Giving you the Keys…
Knowledge is power… and strategy is how you wield your power to get what you want.
Like all powerful knowledge, the keys to creating and implementing a business strategy are closely kept secrets. These secrets are held by the corporations and consultants who use this knowledge for their own profit, either in their own businesses or to sell information products and consulting services to others.
The keys to strategy are shrouded in academic and techincal jargon, so as to take the semblance of complexity. They like to make it seem complicated, to hoard the value for themselves.
I believe that even the academics are missing the point, and that in fact, the abililty to strategise is hardwired in all of us.
Here are the keys…
We’re told that formulating strategy requires intense research… you’ve got to choose which strategic approach to take, understand the conditions of that approach, develop the strategy and then implement and monitor it.
For a small/medium size business owner, this can be an incredibly daunting task, involving a whole load of learning before you even get around to putting the strategy into action.
Corporate strategy building processes will involve a large number of people involved to gather the data, organise it meaningfully and formulate a set of steps. This is before any action is taken… Can you imagine how long that would take you on your own?! And there’s no guarantee of results… you’ve got to keep testing and adapting the strategy until it’s the best fit for you. All of that AND you’ve got to run the actual business itself.
That’s why most SMEs don’t engage in strategy in a meaningful way… they’re too busy trying to stay on top of the day-to-day running of the business. Out of the 100 million businesses started worldwide, only 500,000 will succeed in the long term. That’s 1 in 200 who will make it.
You can be sure these successful businesses, are the ones that have used a strategy. The ones that will survive into the long-term, are the ones that are able to step back from daily activities and build a bigger picture.
What kind of business do you have??
There are three kinds of businesses, those that fail, those that are stable and those that grow. The first kind is no business at all… ventures that bubble-up out of the sheer force of will of the entrepreneurial individual, but fail to sustain as a systematised business. These are the majority of businesses. Chances are, this is your business. In 5-10 years, it won’t exist anymore.
The second is more like a business you work for, than a business that works for you… you do what needs to be done to keep it ticking over, but it’s basically like having a job, and doesn’t give you any space to do anything more.
The third is the business everyone wants… one that grows… one that’s engaging and profitable. It’s the position that you’re fighting against 199 other businesses to achieve.
What’s the difference? Strategy – the story of how you get from where you are to where you want to be. How do you allocate resources in order to obtain the desired outcome? The way you answer that question is your strategy, whether it’s formalised or not. As soon as you start thinking strategically, the numbers start shifting in your favour. The moment you even ask the question, ‘how can I get more strategic?’, you immediately take your business up the pile.
The difference strategy makes, is your long-term survival as a business… if you want to be operating in 5-10 years’ time then you better have a strategy for that. If you want to survive as a business and not get eaten up by the competition, drowned by your workload or simply wither away into irrelevancy, then your ability to think strategically is essential.
I believe that ability is innate to you, as an intrinsic aspect of how we’re biologically and psychologically attuned towards strategic thinking, by virtue of being alive.
As an English Language teacher, I’ve learnt a lot from studying the structure of language and how it gets used. I noticed that all types of communication are stories, whether it’s a conversation, an essay, a report, a pitch or a strategy… all these things are based on an underlying narrative structure that describes the steps you need to take to reach your objective.
Have I got a story for you….
…Is one of the most powerful statements you can make in terms of getting someone’s attention. And there’s tremendous leverage that can be found in utilising your own narrative capacities and those of the people you work with.
The reason why is because our brains are hardwired for stories. The mind is a web of interconnected stories that we use to make sense of the world. Like a mental map of meaning, connectong people, events, resources, objectives and challenges in a multidimensional landscape of narrative.
The more detailed your narrative, the more like a strategy it becomes, in it’s abillity to make meaningful, purposeful connections. And the more fluent you are with your own mental map, the more meaning it takes on, for you and others.
For example, many business owners make the mistake of talking about their business, when more important is talking about what it means for their clients. What’s the story they want to be hearing? What makes your story meaningful for them? It’s your stories about what you can do for your clients that define your success.
The most engaging stories have a dynamic balance of information and imagery, yet traditional strategy formulation tends towards being data driven and highly analytical, making it a complicated and time-consuming process beyond the means of many business owners.
Yet the ability to operate strategically is generally seen in only the most successful business, making it one of them most precious tools a business owner can possess.
The study of strategy, whether professionally or academically, is obscured in terminology and kept as a scarce resource. And people who are too busy spending time on the little details are the victims of this knowledge inequality.
The simple keys to unlocking your own strategic thinking capabilities are, I believe, deliberately hidden, in order to create advantage for those in the know. And that’s because strategy is the life-giving elixir for businesses… even a little drop can make a world of difference.
This secret is that the human brain is hardwired for stories, and that strategies are a kind of story, therefore you are hardwired for strategic thinking.
What this means practically is, that for each action you take in each day, there’s a way to be more effective, that there’s a quicker route to reach your goals, and there are better goals that will enhance your sense of purpose.
How can you use these innate narrative, strategic capacities to your advantage now, and solve your most pressing problems?
Problems are to do with a fixed, narrow focus, which causes an inability to see beyond the issue. Shift and expand your focus, and more options immediately become available.
The question becomes, how do you expand your perspective?
This is where you draw upon the natural way your brain is set up, to do the work for you.
Trust your brain.
When you combine your narrative capacity to make connections with the vast resource of data that your unconscious mind holds, you create a powerful tool for strategic formulation and problem-solving.
