Sponsive strategic change: The yin and yang of strategy practice

Updated: Mar 17

As businesses emerge from the disruption of Covid – 19 the opportunity for reinvention is vast. Never has there been such a readymade recognition and acceptance of the need for the adoption and invention of disruptive change. The question is, where to start? The SMI provides insight via the notion of sponse. Discussed further and illustrated below, sponse is an aspect of strategic change that provides direction to any proposed journey of transformation and renewal.

Sponse and strategic change

The notion of sponse can be likened to ancient Chinese philosophy, that of Yin and Yang. Responsive change is akin to Yin, the receptive, adaptive principle of change. Invention is the Yang, the prosponsive, active and inventive principle of change. As a living, dynamic complex system a business organisation has a natural orientation towards the Yin approach to change.


Unlike a natural ecosystem however, it also has the capacity to invent; a Yang approach. Most organisations seem to be content to limit their approach to change as Yin alone. SMI considers that dynamically oriented organisations should also position themselves to successfully compete for the future by actively orchestrating opportunities to provoke both Yin and Yang. SMI defines the concept of sponse as “a change in a living organism’s trajectory that occurs as a result of a disruption to its internal and/or external environment". Disruption can be either re or prosponsive in nature:

• a response is an adaptation made by an organisation provoked into change by an external or internal stimulus: an action taken to accommodate fate; and

• a prosponse is an invented change invoked by an organisation as a result of a deliberate intent to redirect a living organism’s trajectory: an act of invention designed to direct desire.

Illustrated opposite, the sponse matrix consists of four different quadrants, each provide different insight into methods of strategic change as follows:


Quadrant 1: inertia: An industry where surprise is not the norm. A lack of change creates a false perception of security. Caught in a ‘strategic drift’, business leaders are poorly positioned to react appropriately when it inevitably occurs.

Quadrant 2: Agile adaptation: Adaptive organisations are not likely to initiate change. It is though better prepared to respond to change should it occur, either in advance of the change event, or at the time of the incidence of an unexpected change actually occurring.

Quadrant 3: Dynamic adaptation: As well as demonstrating a propensity to implement change when incited to do so, Dynamic Adapters are also be prepared to invest in the invention of new prospects and new business ventures; from opportunities they create themselves.

Quadrant 4: Deliberate disruption: The platform upon which adaptation and invention is combined to enable the organisation to excel; to be able to respond to unforeseen, unexpected change and to create and invent new opportunity and a new future for the business altogether. The ideal operating environment for this level of dynamic activity to occur is within a strategy system. Its driver? Sponsive strategic thinking, Green Shoot Strategy and more – all contribute to SMI’s Third Wave Strategy methodology. We refer you to our book Corporate Strategy (Remastered) I and II [i] for more detail.

[i] Hunter, P., Corporate Strategy (Remastered) I High Performance Strategy and Leadership in a Volatile, Disrupted World, Routledge, 2020 Hunter, P., Corporate Strategy (Remastered) II: A Fieldbook, Implementing High Performance Strategy and Leadership, Routledge, 2020

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