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Monday, July 24, 2006

Will strategy become a commodity?

Missed this recent post by the always thought provoking Umair Haque ( He suggests a "law" for the post-network economy is that strategy becomes a commodity:

"Today, the average corporation is packed to the gills with strategists. It's up to it's ears in strategy consultants. The language, vocabulary, and ideas of strategic thinking permeate it.

And that's no surprise - strategy is a very useful way to think about commerce (art, life, etc).

But that also means that everyone and their grandmother knows how to pick profitable markets, segment them, price goods and services, analyze competitors, understand industry economics, etc, etc.

Strategy itself, in a very real sense, is becoming a commodity."

He may have a point. The business world is indeed crawling with strategists. He instead sees creativity as the logical source of value creation:

"I think it is going to have to do with creativity. In a world where strategy is a commodity, creativity becomes the vital factor from which value flows. When everyone can think strategically about everything, the locus of value creation shifts from out-thinking everyone to out-creating them."

Hard to argue with that. However, the proliferation of "strategists" does mask a fact most of us have observed first hand. Creating a strategy is easy. Creating a great strategy, not so much. Creating a brilliant strategy that actually moves a business to reevaluate how it does business is even harder. Most of what passes as strategy these days are actually tactics - a suit of clothes worn for a few days and then discarded. I continue to believe that creativity that bubbles up from a brilliant (though not rigid) strategy, itself informed by a powerful insight - will generally beat raw, untethered creativity.

However, whenever I read the most celebrated cases in business books, I have the nagging suspicion that the "strategy" was tacked on after the fact. Hmmmm.

1 comment:

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