Every hand is a winner
(the Gambler, Kenny Rogers)
We will come back to Kenny Rogers and the Gambler at the end of the blog pos, but I found this a fitting but also thought-provoking quote to start a blog on strategy, especially in these days. No matter what card the future hands you, if you play it right then every hand can be a winner.
It would not be an overstatement to say that the last few weeks or months have underlined that strategy is important. However, also that it means different things to different people, and that the world is an unpredictable and intricately connected place.
Let’s return to the opening metaphor: what is the game we are playing, where are we playing and who is dealing the cards, i.e. what is our strategy, how can we understand our world, and how can we understand the future (what is the future)
Lets start with who is dealing the cards and where are we playing. Lots of very good models have been created that help map or define different kinds of market conditions/worlds. Personally, one of my long-time favorites is the Cynefin model from Cognitive Edge (click here and here,) and recently this
excellent article published by McKinsey.
The brutally short and simple version of these and many similar models is that we can see our market/world as 1) simple and predictable, 2) Complicated, so difficult but still with elements of predictability and linearity 3) Complex, more unstable and unpredictable; or downright 4) Chaotic. The future in each of these worlds goes from being clear and possible to forecast, to consist of understandable alternatives, a range of futures and all the way to a truly ambiguous future which is utterly unpredictable.
The suggestion I would like to make, is that these are not different worlds each does not represent a certain type of market, they are layers to the same market. They are better seen as lenses that help you see different characteristics of the same world, I.e. we are all constantly facing all four levels of uncertainty, which in turn means that we need to have different forms of strategy simultaneously.
So how can we make our hand a winner?
Play! We can play to make our hand a winner. Build you full system, your competitive landscape, customers, your own organization, and then start playing in and with this system. Play out possible events, play out gradual changes, play out your own decisions and actions. Go hands-on and see how your world might respond. It is not about getting it fully right, it is about getting a deeper understanding and preparedness.
Play is the natural fertilizer for the brain, so by playing you can create the knowledge that will make your hand a winner. You will become the player in that epic song by Kenny Rogers, the one who knows:
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table