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We’ve joined forces with a number of distinguished colleagues to form the Devil’s Advocate Group, an alliance of critical thinkers dedicated to helping business leaders increase the robustness of their strategies. Our core offering is a strategic stress test that leverages the research and findings of Billion-Dollar Lessons to deliver fast, thorough, and objective assessments of proposed strategic initiatives. We verify the potential benefits and, perhaps more importantly, identify potential weaknesses. By warning of where problems might occur, we shape planning, negotiation, and implementation to address those weaknesses.

Please visit our site at DevilsAdvocateGroup.com to learn more.

P&G Core ProductsProcter & Gamble’s decision to sell its prescription-drug business to Warner Chilcott for $3.1 billion is the reverse of Nokia’s move into netbooks. P&G is recognizing–albeit belatedly–that prescription drugs have little in common with the rest of its portfolio of consumer products, even ones having to do with health.

Nokia Booklet 3GNokia’s introduction of a netbook computer shows all the signs of a misguided move into an adjacent market. Nokia is operating from a position of weakness, not strength–because of slowing growth in Nokia’s cellphone markets. Nokia also seems to be overestimating what it can bring to the netbook market while underestimating the difficulties that it will find there.

soldPulte’s agreement to buy Centex for $1.4 billion means, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, that Pulte “succeeded in its quest to become the largest home builder in the U.S.,” but Pulte’s may be a Pyrrhic victory. The acquisition shows many of the characteristics of the classic mistake we identified in our book as “Doubling Down on a Bad Hand.”

We don’t want to overdo this idea that the Internet is killing businesses. That idea has been done before. You may even have heard of this thing called the Internet bubble. : – )

But the fact is that the Internet is wreaking real havoc in some areas, and organizations sometimes have their head in the sands. As we put it in “Billion-Dollar Lessons,” they have adopted a strategy of Staying the (Misguided) Course.

The latest example comes from a recent report from the U.S. Government Accounting Office about the U.S. Postal Service.

Just because something is in bad shape apparently doesn’t mean it can’t get worse. Having reported recently that big music labels are losing new singers and bands to Internet-based businesses, the New York Times now speculates that the music business will pretty much just go away. As this article asks, why pay for music at all if you can just stream it to your listening device free?

There’s a lesson there. Many companies can’t bring themselves to imagine Armageddon. They can maybe foresee a bad year or two, but not a scenario that would wipe out their core business. Yet Armageddon is possible.

A 7/26/09 article in the Wall Street Journal online, “Bed Bath & Beyond Shines in Troubled Retail Sector,” about retail chain Bed, Bath and Beyond underscores the opportunities available to those committed to using the financial crisis to gain market share.

Jim Hall‘s op-ed piece, “First, Make No Mistakes,” in today’s New York Times makes a great case that, no matter what happens with health-care reform, the medical industry can do a better job of learning from its mistakes. Such learning would save many lives while also cutting costs.

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There’s a lesson for other businesses, too: If medicine, despite its emphasis on gathering objective information, isn’t getting the straight scoop, just imagine how much negative information gets filtered out in other industries before it reaches the decision-makers.

An article by Brad Stone in yesterday’s NY Times provided evidence of another inexorable, Internet-fueled trend that threatens a long-dominant business model. The victims this time are the major record labels, which have had a long hold on the making and milking of recording stars.

It’s no secret that the Internet’s mix of free and cheap individual tracks is killing physical album sales (which fell 20% last year). In addition, established stars like Radiohead, the Beastie Boys and Barenaked Ladies have been using the Internet to go direct to music buyers, cutting traditional record labels out of the process and keeping a much larger share of the revenue.