Some years back, I was playing a game of chess with my elder sister and she got upset when I was spending so much time calculating my next moves. I remember dad had threatened us, when he mentioned that it could take up to a year for professional players in Scotland to finish up, taking breaks and returning to the game. My sister would not have any of that, “get going or I quit” she screamed.
“I didn’t ask you not too think hard.” I retorted. I always have to look at both directions at once, evaluate every possible permutation, and think how to do it and how not to do it. She didn’t get it. It was not always against my opponent but against my last moves. I don’t always struggle to outwit her but my very self. She didn’t understand why I felt happy even when I lost, and why learning was more important than winning to me. Unlike me, she would mock, chide and berate you when she wins. She was our teacher, but now her students are competing too hard and it was beginning to outwit her, and her ego didn’t have the requisite patience to handle that. Truth is, sometimes life is like a game, and we are either players or pawns. The patient weak will always conquer the impatient strong.
Empires, structures, systems, institutions, businesses, ideas and concepts exist on three steps on a ladder i.e. survival, success or at the level of significance. However, the differentiating and determining factor in their levels of existence on this ladder, (or in the 21st century market space) is not in the content or the nobility of their ideas, or strength of their biceps but in their strategies and execution methodologies. Strategies will be the platform or an albatross to build or flaw any idea or institution.
There are a lot of people that know what to do but not how to do it; there is a good number that knows how to do it but not what to do. They would rather imitate – failing to find their own originality. Many people know what to do but few do what they know. Strategy keeps you ahead of 90% of your peers who yield to chance. Strategy, like a brand, is unique, ingenuous, functional, creative and radically different. Nigeria’s Vision 2020, as nicely branded as it has become, still falters on the absence of sound strategy. Until we develop a sound strategy, we are only building castles in the air. There are many corporations in need of deep thinkers, strategists and people who can launch into the deep to catch the big fishes that are never caught in the shallow terrains. Corporations are seeking people who will ask questions such as; how can we increase in crisis? How can we do it better and differently? What is the opportunity in this problem? Why use vinegar to catch a few flies when you can catch much with honey? Why use gold when lead will do?
Strategy is not just an artistic craft that must be perfected or a science that must be studied. It is as thoughtful as both at their best. What is the difference between the good and the great, the better and the best, motion and movement, leaders and managers, effectiveness and efficiency, noise and voice? It is strategy.
In your personal life do you have a strategy for navigating the road blocks in your life, relationship, finance, or career without creating grid blocks? Do you have a strategy for moving from where you are to where you want to be? These are leading questions that can help you understand and appreciate the art of strategy. Read on.
What is strategy?
Strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In the most simple term, it is the carefully well-planned or method of doing things. Though an often overused term, strategy is easily misunderstood. It could be a potent summation of tactics commonly used mostly in the military lexicon; nonetheless it is profoundly different from tactics and applies to every area of our life. In military terms, tactics is concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. In other words, how a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy.
As a given, it is not the strongest of armies that win but the most strategic who understand that to win the war, you have to choose your battle, your battlefield and the time of war. On a romantic level, it is not the most handsome guy that gets the girl, but the guy with the strategic games. Same is applicable in scholarship as it is not the most intelligent student that makes a first class but the most strategic. In the corporate arena, it is not the biggest and oldest companies that will survive recession, but those who can evolve surviving and thriving strategies. When we understand that life is a battle, and that we must choose our battles and our battlefields (talking about our niche) in order to win the war, we then cannot compromise the essence of strategy development. You must understand that bigger is not necessarily better, and starting small is not the same as starting poorly. With strategy we can produce when resources are few and when the heat is on; we can be both effective and efficient.
KNOWING WHERE TO TAP
I want to extract a few lessons from a popular story of the giant ship engine that failed. The ship's owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure out how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of tools (Bag-of-Strategies, BOS) with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work... He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom. Two of the ship's owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed! A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars.
"What?!" the owners exclaimed. "He hardly did anything!"
So they wrote the old man a note saying, "Please send us an itemized bill."
The man sent a bill that read:
Tapping with a hammer....................
Knowing where to tap ... $ 9,998.00
GRAND TOTAL ...$10,000. 00
“Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort in your life makes all the difference.”
DIG DEEP; In line with the military strategy of Napoleon Bonaparte, the right information at the right time is nine of the battle. The illiterates of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, re-learn and unlearn. If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can come out of hundreds of battles unscathed. Your mind must be sharpening before the challenge comes in order to be strengthened in war. The best art of strategy lies in your thought. Like William Summer said, “Routine men are not hard to find, but men who can think and plan and tell the routine men what to do are very rare.” Deep thinking produces deep strategies. It doesn’t just give answers, it offers solutions.
The best strategies today might become the mundane of the past. Hence the need for new thinking. Albert Einstein said we cannot solve a problem at the level of thinking we were when we created them, and so we need to think wider and deeper to capture all views. You don’t have to wish for fewer problems but seek more solutions. We need deep functional thinking expertise to evolve cutting edge strategy. Worthwhile definitely!
CHOOSE YOUR NICHE; this is otherwise known as the strategy of positioning. The moon has no light of its own, but by virtue of its strategic positioning it, receives and ultimately reflects the light of the sun. When a man stands at an angle and cannot find the diameter of the circle, all he has to do is change the radius of the circle. We most position in the line of our strengths to win the war. The real voyages of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes but in having new sights and visions. We must have that ability to see beyond our confines.
NEVER BE CAUGHT UNAWARES; this simply means be prepared and proactive. For a man who understands strategy, it is not what they do in crisis, but what they put in place before such crisis. Preparation is a way of life. The old man knew where to tap, but really, it takes hours and possibly years of strategy to succeed in seconds. You must stay on the cutting edge to be a master in your field. Don’t just know everything in your field. Know how it relates to other fields. Apply it in the diverse arena. Don’t just know a thing about your spouse but how it relates to everything that pertains to their life.
GARNER THE TOOLS; when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem appears like a nail. Our efficiency is determined by our capacities. You must construct your bag of tools, hone your skills, build your capacity, so when you fall seven times you can rise up eight times again. But at the point of every rise, you must introduce a more advanced technological strategy that reflects the lesson from your previous challenges in life.
THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE