Stupid Words, Smart Thinking

As the great philosopher and burger maker, Bob Belcher, famously observed, “You can’t take two words and make them into one stupider word.”

But that’s exactly what Leonard Schlesinger, Charles Kiefer and Paul Brown in their book, Just Start, have concocted with their portmanteau “creaction.” They had to. There’s just no way of articulating the mode of thinking that they (and earlier, Sarasvathy) discovered entrepreneurs employ. They use a mode of thinking where they create though action. They act, learn, then build on what they’ve created.

Contrast that with the way most of us think most of the time. We try to predict what will happen by thinking about it. We plan. Then we implement.

The trouble arrives when we look at the context of the world around us. See, when working within an environment or situation that is highly predictable then we should use predictive thinking. But when we’re operating in an uncertain world, the only chance we have to possibly control an unpredictable future is to create it. Or creact it.

Blech. I know we humans are rarely comfortable with the new so I continue to roll this word of the tongue but it’s not making it any more appealing. And there’s another word from the world of prediction I don’t love either. It’s been around far longer and rolls off the tongue quicker than I can pull it back in at times. “Planner.”

“Planner” is a withered, will-not-die job title in the world of advertising. It doesn’t capture the need we have to utilize both modes of thinking. The brilliant Neil Perkin intuited this need in his case for agile planning several years back.

For clarity’s sake, I prefer simply strategist. In his epic business tale, The Lords of Strategy, Walter Keichell III investigates the history and evolution of strategy in business as made popular by management consulting. Funny thing is, he uncovered that they make most of their money in the domain of improved business efficiency. Strategy work is more of a side business.

Keichel revealed that Bain, McKinsey and BCG only spend between fifteen and twenty percent of their time on strategy. No surprise then that Germany is one of the best markets for such self-styled strategy firms.

Anyone who is “[creating] tomorrow’s competitive advantages faster than competitors mimic the ones you posses today” is a strategist.

The evolution of strategy in today’s increasingly complex and uncertain world is not in naming an idea perfectly. Rather, a true strategist applies both modes of thinking. And has the wisdom to know the difference.

Sources:

Hamel and Prahalad, Harvard Business Review, “Strategic Intent

Keichell III, The Lords of Strategy

Sarasvathy, of Effectuation.org

Schlesinger, Kiefer and Brown, Just Start

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