told Nation’s Restaurant News that business at the first two locations has exceeded expectations.

The third unit, which opened in Cerritos, Calif., last month, is the chain’s first freestanding location, and, at 6,500 square feet, is slightly larger than the first unit, at 6,300 square feet, which opened in Torrance, Calif., in May. The second location opened in September in San Diego at 5,500 square feet. All three are located in or next to busy shopping malls.

EARLIER: A look inside Stacked from BJ’s founders

A fourth Stacked restaurant is planned for the second half of 2012 in Southern California, although the exact location has not yet been established, Motenko said.

The Stacked restaurant in Torrance is expected to see sales of about $3 million annually and the San Diego location is projected to see between $3 million and $4 million, Motenko said.

Although it’s too early to pin down expectations for the Cerritos unit, Motenko said he expects it will be the highest volume location yet.

Restaurant industry observers are closely following Stacked, as it is one of the first restaurant chains to successfully leverage touch-screen technology that allows guests to order and build their own fully customized meals and pay using table-top iPads.

Motenko and his partner Jerry Hennessy also are industry icons, having founded BJ’s Restaurants Inc., although the two stepped down from the casual-dining chain’s board in 2008 to focus on developing Stacked.

The first few months brought some rough patches, with the computer system going down on occasion, Motenko said. But early problems have been fixed and the ordering system is now running smoothly.

Customers have accepted the technology aspect with enthusiasm, he said. “People understand it. They enjoy it.”

But as customers leave the restaurant after their meal, they tend not to talk about the technology.

“They’re saying ‘That was the best burger,’ or whatever,” Motenko said. “They’re talking about the food.”

The key attraction has been the brand’s focus on customization, he said.

Using the iPads, customers can build a burger by ingredient, only paying for exactly what they select, from pickles to sun-dried tomato aioli.

However, customization has proven to be challenging to execute, with the kitchen dealing with as many as 60 burger orders simultaneously, each with specific ingredient requests.

“We’re still working on making the kitchen more efficient,” Motenko said.

The menu also includes salads, pizzas and sausage plates, but burgers outsell other categories three-to-one, Motenko said. The average check is just under $12.

The company has learned that customers tend to use Stacked more like a full-service restaurant, although the chain recently launched online ordering to speed service for those in a hurry.

Future locations will likely build up bar business, Motenko said, and appetizers have been added to the menu for multi-course options.

Motenko said the company is already receiving requests to bring the brand overseas. But future franchising, whether domestic or international, will have to wait until the company has proven the economic model.

“Our main focus now is making the restaurant as efficient as possible and enhancing the experience for the guest,” Motenko said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.


The Disney Recipe

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Katzenberg described his first day at Disney as the newly appointed head of The Walt Disney Studios. The equally new Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, gave him a simple, unambiguous mandate: fix animation at Disney.

Although a veteran in the film business, Katzenberg had no experience with animation and little appetite for it. Disney long-timers, however, informed him that Walt Disney had left extensive notes and audio recordings concerning his experiences making animation, which were stored in the Disney archives.

Looking through these records, he discovered that Walt had effectively “left the recipe for making a Disney animated movie.” Katzenberg proceeded to apply this recipe with remarkable success, adding on the way some extra ingredients of his own.

Walt Disney, however, left another, arguably even more valuable, recipe for his company. This was a strategic recipe or what I call a corporate theory of sustained growth. This corporate theory is largely captured in the adjacent drawing also from the Disney archives, published in 1957. It depicts a central film asset that in very precise ways infuses value into and is in turn supported by an array of related entertainment assets.

The map has, of course, evolved over the ensuing years as additional assets have accumulated (in fact, there are evolving depictions of this Disney synergy map in the archives). While drawing such a map today would require more boxes and more arrows, (and perhaps an independent web of interconnected assets surrounding the ESPN franchise), the fundamental patterns and the underlying insight and intuition would remain quite consistent. The strategic vision that Walt long ago composed has revealed a succession of strategic possibilities that have fueled a remarkable record of value creating growth.

Effective corporate theories like this provide managers with vision to navigate the surrounding strategic terrain over an extended period of time. They provide a conceptual tool and filter — one that can be repeatedly used to select, acquire, and assemble complementary bundles of assets, activities, and resources from the abundance available.

As I explain in my HBR article, What Is the Theory of Your Firm, the vision provided by a good theory has three distinct components. First, there is foresight about an industry’s evolution, including relevant technological change or evolving consumer preferences. Second, there is insight about the distinctive and valuable assets and resources of the firm. Finally, there is cross-sight — the ability to identify adjacent assets uniquely valuable to your firm or assets with value that others are simply unable to perceive.

Such vision is critical as a firm seeks to acquire assets in highly competitive markets, where the key is not merely recognizing synergy with available assets. Many firms may also possess synergy with the assets you target. Instead, the key is either recognizing synergy unique to your firm — synergy unavailable to others — or recognizing value that while available to others, they simply cannot see. Only firms that possess such vision can participate in markets for assets and predictably generate value post acquisition.

Vision-providing corporate theories need not be as visually compelling as Disney’s synergy map. Many corporate theories are perhaps better captured in words. In the academic world, the most powerful theories are at once elegant and parsimonious. They explain vast terrain using but a few short symbols or words — offering compelling predictions about how the world operates. The hallmark of an effective corporate theory is one that simply and succinctly captures how the relevant strategic terrain will react and respond as the firm takes strategic actions. It must point to a succession of strategic actions that are value creating for the firm.

Does your firm currently possess a corporate theory that reveals foresight, insight and cross-sight to guide your growth? Does it provide you with clear predictions about the relevant future of your industry (or related industries)? Does it provide you with a clear understanding of what is truly distinctive and unique about your organization? Does it reveal uniquely valuable assets and opportunities? If not, it may be time to set about composing your own corporate theory of value creating growth.