Last year, I was having problems explaining the difference between strategy and tactics in an advertising class. In truth, the definition is a little unclear. It takes experience to see the difference. But here’s how I break it down.
If all someone does is execute strategy, they’re not a strategist.
If they’re copying someone else’s success and, without really understanding it, transplants it to their own operation, that’s not strategy.
Strategy is curious. It does research to define variables, map the terrain and understand the environment. Strategists don’t care what the problem is; they’re willing to deal with the problem as they find it, without prejudice. They don’t think that, because they know how to measure ROI, every problem can be solved by ROI measures. They’re problem-agnostic. So curiosity becomes an ally.
Strategy is insightful. It follows hints from things it can see in order to uncover things it can’t see.
Strategy sees things fresh, like a little child. It ignores the noise of tradition, and focuses on seeing the problem or opportunity as it is. This means new interpretations on old ideas.
Strategy is creative because it lets curiosity clean the slate. And when curiosity and insight are able to determine the problem in a clear and non-standard fashion, the solution tends to present itself in a fresh way.