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April 25, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Design thinking and strategic management: Is strategy an art?

In this context Peters and Waterman (1982, p. 53) note:

“Pathfinding is essentially an aesthetic, intuitive process, a design process. There is an infinity of alternatives that can be posed for design problems…From that infinity there are plenty of bad ideas, and here the rational approach is helpful in sorting out the chaff. One is usually left with a large remaining set of good design ideas, however, and no amount of analysis will choose among them, for the final decision is essentially one of taste.”

According to Mintzberg strategic thinking:
“…is about synthesis. It involves intuition and creativity. The outcome of strategic thinking is an integrated perspective of the enterprise, a not-too- precisely articulated vision of direction…strategies…must be free to appear at any time and at any place in the organisation, typically through messy processes of informal learning that must necessarily be carried out by people at various levels who are deeply involved with the specific issues at hand.”

By “crafting the strategic architecture” (Hamel and Prahalad, 1994, p. 283) within the firm, companies develop the capacity to change by being able to “think” differently, harnessing the input of staff at all levels of the firm. In this context strategic thinking needs to resemble the “frame-breaking” behaviour commonly seen in the arts (de Wit and Mayer, 1998, p. 74). Schon (1983) refers to this as “reflection-in-action” and Hamel (1996) to “strategy as revolution.”

Hamel and Prahalad (1994, p. 129-130) point out:
“Strategic intent…implies a particular point of view about the long-term market or competitive position that a firm hopes to build over the coming decade or so. Hence it conveys a sense of direction. A strategic intent is differentiated; it implies a competitively unique point of view about the future. It holds out to employees the promise of exploring new competitive territory. Hence, it conveys a sense of discovery. Strategic intent has an emotional edge to it; it is a goal that employees perceive as inherently worthwhile. Hence it implies a sense of destiny. Direction, discovery and destiny. These are the attributes of strategic intent.”

Scenarios also support creative thinking in the context of time, as Schoemaker observes (1995, pp. 40):
“Good scenarios challenge tunnel vision by instilling a deeper appreciation for the myriad factors that shape the future. Scenario planning requires intellectual courage to reveal evidence that does not fit our current conceptual maps, especially when it threatens our very existence. Nonetheless, what may initially seem to be bleak scenarios could, in fact, hold the seeds of new business and unrecognized opportunity. But those opportunities can be perceived only if you actively look for them…In addition to perceiving richer options, however, we must also have the courage and vision to act on them.”

Source:
Strategic Thinking: A Continuum of Views and Conceptualisation
Tim O’Shannassy
School of Management

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