Thursday, January 19, 2012

Training Yourself To See New Strategic Options

Fast Company (magazine)
Image via Wikipedia
Fast Company
BY FC Expert Blogger Kaihan Krippendorff
Wed Jan 18, 2012
This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert's views alone.

[Image: Flickr user Tim Green aka atoach]

I just returned from a long weekend skiing with the kids and some friends. … Saturday morning, stepping into our cars on our way to the slopes, I reminded one friend of the house’s garage door code: “Twelve thirty-four.”

He looked at me oddly, paused, and said, “You mean 1-2-3-4?”

It hit me then. I had been trying to remember “twelve thirty-four,” not realizing that the code was as simple as “1-2-3-4.”

At the choice between these two ways of remembering lies the key to great strategists. …

You see, the strategic choices we make every day are determined by the “strategic narratives” we tell ourselves. …

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr
The challenge you face today may remind you of a problem you faced in the past, and if what you did in the past worked, you will simply want to try the same strategy again.

English: Alexandra Kosteniuk at the Chess Clas...
Image via Wikipedia
For my new book, Outthink the Competition, I got a chance to interview Alexandra Kosteniuk, the reigning women’s world chess champion, and get some insight into how she can see the winning strategic move in a chess game when her opponent cannot. What she describes fits perfectly with the research into how great chess players win.

She looks at the board, and while I am thinking in terms of “things”--pawns and knights--she is thinking in terms of “sequences.” She sees the board and actually recognizes the game--she has played this game before, and so she knows the winning move.

In other words, I try to juggle multiple things in my head--“twelve” and “thirty-four”--while she just recognizes one story--“1-2-3-4”--and so is able to see with ease that the next move is “5.”

Your ability to see new strategic options is a function of the number and variety of stories you recognize. …

What strategic narratives are you going to tell yourself today to see new options that will surprise your competition and lead you to breakthrough solutions?

This week I am working on closing three major agreements for my business. I ran the free “Strategem Selector” on my website (, went through the strategic narratives it recommends, and here are the three that I will be thinking about. Try these on for yourself as well. …
    Image representing Hewlett-Packard as depicted...
    Image via CrunchBase
    What “brick” can you give away?
    The story goes like this: You give up something of relatively little value to you and exchange it with your partner/customer for loyalty. This is like HP selling printers for low profit in order to make money selling ink cartridges.
  2. Who else benefits if you win? The story goes like this: You face a tough situation but you find an unexpected ally who benefits by you winning. You partner with that person and they help you succeed. …
  3. To where can you move the action? The story goes like this: You are in one business but competition enters, so you create a new related business and move your profits into this new business. …
Let me know how these three narratives work for you. I’m sure they will reveal a trove of new ideas and will also expand your possibilities.
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