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Strategy means different things in different cultures

The first APG Noisy Thinking event of 2015, in association with Flamingo, was held on Wednesday night at Google HQ kicking off this year’s topic: 21st Century Strategy. To explore this theme in action, we heard from 3 top thinkers.

A strong Flamingo cohort attended the event and these were the key messages about 21st Century Strategy that we took away on the night.

Strategy means different things in different cultures

Flamingo kick-started proceedings with a video featuring Flamingos from our offices in Mumbai, São Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo, challenging the very definition of strategy. Is it fit for purpose in a global marketing context or is it just a Western creation? In India, the word for strategy literally translates as “manipulation knowledge”…

(This video is the first in our global Flamingo Intersections film series – each film will be launched exclusively at APG’s Noisy Thinking events)

Strategy is like a mullet, but ultimately we just need to wing it…

Next up, Neil Perkin, founder of Only Dead Fish confronts the audience with an alarming piece of data showing that the lifespan of the world’s biggest companies is steadily declining. So how did he think we could stop this inexorable slide into oblivion?

He argued that one way of adding structure to more fluid thinking is by seeing strategy as an algorithm – that is, developing a certain set of rules to optimize our decisions. Importantly for Neil, seeing it this way still incorporates human agency in both the decision-making process and in constantly updating the algorithm (rules) to a changing environment. His comforting premise is that the future of strategy is closely intertwined with the future of agencies. Cue a sigh of relief.

Mullet strategy, therefore, should be seen as this: respectable at the front – exceptional, seamless campaigns based on great insight and strong creative ideas – but wild and hairy at the back – working with our clients to be more experimental and iterative, leading to new learnings, improvements in capabilities and even organizational change.

The truth is that whether it is you at your desk or Barack Obama at his – we are all just winging everyday. But, as Neil concluded by saying, as we charge forward into the 21st century, perhaps we all need to wing it with our clients a tad more…

On the ground strategy needs to be simple and purposeful

The concept of what3words is so simple and original you’ll wonder why you didn’t come up with it yourself. Marketing Director Giles Rhys opens by demonstrating that the world is poorly addressed, that many poor areas such as the favelas in Brazil lack any kind of addressing infrastructure. The solution that Giles presents is at once the strategy and purpose of the start-up brand: to give every 3 meter X 3 meter space on the planet an ‘address’ of 3 words, for example the Flamingo London office’s address is music.feed.salsa… what a coincidence that they happen to be three shared passions of Flamingos!

This new global addressing system is born from the core purpose of what3words which Giles defined in his talk as “the world would be better if everybody could easily talk about every part of it”. We were told that the benefit of this new system are numerous (many more mutations than number/ letter combinations, works globally, local languages empowers local communities etc) but the big take away here is really the simplicity and intuitiveness of this business, its strategy, its design and its purpose.

The 21st Century Strategy is an ‘AND’ strategy

Finally, Agathe Guerrier, Head of Planning at BBH, continued the mapping theme using improvements in self-navigation as a metaphor for the changing nature of strategy and planning.

In the same way that people have moved from intricate planning with A-Zs to get them from A to B to more spontaneous navigation with the aid of Google Maps, CityMapper etc agency planning is shifting from this long-term, slow, heavy beast to a strategy which Agathe described as responsive, reactive and customer-centric.

Agathe reminds us that the landscape we are living in is constantly in flux: we used to be able to see and calculate the way ahead, categories behaved predictably as did consumers. Now the landscape is continually changing and shifting as we go, and in this Inception landscape we must be prepared to change our path, avoid obstacles and find another way around in order to reach the same destination. In her talk, she landed on the term ‘tactical’ to replace strategic, for its sense of living reactively ‘in Beta’.

She boiled down her argument about tactical strategy into a recommendation of ‘AND’ strategies, where specific data points and learnings are still useful for telling us what consumers think, but we should not lose the faculty of our own intuition to orient ourselves. Technical AND instinctive is where 21st century strategy is headed, and it’s more flexible and purposeful than ever before.

Summing Up…

APG Chair Tracey Follows summed up the evening’s take on 21st century strategy really well with the words, “we’re all winging it in the wild with 3 words.” Wise and true words that make the future of planning and strategy feel like a very exciting place to be.

Read more & watch the videos here: 21st Century Strategy

See the original article here

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