Review of The Three-Box Solution

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  • Applicable
  • Innovative


Vijay Govindarajan – Ivy League professor, best-selling author of Reverse Innovation and sought-after “guru” on innovation and strategy – raises and answers today’s primary and inclusive business question: How does a leader “optimize” an existing business while creating a new one? Govindarajan points out that these questions may raise “fundamentally different management” issues. But many leaders today must pursue both tasks all day every day. A related and equally important question is: How do you keep your current business functioning at the highest level while “dramatically reinventing it?” Govindarajan advocates a “Three Box Solution.” Effective managers, he persuasively argues, must balance three “boxes” simultaneously: the past, the present and the future. Govindarajan’s voice isn’t a smooth read; he evokes the classroom more than the boardroom. That’s partly due to being a rigorous thinker who doesn’t simplify his concepts for the business reader. Those who persevere will find radical, easily applicable, comprehensible solutions to crucial business issues.

About the Author

Vijay Govindarajan (known as VG) is the Coxe Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, the Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School, the best-selling author of Reverse Innovation, and a renowned communication theorist and coach.


Past, Present and Future

Effective managers, Govindarajan persuasively contends, perform in all three boxes simultaneously. In “Box 1,” the present, you maintain your current business at maximum “efficiency and profitability.” In “Box 2,” the past, you break free by jettisoning “practices, ideas and attitudes” that worked in previous business environments but are growing obsolete. In “Box 3,” the future, you evolve away from “values and practices” that work well for your current business but might sabotage new endeavors. Embrace “breakthrough ideas” and turn them into commercial offerings. This method is the fruit of the author’s 35 years of thought and action in strategy and innovation.


Govindarajan cites tales of successful application of the Three-Box Solution. He details his triumph at toy giant Hasbro on the almost unimaginably successful conversion of Transformers from a mere toy to a “lifestyle brand.” It now includes a Universal Studios ride, movies and TV shows, character costumes, Xbox and PlayStation games, apparel, room decor, and comic books.

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