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Costas Markides  

Business & Strategy Expert

Leading business and strategy speaker Costas Markides is professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, where he also holds the Robert P. Bauman Chair in Strategic Leadership.

Along with Paul Geroski, Markides is the co-author of the groundbreaking Fast Second: How Smart Companies Bypass Radical Innovation to Enter & Dominate New Markets, which uses the metaphor of a landscape to describe the business world. The book examines how big, established companies can create radical new markets by acting as "colonists" or "consolidators." Drawing on examples of successful "fast-second" firms such as Microsoft, Amazon, Canon, JVC, Heinz, and others, Markides explains how new markets have the potential to be successful and provides insight on when to make a move into a new market, how to scale up a market, where to position a company in the market, and whether to be a colonist or consolidator.

Markides was named to the "Thinkers 50," a ranking of the 50 most influential living management thinkers in the world, by The London Times, CNN, Forbes, and The Times of India. In his Harvard Business Review article "To Diversify or Not to Diversify?", he discussed some key questions tied to business diversification, such as whether companies should diversify and how quickly or slowly they should move towards diversification. In his 1999 book All the Right Moves, he explained why successful business strategy should focus on asking (and finding the answers to) three fundamental questions: Who should I target as customers? What products or services should I offer them? And how can I do this in an efficient way?

A native of Cyprus, Costas Markides received his BA and MA in economics from Boston University and his MBA and DBA from the Harvard Business School. His current research interests include the management of diversified businesses and the use of innovation and creativity to achieve strategic breakthroughs.

Speech Topics

International Competitiveness

Exceeding Clients' Expectations

Using Innovation & Creativity to Achieve Strategic Breakthroughs

Managing Diversified Businesses

Fast Second: Bypassing Radical Innovation to Enter & Dominate New Markets

From Strategy Formulation to Strategy Execution: Why Clever People Make Silly Mistakes

Most managers spend the majority of their time developing a strategy for their organization. Unfortunately, even the best of strategies will fail unless they are implemented properly. And it is exactly at the implementation stage that bad things start happening! People dont execute what you already agreed upon; others start doing things that will get you in trouble; yet others pretend to support what you want to achieve but actually undermine you behind the scenes. Why do such things happen and how can you prevent them (or overcome them)?

In this session, we will explore why bad things happen to good people during the execution stage of strategy. The session will conclude with a list of personal strategies that individuals could use to either prevent or overcome these traps of execution.

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So, You Think You Have a Strategy?

The main objective of this speech is to argue that behind every successful strategy, there are a few simple but fundamental principles.

  1. The first principle of strategy is that strategy is all about making difficult choices of what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. These choices must be clear, explicit and consistent with the overall strategy of the firm. --The choices must be clear and explicit because they act as the parameters within which people in an organization operate with autonomy. You cannot give people freedom and autonomy unless you first make clear the parameters within which people could operate.
  2. The second principle of strategy is that these choices must be creative enough to allow a firm to differentiate itself from its competitors. A strategy that lacks creativity is useless.
  3. The third principle of strategy is that even the best of strategies will fail unless they are supported by the appropriate organization environment. This consists of the incentives, the structures and processes and the culture that the organization puts in place.
  4. The fourth principle of strategy is that strategy must not only be communicated to everybody in a company but more importantly, it must be sold to people so as to win their emotional commitment towards this strategy.
  5. Finally, the fifth principle of strategy is that strategy must remain flexible enough so as to adjust to the never-ending changes in the outside environment. Flexibility cannot be dictatedit must become part of the fabric of the organization

After making these points, Markides will conclude by arguing that even when we know these basic principles, we still do not implement them. Markides explains why that is the case and describe how we can overcome this Knowing-Doing Gap.

Markides uses practical examples and interactive exercises to highlight each principle.

Strategic Innovation: How to Win by Breaking the Rules

In recent years, there have been many calls for companies to break the rules and become industry revolutionaries. But what exactly is breaking the rules? And how can a company do it successfully, especially if it already has a successful business to run? Is it viable to play two games at the same time? How? Furthermore, does it always make sense for a company to break the rules or should other considerations come into play? And what if somebody else breaks the rules first in ones industry? How then can a company respond to the innovator? These are all questions that I shall attempt to answer in this speech.

The Traps of Innovation

There is no question that Innovation is a core driver of growth, performance and valuation. It is, therefore, the responsibility of every leader to encourage it and promote it. Yet, company after company, leader after leader, fall into the some predictable traps in trying to do so.

How to Make Your Organizations More Innovative

In todays hypercompetitive world, innovation is the only source of competitive advantage. Organizations must continuously innovate to stay one step ahead of competition. But innovation is not just creativity; and it is not just the province of top management. For innovation to become a source of competitive advantage, it must be institutionalised so that it takes place anywhere and at anytime in the organization. How to institutionalise innovation is a real challenge for companies and this presentation will provide insights on how to do it. Top management has a key role to play in this and we will also explore how the top people can set the right example in the organization. Real life examples will be provided to support the generalizations made.

Delighting Clients in a World of Temporary Advantage

To delight clients, the first requirement is to offer them a unique value proposition. In other words, when the client asks: why should I come to you rather than go to any one of your competitors? you should be able to say: because I can offer you everything that my competitors are offering you plus these additional benefits that nobody else can offer. This means that you cannot be everything to everybody! You need to select your clients strategically so that what you can uniquely offer fits exactly the selected clients needs. This unique value proposition must be embodied in the organizations brand.

But having a unique value proposition is not enough. The promise of the brand must be delivered to the client not once or twice but all the time. And it has to be delivered not only by one or two people in the organization but by everybody. For such a wonderful state of affairs to emerge, these behaviors must become part of the culture of the organization. It is the responsibility of top management to develop the culture of their firms so that delighting clients on a continuous basis becomes automatic. The question then becomes: how can we build such a culture?

Every Crisis Has an Opportunity

The companies that survive in difficult times are not the ones that look at the crisis as a threat; and are not the ones that look at it as an opportunity. They are the ones that look at it as BOTH a threat AND an opportunity. Looking at it as a threat gives us some benefits (e.g. it creates a sense of urgency and galvanizes resources). But it also comes with costs (e.g. it makes us short-term oriented and reactive). Similarly, looking at it as an opportunity gives us some benefits (e.g. long-term and strategic outlook). But it also comes with costs (e.g. no urgency and no action). So, the trick is to be able to approach it as both a threat and an opportunity.

Beyond the Aha Moment: How Innovation Really Happens

The biggest mistake that people make when it comes to innovation is to think that the bottleneck is the lack of good ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real problem in innovation is the implementation of new ideas to create value. Even the best of ideas will fail unless someone pushes them in the organisation to get them properly implemented. But who should be doing the pushing? And how? There is a lot of academic evidence that suggests answers to these questions. Markides will explore how innovations diffuse in organizations (and societies) and what that implies for managers. Real examples will be provided to highlight the points made.

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