Invent Better
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Invent Better

Good Strategy. Bad Strategy.

In our industry you just know when something is a ‘good strategy’, you feel confident that it will give you a genuine competitive advantage. You can hear the customer opening their hearts and wallets. But what is a ‘bad strategy’? How do we spot one in the wild? Here, Alyson Wales looks at the telltale signs of a good strategy and the clues for when you are about to encounter a bad one.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

First, a couple of quotes on strategy:

‘Strategy is leveraging your strength against an opponent’s point of weakness’ Sun Tzu, Chinese General and Military Strategist, c400 bc

I love this quote because it’s pointy. And absolutely right: the best strategy is a killer blow to the opposition and requires that you thoroughly know your opposition and their points of weakness.


‘Strategy is identifying the key challenges and the means to overcome them’ Richard Rumelt. Thinker, Strategist, and Author of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy

Not quite as pointy! A more pragmatic approach, but an important one because it’s all about facing up to every challenge, something which poor strategy overlooks because it can be confronting to do so.

Developing strategy

A good strategy answers two key questions

  • What is it you’re selling?
  • Why would anyone want this product and service from you?

It sounds simple, but to get there is complex. It requires compiling everything we know about a brand: its audience, its product, its competitors, the landscape it operates in, its heritage. We do this through data insights, research, reports, competitive analysis and we have a lot of conversations.

We’ll likely have some discomfort too.

We might learn that what a client loves about their brand or product, doesn’t resonate with consumers.

And encouraging clients to tell a simple story will often necessitate them sacrificing some of the narrative they feel is important to include.

Strategy has three parts:

1.Diagnosis: The nature of the challenge at its simplest. What is the most critical issue we need to solve? Only when we identify the problem, can we uncover the solution.

2. Guiding policy: What is our approach to solve the issue? What direction will we take?

3. Coherent actions: The approach laid out in defined steps

And three potential pitfalls:

  1. Failure to face the problem: If we can’t face or define the problem, how can we overcome it?
  2. Mistaking goals for strategy: A goal is where you want to end up. Not how you get there.
  3. Fluff: Unsubstantiated ‘fluffery’ which hides the fact that there is no strategy present!

So, next time you get a thorny client brief that needs some clear guidance, give the strategy team a shout, and we’ll join forces with you to simply answer;

What is it you’re selling? And why would anyone want to buy it from you?



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A creative and technology business based in Sydney & New York. Blending creative & technology to invent better outcomes that make a difference.