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What Do Apple and Singapore Airlines Have in Common? Quantum Strategy

What Do Apple and Singapore Airlines Have in Common? Quantum Strategy
Photograph by Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

For over three decades, Michael Porter’s seminal work on corporate strategy has dominated management thinking, dictating that companies make clear choices among generic strategies: cost leadership vs. differentiation, or broad appeal vs. niche market. To align resources, organizations then design, staff, and create policies to support their chosen strategy. The idea that a company could achieve differentiation through innovation, service excellence, or other value-adding features, as well as cost leadership (compared with the company’s peer group), has been alien to this thinking.

Yet some leading companies have developed capabilities and strategic positions that would normally be considered contradictory. For example, Singapore Airlines delivers exceptional service, supported by continuous innovation, while maintaining a leaner cost structure than its peers, at a level of efficiency only found in the budget airline segment. Apple offers popular, innovative products that redefine whole industries, while at the same time its efficiency levels are higher than those of the traditional cost leader, Dell.