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Exploring Forrester’s approach to business strategy and AI – a FLOW Summit replay

The essence of strategic thinking

Written with GPT-4.
Reviewed, revised and approved by Signifyd humans.

Brendan Witcher, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, opens with a critique of the misuse of the term “strategy” in business, emphasizing that real strategy is about a profound understanding of business problems, rather than relying on generic models or clichéd phrases. He highlights the necessity for deeper thinking in the age of AI and chatbots, as tactical and mundane tasks become automated.

Highlights from FLOW Summit 2023

From FLOW Summit 2023, here is an insightful session led by Forrester’s Brendan Witcher. Witcher’s talk, rich in depth and practical wisdom, delves into the transformative impact of strategic thinking in a world increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence and the digital era.

Challenging assumptions: One of Witcher’s central arguments is the danger of unchecked assumptions in strategy. He recounts an experience where a retailer, over four hours, made 136 assumptions without data backing. This, Witcher argues, is a common pitfall where businesses pursue projects based on unfounded beliefs, often leading to failure.

The seven principles of strategic thinking: The bulk of Witcher’s presentation focuses on seven principles for successful strategic thinking. These include recognizing the dangers of assumptions, the misuse of data, the need for a realistic understanding of the business environment and the importance of continuous strategy evaluation even post-execution.

Beyond the big seven: In addition to the seven principles, Witcher briefly touches on five more steps to master strategic thinking. These range from collaborative strategy development to questioning strategies that rely on dramatic changes in consumer behavior and the importance of not relying on hope or chance in strategic planning.

Data: A double-edged sword: Witcher warns about the pitfalls of ubiquitous data access. While data is crucial, it often tells a misleading story if you don’t carefully analyzed it. He uses the example of sustainability practices in consumer behavior to show how real-world actions often contradict data-driven assumptions.

Recognizing and addressing failure: Another significant point is the need to anticipate and embrace failure. Witcher urges companies to seek out problems in their strategies, a process he says is essential to uncovering issues that could lead to failure. He emphasizes the importance of not just throwing away a strategy at the first sign of trouble, but rather, investigating and tweaking it to find success.

Understanding the business landscape: Witcher draws on Sun Tzu’s teachings from “The Art of War” to stress the importance of understanding the business landscape. He cites Amazon’s Dash buttons as an example where a failure to understand consumers and the market led to a flawed strategy.

Bringing fearless thinking into organizations

Witcher encourages us to bring fearless thinking into our organizations. He stresses that strategies should not be based on random chance but should be purposeful, well-vetted endeavors in the pursuit of positive outcomes. He urges businesses to embrace ideas from all sources but to rely on aggregated expertise for robust strategies.

Witcher’s session at the FLOW Summit 2023 is not just an academic discussion but a practical guide, filled with real-world examples and actionable advice on how to rethink your approach to strategy in an increasingly complex and AI-driven world. Watch it now.

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Stuart Gold (00:03):

I get the pleasure to introduce Brendan Witcher. He’s the VP of Principal Analyst for Forrester.

Brendan Witcher (00:11):

One of the things that I like to think about and I like to do is to say, well, what is it that I heard earlier today that I’d like to leverage for my presentation that I’m going to talk about later? And Scott Friend, when he was standing up or sitting up here rather talking about chat GPT, he said something very interesting that I thought was maybe you just kind of glazed over it, and that was that the world that we’re heading into requires you to be a deeper thinker. If we say anything about artificial intelligence and chat, GPT, it is that actually a lot of that work is going to go away, which means the tactical work, the mundane work, those sorts of things are going to go away, and so we need to be able to be more strategic thinkers. We need to think differently.


We need to have that sort of intelligence. The problem is that lots of times we don’t actually know what it means to be a strategic thinker, and that becomes quite a problem. I want to do a little exercise with you guys just real quick if that’s okay. I’m going to do this to ask just you to think about what it means for strategy. Okay? What is strategy? So I’m going to just throw that question up there, but first I’d like you to just take a minute or five seconds and I want you to say to yourself, in your mind, what is my biggest business problem?

