Insights Are the Secret Sauce of Strategy

Update to ST map graphicThe future is an essential navigational beacon of strategic thinking. The navigational beacon of insights is just as important.

The IBM turnaround is an excellent example of what one insight can do. Gerstner [IBM’s CEO] declared that the services strategy was a “powerful logic” that would undergird “IBM’s unique competitive advantage.”[i] From that quote you can extract this compelling question: Does your organization’s strategy have a logic that is unique and provides an advantage?

Insights, more specifically cues and anchors, are critical navigational beacons on the strategic thinking map. A strategic thinker is continually searching for cues in the data and paying attention to each cue. She applies sensemaking to that cue to test for the spark of an emotional response. It might be as simple as, “This request for X from a stakeholder is new, and it’s interesting. I wonder if there’s any further significance to it?”

When presented with a strategy, a good question is: What’s the insight behind this strategy?


.…The above is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of How to Think Strategically, available at all major booksellers. The book’s big idea is that strategic thinking is an individual competency that can be recognized and developed. As individuals steadily improve their capacity to think strategically, the organization gains potential to craft strategy that is good, powerful, effective, clever, and nuanced.

This book unpacks strategy in an understandable way and clarifies the common misunderstandings of what it is, and what it is not. ‘Strategic thinking’ is a domain that can be accessed, learned and practiced by anyone. It makes strategy practical by providing relevant models, examples, and tools. I particularly liked the four X-factors of strategic thinking – drive, insight, chance, and emergence. The best part is the decomposition of micro-skills necessary to practice strategic thinking.
― JSD – customer review on Amazon

[i] “IBM’s unique:” Gerstner, 130.


About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
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