Edited by Giovanni Battista Dagnino
Chapter 3: The Genesis of Competitive Strategy: A Historian’s View
Christian Stadler STRATEGY IN HISTORICAL TIMES Around 980 AD 25 Viking ships landed in Greenland and started a permanent settlement (Diamond, 2005). For the next 500 years a population of around 5000 Vikings was able to withstand the harshness of the North. Essentially though, they were always bound to struggle in an environment which was not suited to a European pastoral society. By cutting trees, stripping turf and overgrazing they caused soil erosion and a slow depletion of their resources. The Vikings failed to comply with the notion of strategic fit. A strategy can only be successful if it is consistent with the characteristics of the external environment. Goals and values, resources and capabilities, structures and systems need to be aligned. While the Vikings never fully achieved such an alignment with their external environment the situation became truly dramatic when the climate started to cool around 1300 resulting in the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1400s. Hay harvests declined to a point where animals and people starved to death. Icebergs blocked the fjords and ended both trade with Europe and the regular trips to obtain timber from Labrador. The consequences were fatal considering the lack of iron and wood. At the same time the survival of the Inuit – who arrived in Greenland shortly after the Vikings – shows that it would have been possible to achieve strategic fit even under the changing circumstances. Unlike the Vikings, the Inuit concentrated on the exploitation of natural resources that were readily available...
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