The shift in work and strategic thinking


Say it in your head. What is my biggest business problem? Okay, here’s a bunch of strategic phrases that I pulled out of the headlines just about a week ago. Do any of these solve your problem? These are all from earnings calls. No, they don’t solve your problem. The problem is the word strategy gets used in almost everything to sound smarter and sound more intelligent or sound important. These are not actually strategic statements. These are sort of banal platitudes that make investors really happy, but they don’t actually create solutions for you. By the way, someone’s taking pictures here. You can take all the pictures you want, tweet it, do whatever you like. If you reach out to me after this session on LinkedIn, say, give me your deck. I’ll send you the whole thing. Don’t worry about that. Okay, not a problem at all. Okay, so what is strategy?


This is not strategy, okay? This is not strategy at all, so don’t take pictures of this. This is not strategy because this is what it leads to, okay? This is what it feels like, doesn’t, it kind of feels like this. Now, I know that there are people in the room who are big fans of these sort of models. Well, guess what? We’re not going to talk about those today because that’s boring. And I know you guys don’t want to learn strategic models, nor would I. I’ve been a strategist for 20 years and I don’t find those things very useful because if you don’t have the right way of thinking about things, then those models really don’t make a difference. My job here today, did anybody see my conditional love speech last year? Anybody? Few people were here last year, said, yeah, okay, good. So one of the things that did that conditional love report was talking about how do we understand customers at a much deeper level than any other business out there?


How do we get to that point? And a lot of people came up to me after that and they go like, dang, how do you think like that? Well, I’ve worked with 58 of the top Fortune 100 companies and I sit in their boardrooms and I hear what they say and I find patterns in what they say. I literally get paid to just think that’s it. That’s all I get paid to do and write some research papers every once in a while. But yeah, that’s what I get paid to do, so I get to think about things. So my goal today is to help you think about things so you can stop feeling like this.


Adam gave me this slide. Adam Silverman signified used to work at Forester, and this is from his deck. 10 years ago I stole it. I knew he’d be here, so this is how it feels, and it felt that way 10 years ago when Adam put it in his deck, and it still feels that way, unfortunately. Now, a lot of people think when they hear the word strategy, they think, oh, it’s some voodoo, some mystic success is elusive. It’s not elusive. You can get to success. There is a formula for success. There is a way to get to it. Unfortunately, most companies don’t have the strategic thinking that they need to get to it. Now, last year I quoted Jim Collins and his book, good To Great, and the opening line of that book was Good is the Enemy of Great. So I have an upcoming book actually called The Strategist Tales of Struggle, scars and Successes from Corporate Boardrooms, and this is the opening line in my book.


There are no bad ideas, just bad strategies. Everything’s a good idea and worth exploring, but what I find is things don’t fail or not fail because of the idea they fail, because the strategy behind that idea didn’t work. It wasn’t well thought through. I recently worked with a retailer who said, we put in self-checkout machines and we’d like you to help us optimize them. Okay, well let’s level set on what kind of work you’ve done. First, I said, how did you select how many self-checkout machines to put into your stores? They said, well, we had a budget and then we had this many stores, so we just divided the number of stores by the budget, and that’s how many self-checkout issues. I go, so you did no strategic work, no strategic work, and that’s why they are where they are today. That’s why they needed help with them because we do a lot of, I think someone said the word lazy earlier.


We are strategically lazy in a lot of ways, and what I’m going to try to help you do is go through seven of the principles. I don’t have time for all 12, but I’m going to go through the seven most important principles and then talk about the last five at the very end just really quickly. So let’s go through the first one. Let’s get to the first point of the how to think about things that will help you do your jobs better, and a lot of this is fearless thinking. Just to be super clear, it’s a lot of ways I’m going to challenge the way you would approach your job, so hopefully forget what you do for your job, and I’m not going to say, by the way, I’m not going to say the word fraud once today. Okay? That’s not what my thing is.

