blog articles

If everything’s strategy, then nothing is strategy

What strat­e­gy is. And what it’s not.

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.