Strategy, Annual Reports, and Alchemy

by Edward Bowman



The article uses a large set of annual reports to explain, or at least speculate about, the relative success or lack of success of companies in an industry. Both the research methods utilized in the study and the empirical results from computer industry can be extrapolated into wider settings. Annual reports can be a rich source of information, combined with the use of content analysis. Sufficiently careful work can turn what is apparently base metal into gold. Apparently it is possible to associate certain modes of behavior and strategic posture with commercial success within an industry, including the minicomputer/peripheral industry. Adroitness in environmental coping, customer orientation and responsiveness, international activities, controlled growth, and vertical integration and value added may all help explain why some companies do better than others in an industry as complex and dynamic as computer industry. The power to obtain and hold uniqueness of place combines two capabilities which complement each other, two forms of boundary control. These are powers to control movement and to control places-to thrust and to parry.

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