Defining strategy


This is to help you no matter what your job is, carry this forward into the future. This is what I find in that book. The successes are because of these elements. Again, 10 years of being an analyst and hundreds and hundreds of conversations with people. Okay? First, let’s talk about this. Lots of people think strategy is one of these two things. Which one do you think it is? Don’t answer. Just think it in your mind. Which one looks more like strategy did if you had to visualize it? All right? Now let me ask you a very simple question. What is the purpose of a watch?


What is it to tell? Time? Okay, it’s to tell time. The strategic purpose of a watch is to tell time. What if it doesn’t tell time? It doesn’t really qualify as a watch. It doesn’t, right? That’s the point of it. If it doesn’t tell time, it doesn’t really matter what it does. Now, by the way, I’m not talking about these new watches y’all are wearing. I’m talking about the old ones like that. Without a watch, there’s no real purpose. If it doesn’t tell time, then it breaks. It’s a worthless piece of accessory on your body. Now, let me ask you the same question. Which one do you think is more like strategy? Okay, hopefully you guys are changing your mind a little. I’m go to the next one. The work of strategy makes strategy work. In other words, processing information to understand how variables require certain identified actions that will lead to specific best case outcomes.


I do not expect you to memorize that statement. What I’m going to do is that the way I process things, I bullet it for you. Okay? Four things to think about. We’re talking about process information. Understand the variables that are going to impact something you’re going to do. Identify the actions required to make sure those variables do not impact your strategy, and then understand a best case scenario. Why do I say best case scenario? Because if your best case scenario is we don’t make any money at this, don’t do it. If that’s the best possible outcome, if all the work that you’ve done, then go do something else. There’s plenty of other things to work on now. Now I’m going to ask you to kind of give some input. Now, which one do you think is more like strategy? It’s the right, it’s the right.


It isn’t the face. A lot of people think strategy is how do we look to the public? What are the customer experiences that we create? Strategy doesn’t work or not work. It doesn’t tell time or not tell time because of what’s on the face. It happens because of the cogs, the pieces, the parts that move together, that work together in a strategic way. The springs and the levers all have to make sense. Now, what if this person said, okay, look, that looks like a gold plated. Could be a gold plated cog, right? Very soft metal. Gold is actually what if you put a gold plate? You said, but this is the best cog in the world and we’re putting it in here. Is that a good idea? No, because it forgets the purpose. The purpose is to tell time. The purpose is to keep the watch going, right? Many CEOs today focus too much on what are you doing rather than is the watch still being a watch as a retailer? Are we still being a good retailer? That kind of idea, that kind of thinking is core to all this belief. Ping pong is a good example of that. So what’s the point of pink? Now that you’ve seen the watch purpose? What is the point of ping pong? Anybody?


You’re not an A type personality. Have fun. What is the point of ping pong? Get the ball back across the net. That’s it. If you literally sit there and just get the ball back across the net, what’s going to happen? You’re going to win. That’s the point. It’s not to trick the other player. It’s not to hold your paddle a certain way. It’s not to do all those things. Those things that you do, get the ball back across the net, but it’s a very simple thing. I have something that you may not have realized. Some of you have probably worked in retail for a very long time. You know what retail is? We take stuff from over here and we give it to people over here. That’s it. That’s all we do. That’s our across the net. That’s what our goal to do. It sounds very simple, so why does it feel so hard?


A lot of times it’s because of our approach to strategic thinking. So the first way to think fearlessly about things is understand the value and can directly identify the purpose of the initiative that you’re doing. What is the purpose of what we’re doing? If you say to create better customer experiences, you don’t know the purpose yet. What is the purpose? And it cannot be some banal platitude like putting the customer center of everything, becoming a data led company, scaling, personalization, blah, blah, blah, blah. None of that, none of that. The exact purpose. What is your watch? What are you trying to do? Step one, step two, I am a huge fan of movies where someone goes back in time, things change, and all of a sudden their whole life changes. I think that’s a really cool concept. What does that happen in life? How does this happen in business? Well, why does that have to do with it? Well, let’s take a look at this. What happens when you assume? What happens when you assume make an nasa, you and me, what kind of person are you? Your strategies fail.


