What is Strategy

“Strategy” is this vague term in the business world. First impressions are that people get paid a lot to do it. It’s typically reserved for high level executives. But just because the people who are doing it are paid well doesn’t mean they are good at it. There are examples all around of bad strategic decisions made by CEOS. Just look at the Netflix CEO’s decision to split their business between DVDs and streaming movies, which turned out to be a total flop.

What is Strategy?

Strategy – as defined by Wikipedia, is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. Goals may change depending on where you sit in the business lifecycle. Mature companies will be more interested in corporate strategy, which revolves around the goal of figuring out how to grow. Early stage startups will be more concerned about new venture strategy, which is concerned with the goal of how to survive until they reach a liquidity event.

To draw an analogy – in chess, your goal may be to checkmate your opponent. Your strategy will be on how you can take the king. Management is involved in the actual details of moving the pieces. In business, your goal is to make money ethically. The strategy is your idea behind how to make money ethically. Management is then doing the day-to-day work that involves implementing this idea.

History Drives Strategy

But how do you get good at strategy? Strategy as a subject first came into being through warfare, with periods of war and civil unrest providing the greatest conditions for uncertainty.

All of the great strategists in history have realized that the being good at strategy means recognizing patterns in history. Therefore if you want to get good at strategy, make sure you study the influencers who shape your business, such as important inventors and thought leaders. Make sure you know the history of your business. And most importantly, deeply understand your product category.

For example, Westpoint, one of the best military schools in the United States, begins their warfare strategy curriculum by teaching students about historical wars, starting with the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC.

Developing a deep understanding of mobile software development may not necessitate going back in time to study the first mobile devices in history – stone tablets.

…but you get the idea.

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