Survive and Thrive - Ideas for Leaders

Survive and Thrive

Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business

About Author/s:

Editor Joshua S. Gans is a professor of Strategic Management and holds the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management.

Editor Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School of Management, is also Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy and a professor of Strategic Management at Rotman.


According to Murphy's law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Murphy’s adage is one every business leader needs to keep at the back of their mind. Self-inflicted threats such as IT meltdowns, employee discrimination law suits and budget overspend are common-place; as are external threats to reputation via social media and to market position from disruptive innovation. What’s more, sometimes disasters happen that can threaten the very survival of the business.

The key is to anticipate potential threats and to be ready with effective responses. That is the premise of Survive and Thrive a new book featuring a collection of essays from strategy professors at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, edited by professors Joshua Gans and Sarah Kaplan.

Core Idea

Using numerous real examples, from BP to Walmart, the essays consider a range of threats faced by organizations today, from disruptive innovation, to social media disasters, to mistaken technical investments, to gender discrimination, to misunderstood competition. The authors trace how and why these treats materialized and look at what managerial strategies, successful and otherwise, were put in place to counter them. 

The examples studied reveal four mistakes that organizations commonly make: Failing to appreciate interactions within systems; Getting stuck in existing ways of doing business; Falling victim to cognitive biases; Getting derailed by short-term incentives.

However, the main focus of the book is not on mistakes but on the actions organizations can take to anticipate and avoid threats, and to deal with treats head on to minimise the damage even to ensure the company stays afloat. With its emphasis on “anticipate what you can; prepare for what you can’t,” the book offers a series of principles and practices aimed at ensuring businesses not only survive but thrive.

Initially it points to two essential actions (both with caveats). First, Develop structured practices for anticipation. This involves risk reviews, post-mortems, anomaly reporting systems, etc., to pick up vital information signals. Caveat: Beware of ‘risk compensation’ – the tendency to take even greater risks once safety measures are in place. Secondly, Create an organizational culture that encourages dissent. Encourage diversity of thought and pay heed to ideas and criticisms that differ from existing ways of doing business. Caveat: Don’t take the easy way out – it may be necessary to leap-frog current practices and make radical changes.


The fear of potential threats, coming as they do from so many directions, can appear overwhelming. Although essentially reassuring, this book does not minimize these understandable fears but offers practical approaches to analysing threats, investigating solutions and delivering effective responses to the threats every senior business leader faces.


  • Title: Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business
    Author/s Name/s: Edited by Joshua S. Gans and Sarah Kaplan
    Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing
    ISBN: 978-4575-5665-4
    Publishing Date: August 2017
    Number of Pages: 224

Author Knowledge Rating: 1-5 (based on their years of experience, academic expertise in subject areas, and exposure to cross-functional thinking in the area)

Readability: 1-5 score(1=dense and v academic; 5=frantic; page turner)

Appropriate Length: (1=could have been written in 25% of the length;5=could have been longer)

Core Idea Value: (1=nonsense (or entirely esoteric); 5=game-changer)