Why would you say that? Make an ass and okay, glad my kids aren’t here. Your strategies fail. Sometimes they fail epically. Why? Because your assumption was wrong. This happens all the time. Constantly. The customer wants video in an experience. Really? Do they all customers? That’s a requirement of them. So what happens when you have that belief system in your organization? You do all these projects and none of them work. It doesn’t matter what you do because your assumption’s wrong. Meanwhile, reality, sitting over here get no attention. That’s the problem. The opportunity costs of dealing with reality is you work on things that for some reason aren’t going anywhere, and it’s because your assumption is broken or your frame is broken. As organizations, we need to rebreak our frames. The way we’re framing our problems as companies has to be broken and rethought of, okay, so fearless thinking.

Common misconceptions about strategy


Number two, recognize when you’re framing things with assumptions. I was recently working with a retailer. We had a four hour session together and I told them I would do this, but every time they made a statement that was an assumption. In the four hours, I put a little hash mark down. Guess how many hash marks I did? Got in four hours, a hundred close, 136. Actually, 136 assumptions. They were making. Our customers want this. Our people in our stores want this. Now, some of those assumptions may have been right, but my point I was making is they didn’t actually have data. They had experience. Well, I’ve been in this business for 30 years, that’s why I know nope, doesn’t work that way. The other problem is we aggregate the customer In a lot of ways, we aggregate business results. Aggregated information is probably the worst information.


If I told you 61% of people care about video and experience, you’d be like, oh, that’s great, and if I told you it was a millennials, you’d be like, well, that’s expected. You know Who else cares about video and experience? 61% of people that are old and can’t see very well. They also care about video, but what do you do with that? One of my favorite questions I get from people is, what’s a percentage of e-commerce next year? I say, what difference does it make if it’s 17%, 18%, 19%, what do you do with that? Tell me how your strategy changes. Because that information, we spend a lot of time trying to sound intelligent without using information to make intelligent decisions, and that’s part of our problem. We chase information that’s interesting, but not actionable. Okay? Lesson number two. Number three, ubiquitous access to data is not to your company’s benefit.


You’re like, oh, I can learn anything anywhere. That is not good. Lemme tell you why. I want you to think, no, I don’t want you to think. I want you to say, and I want you to say it loud enough so I can hear it on stage. Tell me what is the last thing you purchased on the count three? Ready? Say it loud enough for me to hear it, and I want all of you sitting next to the person to listen to what they say too. 1, 2, 3. Good. Okay, hang on to that. I don’t know what that was. It was all a white noise to me, but that’s not the point. The point is you committed to something. All right, lemme show you a piece of data when it comes to the time to purchase a product. More than half all respondents, 55%, consider the sustainability practices of a brand.


You’ll use that all day long, won’t you? Look, this is important. This is important. So how many of you checked the company sustainability page or practices before making that purchase? You called out, raise your hand if you did. Nobody. Not only is it not 55%, it’s zero. Zero of you checked and cared about that sustainability practice. See, data sucks. It’s terrible. I wish it was better, but it’s not. You have to be able to understand that people have agendas out there and they want to piss you ideas. I’m not saying sustainability is bad. I’m as green as they get despite me wearing black. I’m as green as they get. I recycle everything out there, but the reality is I don’t get influenced by brands that much. There’s a group of people that care so much that they will literally buy your brand because your sustainability practice, there’s a huge group of people that are like, I care about sustainability, but it will not affect my buying decisions.


And then there’s another group over here that say, you’re bunch of just a bunch of tree hugging hippie companies, liberals, blah, blah, blah, and I’m never going to buy from you because you said that, which offsets the other group. By the way, are you working on sustainability? It’s fine if you are. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you think it’s going to move the needle for your business, it’s not, but you would think based on this stat that it would, wouldn’t you? Right? This is the problem, okay? Data, you have to really be careful about data and understand is it telling the right story? Because all data will tell a story. The question becomes, does this tell the story that matters to you? Okay? That’s number three. Number four, so important. You guys know where’s Waldo is or where’s Wally? Waldo’s not in here, not in here.


