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Engaging Fringe Stakeholders for Competitive Imagination

Stuart L. Hart and Sanjay Sharma
The Academy of Management Executive (1993-2005)
Vol. 18, No. 1 (Feb., 2004), pp. 7-18
Published by: Academy of Management
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4166031
Page Count: 12
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Engaging Fringe Stakeholders for Competitive Imagination
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Abstract

In a connected world, remote groups at the fringe of a firm's current operations can find common cause, exerting increasing pressure and calling into question the firm's legitimacy and right to operate--witness the recent debacles involving Monsanto, Shell, and Nike. Moreover, the knowledge needed to generate competitive imagination and to manage disruptive change increasingly lies outside the organization, at the periphery of firms' established stakeholder networks. Unfortunately, most companies still tend to focus management attention only on known, salient, or powerful actors to protect their advantages in existing businesses. In recognition of these challenges, we develop the concept of Radical Transactiveness (RT). RT is a dynamic capability which seeks to systematically identify, explore, and integrate the views of stakeholders on the "fringe" -- the poor, weak, isolated, non-legitimate, and even non-human--for the express purpose of managing disruptive change and building imagination about future competitive business models. RT consists of two complementary skills. First, by reversing the logic of traditional approaches focused on managing powerful stakeholders, firms fan out to identify voices at the fringe of their networks to both preempt their concerns and generate imaginative new business ideas. Second, by creating mechanisms for complex interaction and empathy with those on the fringe, firms fan in to integrate and reconcile this knowledge with existing know-how to design and execute disruptive new business strategies.

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