As I see it, there have fundamentally been two paths for a man to choose from.
You either choose to understand the eternities – becoming an ascetic, forfeiting control over space. (thoughtful)
Or you chose to conquer space – becoming a king, forfeiting an understanding of the eternities. (revolution)
There lies the lure, the promise, of the Philosopher Kings.
Has it ever happened? Not that I can think of. Certainly not as a major systemic shift in a major nation or institution.
What can happen is a society that from time to time reinvents itself, through trial and error and constant adaptation — not as a grand design, but because so many of the “old ways” of doing things simply make themselves non-feasible.
There’s examples of people – Asoka – the Indian emperor – but he played the two roles separately in two phases of his life. Or religious icons like Jesus Christ or Gautama Buddha.
In contemporary times, there’s people like Havel, Jobs, who played both at times. Impact in the long run still to be seen, though.
My 2c. Thoughts?
Inspired by @rishadt’s excellent post here, I was drawn to articulating my own take on the matter.
To me, “Strategy” is in fact three components of a system, that is at the same time — present, forward-oriented, and retrospective.
In three words, Approach, Process, Record.
1. So “Strategy” is an approach, a system of meaning and beliefs on why a firm exists, and an understanding of what it does.
2. And “Strategy” is a process, a system of actions — of “how-to’s” — designed to achieve competitive advantage and preferably domination within a single / set of markets.
3. And finally, “Strategy” is the record, a coherent process of action over time.
And then I’d add #4. What Nietzsche might’ve referred to as Götterdämmerung — The Twilight of the Idols — the “sounding-out” of accepted beliefs and norms (i.e. what I’ve discussed so far).
Strategy must also be a continual challenge to the status quo — a continual search, testing a firm’s approach, process and record; in order to best understand the threats and opportunities for your business.
These are not necessarily sequential, each stage should ideally be informed with an appreciation for the others.
Recall the word “system” used earlier.
We never work in isolation, or as the economists call it, a plane of ‘ceteris paribus’. An appreciation and understanding of strategy as a system lets you appreciate what factors to privilege, when.
Firms that understand this are the ones that innovate, disrupt, survive and thrive.
Firms that understand strategy as one or two of these components, however, tend to not do very well in the long run. Such has been my observation.
♥, one might say.
Serenade No*13 in G Major, KV525 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Berlin Philharmonic, Wilhelm Furtwängler conductor, 1937