Don’t look for him. Not in here. Don’t worry about it. I’m lying. There’s Waldo right there lying to you, but that’s how people present to us in meetings, don’t they? This is perfect. We spent weeks working on this. This is the best thing ever. You don’t have to question it or judge it. You have to break. You have to break this habit of blind positivity, confirmation bias, seeing what we want to see is a chronic problem at companies that use data to justify decision making. One of the best things I ever heard from A CEO was this statement, assume everything is wrong. If you assume everything is right, you’ll never go looking for anything wrong. If you assume there’s something wrong in here, you’ll actually start to question it. You’ll actually start, and that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to look for problems.


Those are the things that cause your strategies to fail. Now, I’m a realist. That means you’re going to probably come across as an itchy sweater, okay? Some of you probably remember this episode from Big Bang Theory, hilarious, but you’ll come across as an itchy sweater, troublemaker, ruffle in the feathers. As Adam knows my old title at Guitar Center, the CEOs should call me the foil. Here comes the foil. He is got to tell us why nothing works, but I would say this isn’t going to work because of this. They’d be like, yeah, you’re right. Okay, it’s not going to work. This is your job though because you’re going to work on strategies that aren’t going to produce anything. So number four is stop cheerleading. Stop cheerleading, vet strategies, whether something is probably wrong, approach it and then you will uncover the problems. Here’s the thing, it doesn’t mean you have to kill the project. It just means you know that you need to address something. That’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing because once you launch, I’ll show you why later that actually will kill your project when you didn’t catch that one thing. Okay? Number five, looking like you’re winning when you’re actually losing, looking like you’re winning when you’re actually losing.

Key principles of Fearless thinking


Poor Ms. Hubble here thought she was won the race, wasn’t paying attention, and right in behind her, somebody else won. Right? Now, this happens all the time to companies as they think they’re winning, when in fact they’re losing. Let’s take a look at a very simple chart. I don’t want you to bother to read this. If you blanket this, you’ll know this is an email funnel chart. It kind of looks like this, but let’s say this was in a PowerPoint presentation to your organization. Someone was presenting it and you said, well, look at this. We got a 1.7% conversion rate, which is the 40% year over year improvement. Woo-hoo. Everybody’s high fiving happy as can be. This is what a strategist thinks about. We have a 98.3% failure rate. What can we do better? Most of you have websites, yes, sell products on websites. The average retailer has a conversion rate of 2.5%.


That means they have an actual rate of people leaving the website without buying of 97.5%. Are you analyzing the people who bought from you or are you analyzing the people who didn’t buy from you? You don’t want to look at the people who didn’t buy from you. I mean, think about how many times you’re like, well, what did they buy? How did they buy? You take so much time to understand the customer that you’ve already won. That is the equivalent of a Democrat running for office and calling Democrats and saying, vote for me. They’re going to vote for you. You don’t have to do that. Growth does not come from your best customers. You’ve already won those customers. Growth comes from the customers. You’re not quite winning yet, and they are included in the failure rates. In the failure rates that you have to convert, the failure rates, you have to have people buy from you, so think about where are you going to find growth from?


I know that Adam knows that over at Guitar Center, we used to have customers that bought $40,000 worth of, I think you were one of them, $40,000 worth of musical gear from Guitar Center, and when I asked the question, who’s best customer, they said, this customer, Adam. Adam, who bought 40,000? No, it’s someone who’s spending $40,000 with our competitor. That’s our best customer because if we want to find growth, that’s the person we need to win, not squeezing another dollar 25 out of Adam for a guitar tuner. Now, here’s the fearless thinking. You need to apply for that. You have to be very comfortable with admitting you’re failing. This goes hand in hand with the cheerleading and the positivity attitude. You have to be willing to say, but look at what we didn’t do, and not in a way that totally brings the entire moral of the company down or makes you feel bad or makes people upset, but in a way that says, this is an opportunity.


This is an opportunity. If you talk to Jesse Eiter, I think his husband, last name, he’s married to Sarah Blakely. Jesse’s a lunatic. I’ve been on stage with him a couple times. He’s a lunatic, but one thing that he said, which is brilliant, and I agree with because I have experienced this myself, is that you don’t learn from successes. You learn from failures. When something fails, you can figure out why it fails, and then you say, okay, I won’t do that again, and lemme do this. I used to own a bar in Chicago called the Elbow Room. You may know that bar in Chicago, the EL room, we made 80% margins. I learned nothing owning that bar because I could give away half the bar and still make money. I literally never could fail because it was too high of margins. I learned nothing. But when you fail, you can learn something.


