I have noticed a debate in the media about the value of setting goals. On the one side, folks argue that goals are essential to define your mission. To give a basis for focus. On the other side, folks argue that this creates tunnel vision and perhaps de- motivates when you find your goals are not immediately attainable.
So how to sort this out? As usual, there is an element of truth on both sides. Goals do promote focus and can create tunnel vision. In other words, setting goals in itself is not a magic bullet for success. On the other hand, not using goals at all means accepting mediocrity. So the trick here is to figure out how to use goals and not get used by them.
This is one of the big take aways from my strategy model and I can’t go through the entire process here. I can say, however, that as Lafley & Martin point out, deciding what is winning in a gaming context is only the first step to playing the game. And the real goal is to play the game, not just receive the trophy for winning the game.
That is why I like the idea that we need to create games that don’t end. It is at the core of creative collaboration.
For most of my life, I was not a change agent. I tried to fit into the roles that society offered me. And btw, this was not so bad. During that time, I took comfort in the belief that I was mastering certain skills that enriched my career. But in 1994, all of that changed. I jumped out of my career path into a setting where I needed to help create new institutions. I found out very quickly that my skill set was not up to the task.
So what have I learned? A lot. For one thing, I learned that they don’t teach this stuff in school. Nor do they teach it at work. If you want to change things, you have to learn yourself how to become a change agent. Interested? Then join the adventure!
Borges quoted Stevenson saying that enchantment “… is one of the special qualities that a writer must have. Without enchantment, the rest is useless. ”
True, and not just for writers. For in a sense, we all write out our lives. We create and share our stories as we live them. And if we are not capable of enchantment? Then sadly, we feel a certain heaviness. A tired spirit. A forced moment. Even the most ethereal refreshment passes our lips without effect. No laughter.
Can we nurture our capacity for enchantment? Of course! It is a simple strategic question. Join the adventure!
By now, the evidence is inescapable. Humans are not strictly rational. We do not have that capacity. We can strive for rationality, but we will never achieve it in full. To give you a sense of the magnitude of the problem, here is a list of 58 cognitive biases. Strategic thinking is the tool to get beyond bias in a given context. It does not make us supermen or women. But it does allow us to see a path and follow it in the most reasonable way possible.
So become a strategic learner! Join the adventure!
Here is a question that few ask. How much willpower does it take for you to get through your average day?
It is an important question because we know that willpower is an exhaustible resource. We can use if up if we rely on it too heavily. If so, we might consider keeping track of how much willpower we use. Like watching the gas gauge in the car.
How do we do that? Good question. We might be able to do it via indirect measurement. We can sense how much resistance we feel to do things. How often do we feel the urge to give up? The more we feel that urge, the more we have to resist it to stay in the game. And the more we resist, the more willpower we use up
We might take this one step further. Where does our resistance come from? Game theory suggests that when we join in a game, resistance to further play disappears. We experience “flow”. Two factors disrupt play (1) a sense of being overwhelmed or (2) a sense of boredom. In the first case, we give up in the face of impossible odds. In the second case, we have nothing to give up. We are trapped in drudgery.
So willpower may be seen as a backup tool when games fail. Then we need some strategic thinking to get back on track.
One of the more odious trends of modern thinking is our obsession with productivity. Why? Because the urge the squeeze ever more out of each second pushes us to overload. We end up working too fast to see the effects of what we do. The urge to be more productive too easily morphs into the urge to sprint when walking would do just fine. In other words, the never ending quest to be more productive assumes that the marginal value of producing more and more is unlimited. Of course, this is nonsense.
Where did this come from? In my humble view, it is a by-product of the 20th century obsession with efficiency. Back when things were usually produced one at a time, mass production created tremendous value added by making component movements in the production process less costly and of more uniform quality. So one strips things down to the essentials to see what tasks are repeated, and focus on making those repetitive tasks faster and cheaper.
This works very well for the assembly line. But soon, we will find ourselves in a dilemma. Computers will be able to do any task better than we do, except one. That is to understand why we do tasks at all. So getting better at doing repetitive tasks is not a recipe for success in this future era. Getting better at assessing why we do tasks makes a lot more sense. And, as The Simple Dollar points out, this implies periodic self-assessment. It is not the same thing as rest. And it does not happen quickly or automatically. It is a form of work. And you get better at it the more you do it.
Where do we start? The periodic self-assessment is a part of strategic thinking. And you do it in light of the iterative questions that you ask and answer as you do things. These are simple questions like “who are you?”, “what are you doing”, “who do you connect with”, and “what story are you building”? But while the questions are simple, they are not so easy to answer and act upon.
There are few buzz words these days more important than “culture”. In the old days, culture was an art show. And it was socially advantageous to appear “cultured”. But now we use the term more broadly. Culture is the social soup that we swim in. The overlapping and sometimes contradictory mesh of values and norms that form the logic of our messaging. And many would like to advise on “how to change culture”. Or better yet, how to create a “culture of change“.
Here is the thing. We don’t need change for change sake. Indeed, one could argue that we have already seen too much “new and improved” stuff that is new in minor detail, but no better or even worse. We should change when we see something better than what exists in the present. Full stop.
So, what do we see now? I see something that could be done much better than we do now. Share learning — engage the neural capacity of all humans on the planet in shared learning. I see it and to bring it into being, I have to change myself and the way I message.
This is like a dancing lesson. See then move. See then move. And it is a strategy lesson. One leads with strategy rather than just exhort ourselves forward for the hell of it.
In school we are supposed to gain a lot of knowledge. But for some reason, this doesn’t help us get a head start in life? Why not? Belle Beth Cooper brings this out. Knowledge does not empower us to make neural connections between ideas. Experience does that. More precisely, learning from experience broadens our vision of what is possible to do.
Roger Martin writes quite a bit about strategy and he knows what he is talking about. He makes a good point that we always have a strategy (even if we don’t know it and can’t articulate it). it is what we do. Talking about strategy is not the same thing as doing it. And we need to keep telling ourselves, over time we are what we do.
The mantra is that we are who we are connected with. Why? So that we can make “quality exchanges” that help us learn faster. To be “thought leaders” and as such “masters” and “autonomous” and to help do “great things”. But “connecting” implies being able to come to an agreement about a relationship. That raises the question, how do we come to agreements?
It is a great question that we don’t think about very much. We do it through negotiation. And negotiation doesn’t just happen. It is a skill set. There are lots of books about it, but be prepared to get beyond just reading a book or two. This is something you need to master in order to be successful in life.