Recently, I asked a few folks in our office to define the word “strategy.” Here’s what they told me:
- Strategy is the approach someone plans to take to accomplish a goal.
- Thoughtfully creating a solution to a problem. A holistic, well-considered plan that aims to achieve specific results.
- In my world (personally and professionally), that means applying creative problem-solving: looking at a challenge and taking a beat to come up with the most interesting and hopefully smartest way to get there.
- Strategy is one, or many, intentional decisions made to influence a future outcome in your favor—an outcome with factors out of your control. Everyone makes strategic decisions every day.
This poses an interesting dilemma for me personally. You see, I’m the Chief Strategist at Bulldog. If we can’t agree on what strategy even is, then what does a Chief Strategist do?
My take is that strategy is about direction. Not the direction we move in to solve a problem but the big-picture direction of an organization. As in…where are we going? Where do we want to go? It requires one to be forward-looking and open to possibilities. It demands a keen awareness of the world around you and a deep understanding of people (customers, competitors, partners, employees, etc.), which requires honest introspection. What are we even capable of? What’s possible?
When we lead with solutions, we miss it. We end up with superficial fixes (albeit, sometimes well-thought-out superficial fixes) to superficial problems. We forget that understanding x and exploring its context are essential to solving for it.
Believe it or not, my job as Chief Strategist isn’t about helping to develop solutions for our clients’ big hairy problems. To the contrary—it’s about making sure we ask the right questions.