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Image courtesy of Combined Media.

This is a little piece I did to publicise the Fast Strategy Conferencethat the IPA Strategy Group is running in a couple of weeks. It’s about the need for us to think faster if strategy is to be of continued value and about the death of the ponderous planner.


The days of the stereotypical strategist are over.
The business world has little time for the desperately bright, painfully academic, socially inept and ponderous planner. Because, as speed to market and speed of response become powerful competitive advantages, the business world has little time for strategy that gets in the way or slows things down. The perfect strategy delivered to market shortly after the competition has taken you to the cleaners is of no use to man or beast.
Indeed, in our time squeezed environment it is tough to make the case for strategy at all. In many agencies we are witnessing the emergence of a ‘ready, fire, aim’ culture. Account people are drawn to this trigger happiness because of their preference for heat over light while creative directors love it because they can give their talent the maximum amount of time possible to bark up any number of wrong trees. And us strategists? Well we simply throw up our arms in despair.
And the problem lies in part with the exalted position we have given strategy within our industry. We regard planners and strategists as tortured geniuses as they wrestle with the thorny issue of differentiating parity products in the yellow fats market and we wait for the white smoke to issue from the Vatican chimney to show that their work is done. Great strategy is utterly desirable but in the heat of the battle, utterly dispensable.
The truth is that strategy is needed now more than ever – to simplify, guide and inspire. But if we are to combat the obsession with firing before taking aim we have to deliver great thinking faster, rather than asking people to wait while we deliberate.
Of course there is nothing clever about strategy, it is simply about having a plan. And a good plan need not take an age to develop, it simply requires a bit of inspiration and to safe guard a little time in the process.
And that’s the idea behind Fast Strategy. Fast strategy is about delivering powerful thinking quickly, whether in days, hours or minutes, so that strategy remains in the picture and we can at least aim our activity before squeezing the trigger.
Every great strategist has tricks of the trade that help them to deliver great thinking fast and this year’s IPA Strategy Group conference will throw the spotlight on some of these approaches. Not only will showcase the strategic shortcuts of 50 leading practitioners but we will also witness fast strategy in the flesh as three communications legends compete in real time to crack a live client problem.
Some will say that Fast Strategy dumbs down the contribution of strategists to the discipline of solving business problems. I suspect they will tend to be those desperately bright, painfully academic, social inept and ponderous planners whose time has passed.

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