Strategies are incredibly powerful tools and it is nearly impossible to build a business without using more than a few of them. Since my earliest memories; I have been drawn to strategic thinking (how to get from here to there). Clients and audiences often hear me talk about how ludicrous it would be to construct a house or commercial property without a set of blueprints.
For as powerful as strategies are, too many business leaders depend on them and find too late that strategy alone will not be enough.
Here are a couple ways strategy falls short.
They are externally-driven.
Early in my sales career, I presented my products to a well-qualified prospect only to get the response that my prices were too high. In a presentation later that day, I started with lower-priced products and was told that my products were not of high enough quality. I felt confused because I was only given 2 strategies for talking about pricing, and BOTH seemed wrong!
Strategies are pre-planned responses to anticipated situations, but as this simple illustration depicts, they can easily incite less-than-stellar results by simply misunderstanding or falsely interpreting a situation.
They are temporary.
Because they are situationally dependent, each strategy has a life expectancy based on the relevancy of the situation. From the 1960s through 1990s, brands had little problem growing by investing almost exclusively into TV advertising. For a while, it worked well because the exposure paved the way for consumer purchases as well as building distribution networks. However we see today that this very same strategy is significantly less effective
Each year, thousands of new books are published based on the strategies that worked extremely well for someone. Many of them spike on must-have lists and rack up quick revenues, but they rarely last very long because the content itself becomes dated. It is difficult for me to say, but even time-honored classics like “How To Win Friends And Influence People” will one day be rendered obsolete.
They are reflections of History.
Typically strategies are uncovered by looking at what was done only after a desirable result has been achieved. Once something good has happened, we review the preceding events and assume a causal relationship. They are far too rigid to predict future outcomes because every market is constantly evolving and in a state of relative unpredictability. This makes it difficult to predict the impact of any particular strategy with any certainty – especially when presented with new information, situations, or opportunities.
Great leaders in sports as well as business understand that flexibility is the key, but strategies often don’t account for the overwhelming passion and ingenuity of an underdog who sees opportunities to change the rules.
This is precisely when the power of PURPOSE comes into play.
Purpose helps to focus our creative talents, activities, and strategies towards a common end. A well-crafted purpose can supply individuals with a lifetime supply of inspiration that crosses multiple platforms and/or industries. One of my favorite examples is Bill Gates.
In the early 1970s Bill Gates and a couple friends knew that they could leverage their understanding of computers (at the time) to help people benefit from the power of computers. They started a company with a formal mission to “enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.” I find it difficult for anyone to claim they have not lived up to this commitment.
As Bill Gates formally stepped out of the daily operations and into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; he continues to live the same purpose. Their mission reads; “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” Rather than using computer power, he is seeking to eliminate the diseases and challenges that occupy so much time and energy of people around the world.
The reason purpose is so powerful is because it is the source of deep convictions that inspires creative activity through a framework.
In the Gates example, we can clearly see how many of the Microsoft flagship products (like DOS, Windows, and Office) helped people accomplish more tasks in less time – leading towards their full potential. This idea of purpose provided inspiration for employees of the company as well as making it easier for tens of millions of authors to publish their ideas or communicate more effectively.
However when they chased market trends and developed an Mp3 player as well as a smart phone, they departed from their purpose and were met with unfavorable results.
Rather than following strategies of others; invest the time to uncover your internal purpose and you will be rewarded with a lifetime of inspiration and fulfilling work.