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Book Review: The Agility Advantage
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Book Reivew: The Agility Advantage by Amanda Setili

The Agility Advantage

Written by: Amanda Setili. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2014. 241 + xii pages. US$30.
Reviewed by: Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, NPDP, Simple-PDH, Global NP Solutions, LLC

The Agility Advantage

Today, customers will change brands and products based on the newest feature sets and rapidly evolving social trends. A company cannot follow a stagnant strategy that fails to adapt to erupting market needs and widespread technological volatility. To survive against clever global competitors, a company must quickly identify and act on new opportunities.

Amanda Setili’s book “The Agility Advantage” was presented at PDMA’s 2015 Annual Conference. Three key aspects of agility are described: market, decision and execution. Market agility is focused on quickly identifying new customers and niche applications. Decision agility involves creating solution alternatives for the new market opportunities, while execution agility encompasses motivating and inspiring employees to adapt to the new strategy.

“The Agility Advantage” is packed with traditional examples of successful innovators. Amazon, for example, is mentioned several times in the text. The author shows Amazon’s market agility in a story about the acquisition of customers.

Amazon is used again as an example of decision agility in its response to revenue pressures. The ubiquitous online retailer ships as many items as possible in a single package to save costs. Likewise, Amazon practices execution agility by constantly introducing new products, services and features (pg. 181) and quickly testing use and acceptance.

“The Agility Advantage” is a quick and easy-to-read book. Its value lies in the large number of examples and stories shared about companies that have been able to quickly respond to new market opportunities. The author presents a few 2x2 matrices that are useful for characterizing a firm’s current strategic view and may help to identify gaps. However, the book is not a “how-to” manual for innovation.

Another strength of Setili’s text is that it stresses much of what we already know about successful innovators. Employees at all levels – including presidents, directors and CEOs – must interact with customers to understand their needs. Successful innovation occurs in the field, not in the lab. Being open and responsive to both market and technological changes can result in unique and profitable opportunities.

As the future continues to produce narrower market windows and more discriminating customers, companies will find they need to quickly identify and act on opportunities. A flexible strategy is a necessity for long-term global innovation success.

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