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Seizing opportunities and dodging threats with a dual operating system

John P. Kotter (Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and CEO of Kotter International)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 11 November 2014




This internationally recognized innovation expert asserts that today's organizations need a powerful new operating system to address the challenges posed by mounting complexity and rapid change.


As a consultant to companies seeking to re-invigorate the innovation process, the author can describe how they have implemented the dual operating system – a network and a hierarchy – that he advocates.


When organizations are dangerously slow to adapt to competitive threats and to pursue promising innovations, the solution to, which has been adopted successfully by many organizations, is to add a second operating system that is organized as a network that can create agility and speed.

Practical implications

The author explains how all successful organizations operate with a dual system more or less during the most dynamic growth period in their life cycle, so a dual operating system will be somewhat familiar to veteran leaders.


The organization's top management plays a crucial role in starting and maintaining the network and managing its communications with the hierarchy. For senior practitioners, the author describes the five basic principles of a well-functioning dual operating system.



Published with the permission of Harvard Business Review Press.


P. Kotter, J. (2014), "Seizing opportunities and dodging threats with a dual operating system", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 42 No. 6, pp. 10-12.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Authors

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