Strategy is overrated

If you stroll through the business section of any bookshop, you will see title after title dedicated to business strategy. Flick through any of the books and you will see yet another guru arguing that their approach is the best to help you grow your business.


Firstly, it’s good to read. Read a lot.


However, one thing I have learnt is that strategy is overrated. The very idea of strategy appeals to our ego – that we are so clever that we can think our way through our challenges and come up with the perfect answer that will work in the real world.


You can’t.


It might sound counter-intuitive, but the longer I have been running my own business, I have become a lot less of a deep thinker. I used to sit there in strategy mode: a big pad of paper in front of me, spreadsheets open, reams of raw data strewn across my desk.


And I would sit there and meditate over our next move. Then, after hours or days and with the advice of a recently read guru firmly in my head, it would hit me — our next strategically brilliant breakthrough.


I would explode with excitement as the perfect idea took shape in my mind. Next stop was PowerPoint to whack it all into a sexy presentation full of graphs and schematic diagrams to share with the other guys.


We would then all sit around and push and probe the idea to ensure that we knew for certain that it contained the absolute truth. We would sit and ponder and discuss the ideas and eventually all sign off on Operation Roundabout or Project GoldFish or whatever.


The truth is that sometimes our new strategies hit the mark and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes – scarily – they didn’t even come close. That’s why I now think strategy is overrated.


Rather than spending a heap of time trying to come up with the next perfect idea, my advice is to get strategically promiscuous: try lots and lots of different ideas and approaches, always happy to move on to the next one if necessary.


I still think hard about strategy but I realise that there simply is no way of really knowing whether any idea is going to work. And just because something is consistent with the latest strategic fad or buzzword is completely irrelevant. Trust me.


The goal is to come up with lots of little ideas that might work and then identify those you can afford to try quickly and cheaply. I can’t remember who said it (maybe it was me!), but action has a genius of its own.


This approach certainly makes strategy more enjoyable. Suddenly far less is riding on every decision. Not everything is going to work, but nothing is going to break the bank either. And then when something does resonate, jump on it. Hard and fast.


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