How to use the Strategy Cards to make simple, visual strategies

If you take one of my Think Clearly newsletters it usually has one or more visuals: little stick figures, graphs or metaphors arranged in a way to express a specific insight.

The Strategy Cards are in essence a collection of these visuals. I have intentionally taken them out of their context so that their meaning is less fixed and more flexible: you decide each time you use them, what you want it to represent.

This is how I use them. I take the cards, a notebook and pen, and my phone to take photos for later.

First I pick the problem or question I want to tackle. For example I want to get clearer on my own strategy for running a crowdfunding campaign.

Then I look through the cards and pick out objects and figures that represent the elements involved. I may not get all the images I need at first but I start with something. I saw a scale that could represent balance, which made me think about what priorities I am balancing. And also some icons that seemed to fit with the different stages.

Then I tried laying them out on the table and arrange them in different ways to see what made sense. I wrote notes, questions and ideas in my notebook along the way.

The images might not directly represent every single details of my vision, priorities and tactical plan. But they gave me a quick first sketch. The rest I could fill in after.

For me, the primary benefit is that I get it out of my head and into my hands. And while I am happy to draw, it’s actually nice that I don’t have to. I can flip through the cards and let them inspire me. Also, they are easy to move around and re-arrange.

While these instructions and the cards themselves are quite simple, I don’t think this is necessarily easy to do, let alone to do it well. It requires that you have a good grasp of the situation and the elements involved. And it requires a willingness to begin with the imperfect.

If you try these cards, expect that it will take some practice, and I hope you will not hesitate to contact me and share your experiences and learnings. Both the struggles and the successes.

The Strategy Cards and the updated Question Cards are currently available for pre-sales on Kickstarter.

Mathias Jakobsen is a senior advisor on strategy, faculty at Parsons and the author of the Think Clearly newsletter.