Defense is Not the Answer

I just read a pretty interesting article about World War I strategy. The key point made is that the trench warfare strategy was not as stupid as we may think. Trenches made sense in an odd sort of way.

But the article ends in an odd way. While trenches may have made sense from a tactical point of view, they forced military planners into a defensive strategy. The only way to win in this posture was to bleed the other side into submission, not unlike the strategy behind siege warfare before cannons made castle walls less secure.

This is a classic strategic dilemma. Engaging in a tactic that forces a strategy upon you. And while there may have been no alternative to trench warfare on the western front in World War I, we do well to consider alternatives — playing to win, rather than not to lose.

Steve Jobs was a classic “play to win” strategist. Check out this video (that I found from BI)) to get a glimpse of how he thought and spoke


The Feynman Technique – Learning and Language Intersect

Scott Young offers a learning technique that he calls “the Feynman Technique”!. It is pretty simple, and worth trying out. On a more basic level, we all benefit from thinking about how we go about learning. As Dan Kahenman points out, it does not come automatically. We have to do stuff to engage the “slow thinking” part of the brain and then more stuff to engage memory and deep thinking.

Three tools help. One is visualization. If you can imagine what something looks like, you are one step closer to being able to use it.  A second is language. Talking through something helps you see more clearly what you know and what you don’t know. Scott’s tip is a good one — make the language simple. Convert technical terms into words that anyone could understand. Third is story telling. If you can visualize a story line that uses the thing you want to learn, you will remember it much better.

A tip – the more you practice these things, the better you get at using them.

Thinking about Demo Days

As a young lad, I was led by the hand around the New York World’s Fair for a glimpse of what the future had to offer. I was most interested in the rides. But there were also some demonstrations of things to come. Errr … in 30 or 40 years.

These days, demonstrations are done for stuff that is just about here. Consider the news from MIT’s demo day. The idea has shifted from showing stuff that might be done someday, to stuff that could be done now.

You can see how we are speeding up the process of innovation. At least as important, you can see that we benefit from seeing what our capacities are. What we could bring into being if we choose to. In other words, there has been a democritization of idea generation that would have been unthinkable back in 1964 when I was searching for the little boy’s room at the world’s fair with my mommy.

It is and it is not about you!

You often hear people say that “So and so is quite a character!” It is a compliment of sorts. The person sticks out in the crowd, usually a good thing. He or she makes you take notice. And so we strive to have “character”. The thing that makes me, me.

But from a strategic perspective, this is just the starting point. Being “me” does not mean that I will be effective. In this setting, it is all about the other. The thing outside myself that I react to and connect with. That is at the essence of it all. Getting to that other, understanding it, embracing it, and learning from it.

Elizabeth Warrn is Someone

Who is Bill Clinton? Before you answer, you have to think for a second. That is because Bill Clinton does the same thing. Before he does stuff, he thinks about what you want him to do. At least in part, he is who he thinks you want him to be.

We call that being the “ultimate politician”. And one has to admit that Bill is pretty damned good at it. Of course, he is not alone. He just does it better than a lot of other folks do.

Is that the only way to do politics? Of course not. Another way is to have the courage of your convictions. To say out what you think in order to be more proud of who you are. This is why I like the way Elizabeth Warren handles herself in Washington. Check out her comment on Eric Cantor’s new job on Wall Street.

Daring to Think about Impact

When I was a lad, one of my major concerns was the impact the world had on me. I felt a bit at sea with the obligations that pressed down on me. Feeling that impact, I spend a great deal of mental energy trying to figure out how to protect myself from it. Ooops

In fact,  as I figured out much later, if you want to have fun in life, you need to work on the impact you have on the world around you. That means thinking about what your legacy is. Who you are is not what others do to you. It is what you do that is worth remembering.

How to start thinking this way? Well, that is the first step towards strategic learning. It has a lot to do with building an identity.