Set in 2008, the A case portrays the first 134 years of Aikon, a US multinational based in Minnesota. It is presented to participants as the baseline case, and they are told that the B and C cases (which will cover the next 14 years) will be handed out in class. The case depicts the rich history of the company, which succeeded in reinventing itself several times. Aikon progressively emerged as a key player in the ice-making industry before becoming a producer of household appliances, such as refrigerators, and then transforming itself into a major player in the medical device market (e.g., pacemakers). In 2007 the company had a record year in terms of both sales and profit, and the CEO is now considering what steps should be taken to ensure continued growth. In reality, there is no B or C case. The A case is a disguised version of the growth history of Company X, up to its final record year in 2007. When participants study the growth of Company X, they already know what has happened. It is then easy to blame Company’s X’s top team for a lack of foresight and strategic vision – “How could they not have …?” Clearly, it is a great example of hindsight bias. However, the situation looked very different from the perspective of Company X’s CEO in 2008. The key questions are: Were there already warning signs of the company’s demise, any weak – or not-so-weak – signals? And, perhaps most importantly: What does it say about participants’ own situations? Could their company be the next Company X? (The identity of Company X is revealed in the teaching note.
• To trigger discussions about threats of disruption and complacency in one’s own firm. The reveal of Aikon’s identity is a bombshell that makes participants realize their firm could be in a situation similar to Company X in early 2008.
• Used with Jim Collins’s “five stages of decline” model, and/or with a premortem introspective exercise, the case helps surface as-yet undiscussed key strategic questions.
• Participants can view their firm more objectively and better prepare for potential disruption.
Aikon, Health Care, Medical Devices
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