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Inside-Out, Outside-In, are there more to explore?

Inside-Out, Outside-In, are there more to explore?

The question wether a company is or should be driven by Inside-Out and/or Outside-In thinking is highly relevant to ask. 

A strategic approach based on an Inside-Out vantage point is guided by that the inner strengths and capabilities of the organisation will make the organisation successful. An Outside-In approach is guided by external and environmental forces, and that customer value creation, customer orientation and customer experiences are key to success. In the post “Outside-In: Customer Experience Optimizer?”, Dr. Samir Asaf argues that High Performance Organizations need to think both from an inside-out and outside-in vantage points.

However, one can ask if there are more vantage points to explore with respect to a company and its strategy? And how long it takes before you fall off a strategy canvas or strategic thinking model?

The short answers are yes and sometimes quickly.

The longer answer requires more argumentation. In the remaining part of the article Im elaborating on the following vantage points needed for extended (strategic) discussions and analysis

  • Internal
  • Environment
  • Inside-Out
  • Outside-In
  • Boundary
  • Relationship

In this model Inside-Out and Outside-In are considered as two examples of Vantage Points, where a Vantage Point is a “position or standpoint from which something is viewed or considered”. As such, a vantage point frames the context for observations, interpretations, work, and knowledge. Being clear about the vantage point simplifies the understanding about what is being considered, analysed, written, discussed, referenced or represented, and in which context. 

Im using the word “Unit” as a shortcut in the text, where Unit stands for any organisation, firm, company, enterprise, system, or society.

So, what do we need not to fall off a strategy canvas or fall out of an analysis model too early?

Firstly, we need two main vantage points; us and the others, inside-outside, internal-external.

A discussion or analysis based on an Internal vantage point focus on the inside, with little to no concerns of external matters. Internal processes, people, machines, equipments, facilities, raw material, sites, countries are covered. With an internal vantage we can think about …

  • us;
  • our identity; 
  • culture; 
  • people;
  • what possibilities we bring to life;
  • what we do;
  • access to resources;
  • and much more;

On the outside of the unit we find the Environment, with customers, markets, partners, society, etc. With an environment, outside, or external vantage point we can discuss and analyse …

  • everything but the organisation;
  • external partners and their supply;
  • customers desires, wants, needs, and demand for products and services;
  • movements and exchange of goods, material, information, people, etc. in and out of a unit;
  • the bifocal nature of inside vs. outside and the allocation of attention, balance, trade-of between them;
  • and much more;

Secondly, based on the internal and environment vantage points we can define two hybrid directional vantage points often used in strategy and company discussions.

In an Inside-Out vantage point we have a strong and primary focus on internal aspects with a secondary focus on and direction to the outside.

In an Outside-In vantage point we have a strong and primary focus on outside, environment(al), external aspects with a secondary focus on and direction to the inside.

Or in other words: Inside-Out is what we bring to the world and Outside-In is what it brings to us

With these two vantage point we can discuss …

  • how the inside influence, depend on, or drive the outside, and vice-versa;
  • strategy approaches such as Henry Mintzberg’s Environmental School;
  • customer driven strategy;
  • and much more;

Thirdly, In order to be able to think and reason about how two or more units distinguish themselves from each other and relate to each other we need two (2) more vantage points.

At the end of a unit we have a boundary that mediate between the inside and the outside. With a boundary vantage point we can look at and discuss …

  • why a firm has a specific boundary (Theory of the firm);
  • why certain transactions are bounded to be inside and others outside;
  • what brands, value propositions, products and services are offered to the customers;
  • what preferences and expectations are communicated to partners or suppliers;
  • and much more;

Two or more units that are in touch with each other have a relationship. A relationship can be discussed and analysed in its own right, and from a third-party perspective. With a relationship vantage point we can discuss …

  • customer relationships;
  • trade and exchanges;
  • relationships (30R Relationship Marketing, Evert Gummesson)
  • fit or match between offered value propositions and preferences;
  • electronic data interchange (EDI);
  • integration standardisation;
  • and much more;

What can we do with these vantage points?

This small set of vantage points enables us to stay on a canvas and in analysis models longer without unnecessary complications. They are consistent with key parts from Systems Theories,  Business Model Canvas by Osterwalder, and Strategy Map by Kaplan Norton.

We can create visual maps that in a small area provide an analytical depth and breadth. An example is the Temporal-Unit Vantage Point Map. This map has two dimensions, Temporal and Unit Vantage Points. In the following example I have added different kinds of analysis techniques and talking points, such as SWOT, and talking points from Value Proposition Canvas and Benefit Realisation. This map can also be used to present the result of each technique and talking point, It provides a coverage checklist for methods and techniques where each cell should the considered to be included in a method and technique. As such the map is useful for planning strategy work. The map also provide a basic structure for the new Business Model Talking Point Canvas.

These vantage points are important for thinking, communication, analysis and synthesis. They contribute to the Interweaved Enriched Strategy Journey where they enable a fuller and richer foundation for strategic deliberations and an unique integration between strategic planning, transformation and execution.


Anders W. Tell

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