Gain Competitive Advantage by Transcending the Front-Line Paradox

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In a fast-moving world, organizations can sustain a competitive edge by developing actionable knowledge from streams of unstructured data. Front-line employees are among the first to observe emerging problems on the horizon, because they’re positioned at the point of contact between an organization and its customers and thus uniquely aware of the early symptoms of impending change.1 To paraphrase Stanford professor Robert Burgelman and Andy Grove, the late CEO of Intel, front-line employees can feel the winds of change because they spend time outdoors where the stormy clouds of disruption rage.2 Front-line employees, then, can offer a true treasure trove of insights to be used in strategic decision-making. Yet, top management teams rarely ask these employees about impending strategic issues they anticipate at the organizational front lines, or for their opinions on how a new product might fare. Many executives therefore deprive themselves of new information that could improve their analyses — and they risk making decisions in isolation within the C-suite echo chamber.

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