October 6, 2009
“Before I die,” Albert Einstein once said, “I hope someone will clarify quantum physics for me. After I die, I hope God will explain turbulence to me.” Einstein might have been more confused today: Turbulence, in all its manifestations, is on the rise. Financial markets gyrate. Commodity prices zig and zag. New technologies disrupt long-standing businesses and entire industries. Scientific discoveries overturn historical truisms. Dirty bombs and pension busts, natural disasters and flu pandemics, add to the tumult. We live in a world beset by turbulence.
We often respond to turbulence by accelerating activities that worked in the past. We lapse into inertia when we should adapt with agility, and we cling to rigid dogmas when we should improvise. But throughout history, volatility has not only dethroned incumbent leaders, it has also created untold possibilities to create economic value. Turbulence has an upside, and companies that seize the opportunities arising out of seething markets will become tomorrow’s champions.
Based on more than a decade of research, The Upside of Turbulence draws lessons from companies that have consistently spotted and exploited opportunities that rivals have missed. The book explores realms ranging from improvisational comedy to the U.S. Marine Corps’s combat doctrine. The result is a series of provocative insights that defy conventional wisdom. The book also introduces practical tools, which have been field-tested by executives around the world, to wrestle triumph of turmoil.
Donald Sull is a professor of strategy and the faculty director of executive education at the London Business School. He received his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees from Harvard University, where he taught entrepreneurship. Prior to his academic career, Professor Sull worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Company and as a management investor with a leveraged buyout firm. He blogs for the Financial Times.