In the old model of strategy, we assume our way into the future. We defer to the debate and discussion of a few to shape strategy for the many.
In the new model, we learn our way into the future. We work together, knowing we're smarter together, to get the questions right. We put more emphasis on getting the questions right than trying to extract answers to old questions.
One of the more profound differences between companies that go extinct and those that sustain is their approach to strategy. Organizations building strategy around the old questions author their own irrelevance. When organizations get strategy wrong it's not because they lack assumptions, it's because they aren't operating from the right questions. Strategic planning as it fails to make a significant difference is testament to how we can't effectively assume our way into a new future, only an old one.
89% of Industrial Era Fortune 500 companies in the 1950s, all of whom brandished large strategic planning tomes, are today gone. In contrast to the average company today that has a shorter lifespan than lobsters, there are over 5,000 companies older than 200 years, mostly in Japan, Germany and Scandinavia. Studies indicate that they thrived in their commitment to continuous market listening, with none of the intelligence we have today, and building an organization as a power distributed, peer listening, community.
The innovating organizations today are listening differently. People listen differently to their markets and each other. They invest talent in making sure strategy is ongoing rather than periodic, inclusive rather than cloistered and inspired by the right questions rather than driven by righteous assumptions.
Strategic Inquiry is a rigor that invites strategic stakeholders inside and outside the organization to craft new questions that have the power to reveal new discovery possibilities no assumptions ever could.
- Reflecting: We identify the kinds of assumptions that got us here so far
- Reframing: We define the kinds of new conversations we could be focusing on
- Renewing: We organize and timestamp the kinds of new questions we will learn from
This simple, powerful process moves us from being an organization learnjng disabled by reliance on old assumptions and conversations to becoming a flourishing learning organization animated by getting our strategic questions right.