Trond Undheim: Strategy failure in cleantech

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Trond Undheim

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Trond Undheim

Cleantech has seen its share of high profile failures over the past year.  The bankruptcy of solar cell company Solyndra has been the most public, but there are many others. This has led many to say that the sector is immature, others to say it is doomed or plagued by fickle or unstable state subsidies. It is also true that quite often, Cleantech firms bank on (somebody) introducing changes in infrastructure that need significant momentum (and time) to take hold. But surely Cleantech CEOs are smart people, so the reason they fail must be slightly more complex, perhaps? And is it even so certain that the problem lies with the industry itself and not with other factors? Is failure, in fact, quite evenly distributed across sectors? You may have noticed that strategies sometimes fail. Some would say strategies mostly fail. I know from my own life that intent does not always translate to result. The question is why.Jim Collins, in his book Why The Mighty Fail (2009), believes failures have a 5 stage lifecycle: hubris of success, pursuit of more, denial of risk, grasping at straws, and capitulation. Does his framework apply equally well across all industries? Is it fully relevant to cleantech?

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