Strategy as Story
I’ve been in the strategy business for quite a while—19 years in fact. And I love it.
To me, strategy is like Change and Creativity got married and had a baby named Courage.
However, I’ve also been around long enough to have developed some jaded views—much as an AP teacher might get a little worn after years of catching her high-performing students half-assing their way to a C minus—such waste of potential.
Strategy fails to reach its potential when it becomes little more than this:
Recently, I was asked to facilitate a plenary session on the subject of strategy at the Colorado College Board of Trustees meeting. I was honored. I spent a long time thinking of how to pitch them the vision of what strategy could be at a place like CC—and more importantly, perhaps—what it must be in a time like this.
So, I did what you’re told never to do: I made up a new recipe and tried it out on the invited guests.
I asked them to discard the notion that strategy is a straightforward, mechanistic process in which ideas and plans are cranked through with industrialized precision. Instead, I asked them to think of it as organic, fluid, as a story. I asked them to think of themselves as co-authors of the story and to think of strategy as the parts of the grand narrative they choose to put into motion.
We looked at the personality traits of the story’s characters in the past and how those traits carried forward—or didn’t—into the personality traits of current stakeholders.
We looked at the plot twists that had forced the College authors of the past to make brave choices in the narrative and how the characters had responded to them. For example, did you know that Colorado College’s distinctive block plan was developed in response to the civic unrest of the late 1960s and enacted nearly 100 years AFTER the College was founded? That's courage.
We looked at the plot twists forcing tough choices in higher education now:
What I hoped the new strategy-as-story recipe would inspire was an image of the full potential of strategy—not inching forward with boring language and lame action plans; but rather the call to see, to hear, to respond, and to rise.
What story will you author?
Seasoned Marketing Strategist