Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Survive and Thrive explains how companies can flourish, even when under threat

Read time:

Sarah Kaplan, Joshua Gans

From Volkswagen to BP, from Blackberry to Bombardier, from United Airlines to Equifax, businesses — large and small — face threats to their survival. These worries keep corporate leaders awake at night. Is there anything businesses can do about it?

This and other questions are answered in a new book, Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business (2017), featuring a collection of insights by strategy professors at the Rotman School.

The book takes readers through some of the most vexing threats to business today, threats that put the very existence of organizations into question. Each chapter examines a specific threat and draws on real-world cases to bring it to life.

The good news, which the authors want readers to know up front, is that mistakes can be managed.

In chapter two, András Tilcsik, a Canada research chair in strategy, organizations, and society, examines how companies can manage the risk of catastrophic failure by analyzing lessons learned from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well explosion, one of the worst corporate environmental disasters in history. Later in the book, Sarah Kaplan — director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School and a distinguished professor of gender and the economy — delves into the challenge of achieving gender diversity. More specifically, she explores what it means for any company to make progress in the area. Joshua Gans — the Jeffrey S. Skoll chair of technical innovation and entrepreneurship at the Rotman School — discusses disruptive innovation, and why companies like Blockbuster and Kodak failed to see the obvious threats to their survival. 

Other Rotman professors, including Ajay Agrawal, Anne Bowers, Kevin Bryan, Alberto Galasso, Anita McGahan, Will Mitchell, Rebecca Reuber, and Michael Ryall, also contribute chapters on surviving threats related to healthcare, managing reputation in a digital world and finding the right innovation ecosystem, among other topics.

In each case, the professors effectively explain how companies failed to see the warning signs and inevitably made at least one of four common mistakes, such as:

  • not seeing the interactions between systems
  • getting locked into existing ways of doing business
  • falling victim to cognitive biases and
  • getting derailed by short-termism.

The authors go on to point readers to research-based approaches to deriving solutions.

“The mantra for the book is that leaders need to be alert and not panicked. While there are always threats that can take out a business, alongside those threats are manageable actions that can be deployed to either pre-empt or confront them,” say Gans and Kaplan, who co-edited the text together.

Ultimately, Survive and Thrive is a must-read for practitioners looking to anticipate potential threats and develop responses that permit their businesses to succeed.

This book was originally published on Aug. 29 2017.

Survive and Thrive

edited by Sarah Kaplan and Joshua Gans

Sarah Kaplan is director, Institute for Gender and the Economy,  distinguished professor of gender and the economy and professor of strategic management at Rotman. She is a co-author of the best-selling business book, Creative Destruction as well as Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business. Her latest book, The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation was published in September 2019.
Joshua Gans holds the Jeffrey S. Skoll chair in technical innovation and entrepreneurship and is a professor at Rotman (with a cross-appointment in the department of economics). He is the department editor (strategy) of Management Science, managing director of the Core Research consultancy and writes regularly for HBR and Digitopoly.