In mythology, before approaching The Oracle, the seeker would prepare a question. The secret of the Oracle is, it gets the answer from the mind of the seeker!
The moral get’s romanticised and misconstrued…. ” the answer is within you”.
What a load of BS.
The real, practical lesson is about our ability to formulate precise questions, and to engage in focused reflection about how we can supply answers to those questions. It’s about having a methodology to generate answers. The Oracle is a solution generating tool. A way of thinking that is always able to find a path in the mental map.
It’s not that we have the answer within, it’s that we’re always able to create ways to come up with answers for ourselves, by drawing on our natural potential for creativity and imagination.
Let’s consider this from all the angles.
Whenever you face a challenge, it will be focused around people… if it’s a business challenge, the focus will be on your clients, staff, suppliers or any one of your stakeholders. More than likely, it will involve more than one character, and the way through the challenge will most definitely involve multiple players acting in concert.
in this picture, you’ve got the players involved, the positions they occupy and the resources they’re dealing with.
You’ve got to assess the whole situation before making your move, gathering as much relevant information as possible and using it to create direction and momentum, making decisions and taking actions that will forge a path forward.
You create this bigger picture by immersing yourself in the perspectives of all the relevant characters in this particularly story.
In your position as business owner, you will already have a huge amount of data available to you, already stored in your mental map of the world.
Your imaginative ability will be fairly precise when it comes to putting yourself in the shoes of your clients, staff and other stakeholders, being able to feel their concerns and know what’s important to them.
If the conscious, analytical mind deals with quantifiable information, then the unconscious imagination deals with qualifying imagery and metaphor. In the same way when we speak, you pick up information from the words used as well as the way their used.
Narrative is the way to engage the resource of your unconscious mind. If you want to make an innovation and come up with a better, quicker, more profitable way of doing things, then you better have your creative imagination fully engaged.
If you’re going to out-smart your competitors, then you better be able to think of things they can’t. If you’re going to continue to be relevant to your clients next year or in ten years, then you better be able to capture their minds, so that you’re the one they turn to when they want something solved.
You can spend, 20 minutes in focused reflection, looking at the situation from all the angles, from the perspectives of each of the players involved, and build tremendous scope and detail into your current mental map. As you build the map, and observe the details grow, you’ll begin to notice things you weren’t previously aware of. You’ll get that magic moment of, “Oh I never thought of it like that before, as the new perspectives bring clarity. A way forward appears.
It’s not magic, even though it can feel like it at the time… when you have that moment of insight that carries you forward into action. It’s key to act immediately upon the insight… make a note, send that email, share your decision. Move swiftly from insight to action.
That moment is predictable when you keep adding perspectives, so if you haven’t arrived at that moment… add more perspectives!
It really is that simple.
You don’t need any expensive training or to study the textbooks.
Simply ask yourself, what’s the story? Step into the role of narrator. Build a narrative around, where you are, how you got there and where you want to go. Include the perspectives of each of the critical stakeholders in the issue. Expand the breadth and depth of your mental map. Trust your brain.
Keep on feeding the story and shifting perspective until the way forward becomes clear.
You can do this right from within your own chair, because you already have the analytical and creative skills you need. Stepping out from your role as business operator, you become like the Seer, the mystic guide who can see from beyond the veil into their own unconscious. As you strategically and empathically explore your own mental map from the perspectives of others, you’re able to see paths which were previously out of sight.
The biggest difference between businesses that grow and those that fail, is the degree to which you’re exercising your strategic function. Now you have the keys, all you need is a few minutes on a regular basis, to consult with your own Oracle, your own font of wisdom.
Getting stuck is never the problem. What really hurts, is not being able to find a way out. Trust your brain, look at all the angles and your next steps will become clear.
As a solutions coach, my purpose is to make my solutions provision obsolete to you. I’m not the consultant who wants to embed themselves in your business. This is because I’m an educator first. I’m not here just to give you solutions, I want to show you how to create your own solutions.
We don’t have all the answers inside us. I believe we do have the innate capacity to always be able to find an answer. This capacity to successfully navigate challenges is built in to the way your brain operates.
And to unlock this capacity, all you need to do is become aware of it.
This a natural ability for me… the same way some people think in pictures, I think in connections. Finding ways to solve a problem is simply a matter of thinking through the connections.
I think the reason this is natural for me is because of my early education that balanced the intellect and the imagination. This predisposes towards being able to accurately extrapolate in many directions starting from concrete data.
The same way engineers can run through the schematics of engines, and see how they would operate in real time, or the way an architect can envision the interactions a space can create, or even the way a storyteller can see the biographies of each character and can project influences from the past into future consequences.
It’s a kind of visual, analytical skill. Like any skill it can be practised and improved, and honed to a fine degree.
Drawing upon your own strengths of imagination and analysis, of relating and connecting, of acting and being decisive… these are the tools with which you navigate your mental map and add detail and scope to it.
After a while of practising this kind of thinking, it becomes a habit, installed in the way you think and see the world. Like a learning algorithm, building on itself, improving its own ability to learn. It’s a growth pattern… a way of thinking that is tuned towards identifying ways to grow.
You’ve got these tools, all you need to do is spend time with them. Go use them.
If you would like to accelerate your strategic ability, towards a specific goal, there are 3 packages here for you to choose from, to help massively expand your mental map and focus your ability to navigate towards a specific objective.