Wharton professor Saikat Chaudhuri joins other thought leaders in offering advice for surviving 2012

The past few years were undoubtedly challenging for most firms the world over, as they faced economic uncertainties unparalleled in the recent past, and companies continue to stare into a nebulous future as 2012 approaches. But the reality is, even when the present crises subside and we are poised for new cycle of growth, firms looking for sustained success over the next years and decades need to become accustomed to regularly adapting to shifting conditions: technologies will continue to rapidly change, enhanced globalisation and liberalisation will cause markets to continuously evolve, and competitive landscapes will keep intensifying in the process. So how can corporations navigate such constant uncertainty, whether in good or bad times? One strategy to adapt to ever-changing environments and drive growth is to leverage outsourcing beyond the traditional boundaries, in order to efficiently, effectively, and flexibly leverage external capabilities as needed.

Outsourcing is no longer confined to peripheral functions like IT services and call centers to merely accord cost benefits, but increasingly offers sophisticated competencies like R&D, design, and other knowledge-based services. Leading firms particularly in the telecom, semiconductor, consumer electronics, and automotive industries (often quietly) take advantage of this to pursue opportunities and stay on the cutting edge, while making the most productive use of their resources.

But to take full advantage of this approach, especially in the long run, the best companies like Apple and Bharti Airtel are setting themselves up to become disaggregated virtual corporations that can ‘plug and play’ with their partners – by building modularised organizations having permeable boundaries across multiple levels, enabling them to seamlessly collaborate with outside entities. Done right, this type of new-age organisation can allow a firm to protect its intellectual property, retain and develop critical in-house capabilities, remain innovative, and most importantly, fluidly adjust with the times.

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