If you look at your rates of people not buying from you and say, I’m willing to look at why they’re not buying from me instead of finding the comfort in the people that love us, that is where you’ll find growth. So forget your successes. Your opportunities lie in your failures. That’s number five. Number six, landscapes. Now, sun, I’m a big fan of Sun. I’ve basically memorized the book. He said, victorious warriors win first and then go into war while defeating warriors to go to war first and then seek to win. What does that mean? It means when you really understand what you’re going into, you really know what to do. People think that the Suns Sue Art of War book is about how to win battles. It’s not, it has nothing to do with winning battles. It has to do with knowing when you should probably go into battle, when you should retreat, when you should go do something else.


It’s about understanding the landscape to make the right strategic decision. That’s what that book’s really about. So when Sun Sue was a general chariots, were considered the premier weapon of the day. Chariots. Now, let’s see, in a landscape world, you have different decisions to make. When you’re dealing with a swamp or a plane dealing with a swamp, and you’re all chariots, what do you do? You do not attack because you will die, right? That’s a bad idea. So your strategy is to let the antagonize, the opponent to come to you, cross the swamp and then destroy them, versus plane where, yeah, our chariots are going to do really well on the plane, let’s go after them. Our army is bigger, but translating this to your world, it’s understanding what it is you’re facing. And I say this because this is, I’ve very publicly talked to them about this in very open spaces, so they know this, but Amazon, for example, dash buttons, remember dash buttons.


What? Oh, you don’t remember dash buttons. You could push a little button on your thing and it orders it for you and automatically comes to your house. A single thing like Tide or Folgers or whatever. They came around. They were out till about 19, 20, 20 19, they got rid of in 2019. Why didn’t they work? Well, they didn’t work because of the landscape. At the time when we were grocery shopping, 91% of sales in grocery were happening in store, and only 9% were happening online. More importantly, dashboards didn’t do one important thing. It didn’t save me any time. I’m going to walk right by the product or I’m going to see it on the screen in front of me on the website. I don’t need to spend $30 on a button. You don’t add any value. It was a good idea, a bad strategy, right? That’s the idea, is that you start to think about those things.


So here’s where the big amount of work comes. People that are successful with strategies do the most work in this area, exhaust your energy, understanding the landscape, understanding what you’re really going into. I was joking with somebody earlier about this company who they were saying, well, we believe we need to go into this industry with a thought that we’re going to deliver same day delivery. And I said, you have no stores. How are you going to do same day delivery? Well, it’s important because Amazon’s doing it. I’m like, you’ll go broke trying to get same day delivery out the door. The idea is to understand what is the landscape you’re facing? Your initiatives have to deal with reality. Don’t rely on hope and chance doesn’t work. And the last thing I will say for the big seven is how these things need to work together and how these variables work together, but in a way that you can address them later, and this is what I said earlier is don’t miss a variable, because very often companies will kill their strategies because of that, so your strategy will be impacted by numerous unforeseen variables.


One missing piece can make all the difference. Now, this is where I’m going to read you this because it’s important. The work doesn’t end when strategic planning phase moves into execution. Strategic thinkers look for causes of failures that can turn potentially wasted efforts into differentiating winning initiatives. In other words, after you’ve launched, if something doesn’t work, and this is a common problem, oh, look at the KPIs. Customers didn’t buy more from us. The whole initiative’s dead. Don’t do that. Go in, and why isn’t that working? It should work. Something’s happening. Maybe the customer doesn’t like the experience. Tweak it. See if it works, right? You’ve spent millions of dollars on initiative. Think about people closing stores these days. There are hundreds and hundreds of variables that go into opening a store. You never know what variable is causing that store to not be successful. Don’t just throw it all away, and that becomes a big problem organization.


