Edge Perspectives with John Hagel: The Big Shift in Strategy – Part 2

Hagel’s perspective here and in his previous post here can be a bit abstract, but this point is really important.

Most strategies (strategies of terrain) tend to look from the present out to the future. Strategies of trajectory start with a view of the future and work back to the implications for action in the present.  

Source: Edge Perspectives with John Hagel: The Big Shift in Strategy – Part 2

Fundamentally, this is about a shift from ‘strategy as analysis’ to ‘strategy as design’. (Not that this is a shift per se, but perhaps a recognition and re-weighting). As is referenced many times in this blog, analysis can only project forward from the past – it can’t create or validate the future. For that, you need ‘design’.

If the landscape is more uncertain, then the validity of past data points and persistence of them going forward becomes less certain (even if they remain ‘reliable’ in the words of Roger Martin). This means that strategy work becomes less reliant on data crunching and analysis, and more on insights, appreciation, sensemaking, synthesis and abductive reasoning.

The approach of starting with a desired future and projecting back to what needs to exist to get us there is fundamentally a design process. The act of making sense of things; of reflection and synthesis is fundamentally a design process. The act of configuring and shaping an organisation to bring about a desired future is fundamentally a design process.

So perhaps we need to re-think the mental model of strategy within organisations, the process of strategy development and its dominant practices, the traits desired of a practitioner, and the recruiting practices and educational structures providing the flow of them. We should ask for more than just the ‘smartest’ in terms of intellectual horsepower, but also the intellectually curious, creative, empathetic, reflective, and passionate.

Only then can we restore strategy to its rightful place as a craft to be esteemed, not a navel-gazing, unconscious, ivory tower practice to be rightfully questioned.

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