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Strategic Inception

Most of the best strategies I've encountered hinge on a single strategic insight.

Or, perhaps, a very small number of them.

Peter Compo, author of "The Emergent Approach to Strategy" calls this The Bottleneck. Richard Rumelt, author of "Good Strategy, Bad Strategy" calls it The Crux. Military historians talk about Napoleon's Glance.

Even better is when that single strategic insight is so compelling it one cannot fail to act on it. When it is so elegantly simple that, once seen, it cannot be unseen.

In one client I worked with, it was the realisation that customers who exhibited a certain behaviour were over 4 times more likely to purchase their product than those that did not. In another, it was understanding how their sales teams actually spent their time, given that they lacked the data and support which would enable them to act more effectively. (Apologies that confidentiality requires me to be a little vague about the details! In both cases, of course, the context is vital.)

Leonardo DiCaprio in the firm Inception
Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception
In the film "Inception", the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio says "Once and ideas has taken hold of the brain, it's almost impossible to eradicate."

In that film, the protagonists have access to fantastical technology for embedding ideas in people's brains in a process they call Inception.

Sadly (or perhaps gladly, when you see how the film turns out), we don't have access to that.

And so our work is:

  1. to keep delving until we uncover that single strategic insight that compels action, leaving no stone unturned until you have the Eureka! moment,
  2. to embed it throughout the organisation through regular repetition of an elegantly simple explanation of that insight,
  3. without becoming so beholden to it, that we fail to notice and adjust when the circumstances around us change.

We can, of course, settle for less. There are plenty of strategies which are "good enough". But if we want truly great strategies, then that is the task we must set ourselves.

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