This is why you burn through your budget. This is why you burn through your capital too much because I guarantee you the plan will never be perfect. Going back to recognizing we will have failures than being okay with those failures. Be okay with saying, we probably missed something, and that’s all right. Let’s go find out what it is and fix that, and let’s see if those broken teeth, that broken teeth on that cog that would’ve turned that wheel perfectly. If we could just fix that, the whole thing’s going to work beautifully. That is a financially far more responsible way of approaching your initiatives than simply throwing the baby out with a bath water because that’s what you’re doing when something doesn’t deliver the KPIs you were looking for. Be sure to do those strategic work. Okay, so there are five things that remain that I want to talk about very quickly.


If you just do those seven, you’re going to be better off than most of the companies that I work with. If you can apply just a few of those things, it will fundamentally change your business and how you run it. And I don’t care if you’re a retailer, a brand, a vendor, a VC, or whatever it is. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are ways of thinking about things that are going to be successful or not. This is not just specifically for that category, but here are the five steps to master strategic thinking. Number one, don’t go it alone. Almost always when you’re working on strategies, you’ll need somebody from another team. If you’re not, you’re probably just doing tactics. An email is a tactic. A bunch of emails is a bunch of tactics. It’s not a strategy. It’s the connective tissue, the things that drive the wheel, that turn the wheel, things that happen together, and that’s often going to involve more than one team.

Mastering strategic thinking and conclusion


So you have to be willing to bring stakeholders along in a very positive way. Two question strategies that rely on consumers dramatically changing behaviors. This one happens all the time. Well, customers will just do this. No, they won’t. We are creatures of habit. We go back, look at the pandemic we just went through. We went right back to shopping in stores. We’re nearly at the number of percentage of people who shop in stores, even though we went to almost 50% of people shopping online after the pandemic. We are creatures of habit. If you build it, they will come. Strategy is the worst kind of strategy. It happens for companies like Apple. It doesn’t happen to companies like you’re likely not going to be the exception to this rule. So if that’s your primary, like you say, all else is good, but if this is the key point, it’s probably not a good strategy.


Two, kill a strategy. I mean right away that will create new customer pain points all day long. Consumers are judging. If you saw my conditional love report or speech last year, we try to avoid pain far more than pleasure. I’m going to say it again because it’s worth saying. We don’t get surprised and delighted. We do, however, respond to pain points in our life, and we will find somebody who doesn’t provide those pain points. If you say, well, the customer will just have to live through this, they won’t. They will simply not shop with you and they will find somebody else. Because I can buy that sweater, that coffee maker, that T-shirt, that whatever. Somebody else has it, and I know they have it for no strategy is not a, that’s our strategy, is not have a strategy that is a bunch of garbage. You have two choices.


You can either create purposeful, well, that is strategies targeting positive outcomes, or you can rely on random chance. Anybody know what chaos theory is? We heard a chaos theory. If I build a sandcastle, okay, if I build a sandcastle and I leave it and the wind comes and the rain comes and everything like that, there’s a chance that the sand will rearrange itself into a sandcastle again, but it’s not a good one. When you don’t purposefully do something to your business and leave it to the wind to chance, chaos theory will make sure you get the opposite result. Chaos theory means when you don’t control the outcome of something, the world will control and it’s random, and that’s what’s going to happen. You don’t end up with sandcastles, you end up with a mess, and so it is very important for you to do purposeful strategies.


Don’t leave things to chance. Hope is not a business plan. We hope. No, you hear that you’re already in trouble. And lastly, bring fearless thinking to your organization. Ideas can come from anywhere or from anyone rather, but rock solid strategies require aggregated expertise from a collective of specialists. Okay, so bring this back to your organization. I said I would share the deck with you, bring it back in, discuss it. You’ll be the same company next year that you are this year if you don’t change your thinking about things. So at the end of the day, go back to your organizations and ask what is strategy? Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

Kevin Boyd

Kevin Boyd

Kevin Boyd is the web development manager at Signifyd. When not leading his team in crafting captivating digital experiences, he experiments with prompt engineering using ChatGPT and other generative AI systems, as well as writing and optimization.