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The first category of hidden assets identified in Unstoppable consists of assets that could become the epicenter of a new wave of growth, either as an entirely new business or as a way to redefine the center of gravity of the old core business. These can be an undervalued business or product family, an underused support function, or a set of adjacency moves that combine to create the fulcrum for a new strategy.

Bain & Company's study of the paths of the Fortune 500 companies suggests that 30 to 35 percent of the single-core companies that made significant changes in strategic direction did so by building on a hidden platform, an asset that was once peripheral but now assumes a position at center stage. In the twenty-five examples in Unstoppable, about half redefined their strategies based on such an asset.

In a separate study, we analyzed a sample of 105 strategy cases undertaken by Bain for clients pursuing the next wave of profitable growth and, often, strategic renewal. We found that these types of hidden platforms were often central to the ultimate strategy. In 7 percent of the cases, the key platform asset was an underused product line; in 34 percent, a key element was a set of unexploited adjacency moves that created further strategic opportunities; and in 26 percent, a major capability or internal support function proved to have much more potential than had been realized.

We identified three primary types of platforms:

  • Adjacencies (new geographies, new channels of distribution, and so on) that had been entered to expand the core business and now offer even more potential in their own right as the platform for a new strategy
  • Support services and activities to the core (e.g., the customer service organization or a unique information system)
  • Noncore businesses and orphan product groups
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