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SRI’s turnaround: how four principles guided high-value, market-creating innovation

Steve Denning (Steve Denning Consulting)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 17 July 2017




The article explores the leadership strategies of a CEO who defied the odds against culture change and accomplished a storied turnaround, Curt Carlson who introduced a culture of innovation at SRI International.


Under Carlson’s leadership, SRI developed a methodology for rapid, large-scale, serial innovation, starting with a focus on important customer and market needs. The innovation proposals had to develop compelling hypotheses for both the product offering and the business model.


Need, Approach, Benefits per costs and Competition (NABC). the methodology Carlson and his team developed, contains the fundamental framework for creating customer value, it applies to the entire enterprise. It brings all functions together using a short, easy to remember meme that starts every conversation with a focus on customer need.

Practical implications

One of the most spectacular and best-known SRI innovation wins was Siri, the intelligent personal computer assistant and on-line knowledge navigator, an integral part of the iPhone. As a case example, Siri illustrates the power of the NABC approach.


Carlson stresses that the key element in SRI’s success with Siri was not just the technology. It was getting the entire value proposition right. “One of the things that changed at SRI was the realization that we needed to have really solid working hypotheses, both for the product and the business model, before we started spending significant money on technology. That’s one of the biggest mistakes firms make. They rush ahead and want to build the product before they de-risk their value propositions.



Denning, S. (2017), "SRI’s turnaround: how four principles guided high-value, market-creating innovation", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 3-8.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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