Just One More Corner

Twenty-one years of writing sentences

John Caswell
The A-Z Of Group Partners
5 min readJan 12, 2023

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I just had a fantastic few days in Istanbul.

A dear friend constantly challenges me to share the one-liners that pepper how I explain our work. Istanbul was the perfectly beautiful, chaotic backdrop to provoke me to write.

Images Created Using Dall-E

To Coin A Phrase

Around 600 BC, the process of making money from metal started. It happened in an ancient kingdom in Turkey called Lydia.

A world-changing process that took 2300 years (until the mid-1700s) to name. ‘Minting coin’ — simple and well-stated.

They didn’t realise it, but they had invented memes. Minting and ‘coining’ got applied to other things like phrases and sayings.

Coining Phrases — A Real Currency

Somewhat alchemically, a great phrase creates something new and valuable out of seemingly thin air. A way to express ideas concisely and make an immediate, meaningful and memorable impact on those who hear it.

Loaded Little Stories

They can impact the whole world in seconds. The headline in an ad — the currency of marketing. The strap line of a business — the clever little story that explains what the business does. Glitter and stardom, if you get it right. Oblivion if you don’t.

I Love A Great Line

I’m only 21 years into the business, so I’ve still got a couple of millennia to define my business — to phrase my coin. But I do enjoy the journey. Things influence and prompt me at every turn.

You never know what’s just around the corner.

A few of the one-liners we used a lot.

It Started Badly

I remember the first time I discussed my approach with a cold customer.

I’m (literally) going to draw your future strategy with the team.

The response was why? — so what? I evolved.

Rather than jump to conclusions — draw the right ones.

Maybe too subtle — a bit too clever.

Every picture tells a story. To develop strategy you need to see the big picture.

Meh. And so it went on. I moved to the logic behind it.

It’s like an answering machine for business challenges.

Ah, I see.

Whatever your question — logical visual frameworks will answer it.

I called it Progressive Framework Methodology™ for a while.

I explained that it was fast and unique and could equip teams further than any other method. But I’ve never really been a fan of methods. It’s hard.

Eventually, everything gave way to the 4 D’s

Discover what could be done.

Develop what should be done.

Decide what will be done and -

Deploy what we agreed we would do.

I saw that clients valued the simplicity of the message but could also sense its depth. I knew we had a currency — Visualisation.

In such a mad crazy fast world, businesses needed crazy fast ways to sort things and make a plan.

Visual decision-making was at the core of it all. It made complete economic sense. Visualising against a structure improved thinking. Critical Thinking.

Pictures Make Sense.

They’re much faster than reading long documents. A much better way, but the picture had to have quality. In our world, we don’t create pictures — we create strategies that are visual.

Decision Quality.

Give us a leadership team, a 100-foot white wall, 50 marker pens, two days, and the proper framework, and we will guarantee the best outcome.

The Devil Of Definition.

It didn’t help that everyone has a different definition of everything—Strategy, Vision, Mission, Objective — Challenge, and Opportunity.

The definition of definition — The wilderness of idea trapped within a wall of words.

It’s Simply Complex.

It doesn’t help (explaining the business) that creating a strategy is as challenging and as complex as it gets in business. It’s not trivial. But it must be co-created.

Successful strategies are a team sport.

Seeing their future strategy and plan emerge on the wall is a realisation and a revelation for the leadership team. They ask why don’t we have all our meetings like this.

Don’t try this at home.

There was a breakthrough.

Simple words came together with powerful visual imagery to make a compelling statement. It emphasised the constructive point. It illustrated the traditional challenge:

Let’s avoid solving the wrong problems really well.

It all made sense alongside Structured Visual Thinking™ — the visual approach and solution. Our frameworks take no prisoners. They have magic to them. Nothing of importance can be left out — and what isn’t can’t remain in.

And here are some of the highlights over the years.

We aren’t having a retreat, we’re making an advance.

In strategy questions are the answer. That’s how we make strategies that work.

Don’t bolt the future on — build it in.

Successful strategy — a thousand rational choices pursuing one emotional one.

To change the way you work you need to change the way you think— and often vice versa.

If you think our work is expensive, try not doing it.

The answer to a complex problem is always a simple one.

And every complex problem has a simple answer — break it up.

Nowadays, the only viable strategy is being prepared for anything.

Leaps of imagination — not jumps to conclusions.

How much of this value don’t you want?

Q from the client — How come you know our business better than we do? A. Because we’re further away.

The CEO will say — ‘you’ve done this a thousand times — just give me the answer.’ We will say, “Let’s See.”

Someone walked past our session one day. Without missing a beat, he said — this is cognitive cartography! Genius.

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John Caswell
The A-Z Of Group Partners

I'm John Caswell - The founder and CEO of Group Partners. We Help Clients Make Strategies That Work. I’m The Head Of Crayons.