Even faster strategy


Image courtesy of Liquidrosephotography

Monday this saw the IPA Strategy Group's fast strategy conference here in London.

All in all a rather splendid occasion.

The high point was the victory of the marvellous Richard Storey in a live head to head fast strategy challenge from the UK Government on Dog Registration. It was a good reminder, if anyone needed it, that Richard is one of the most accomplished creative strategists in adland. The Planning for Good team (Mark Earls, Jon Leech, Ian Tait and Chris Forrest) came second and were outstanding, if not quite as sharp as Richard's M&C team (here is the wiki they built that morning to help them). CHI was rather out-classed and brought up the rear.

Anyway, the event made me think about my top tips for getting to strategy fast so I thought I'd share them with you. I've done 17 since it seems such an unfashionable number. Some stuff will be familiar to regular readers - but when you are creating fast strategy it doesn't do to reinvent the wheel.

1. Time is not the problem in creating strategy, ideas are. If you can find an idea the time will find itself.

2. Ideas first, facts second. Facts only make sense in the light of an idea.

3. There are only two criteria for judging your creative strategies - are they simple and are they interesting.

4. It is vital to be interesting, it is merely important to be right.

5. If you look in the same place as everyone else you will never find something interesting, no matter how clever you are.

6. Every great solution comes from a great problem. Make sure you understand the problem behind the problem that you are trying to solve.

7. Anything and everything can help you. Take a walk and think about how every shop, sign, ad, conversation and observation might help you solve the problem.

8. Be prepared. Keeping reading the weird shit.

9. Keep your focus on finding out the things you didn’t know you didn’t know.

10. Call upon your latent strategies, the strategies that you have always wanted to use but have never had the chance.

11. Remember that the stale strategic idea of one category is the ground breaking step forward in another.

12. Jam with other people, online or face to face. But don’t engage that trojan horse of mediocrity, the brainstorm.

13. Ask yourself what the brand’s position might be about the something we all care about.

14. A position is an opinion. We live in an age of conversation and opinions are the lifeblood of all conversations.

15. Plan from within. How do you feel about the brand, category or the wider world? How do you explain your own behaviour? You are not unrepresentative, you live in the same brand landscape as everyone else.

16. Trust your instinct - its the most truthful resource you have.

17. Fast strategy is more about decisiveness than speed. Often we need strategic courage more than haste.


very helpful list. number six has been a key for me working on a media client - reframing/rearticulating the problem past "we need more viewers tuning-in" has been critical. also, in a weird twist of coincidence i saw an article on the number 17 - - in rocketboom's twitter feed this morn. you may be onto the latest fashion.

Posted by: El Gaffney at May 4, 2008 03:37 PM

Great list - I particularly like no.3 and no.7

Posted by: Simon at May 4, 2008 05:19 PM

great list richard. number 6 to me is the one that i've always found the most useful - if you can make the problem more interesting, then everything else follows.

Posted by: gareth at May 4, 2008 08:04 PM

great list richard. number 6 to me is the one that i've always found the most useful - if you can make the problem more interesting, then everything else follows.

Posted by: gareth at May 4, 2008 08:11 PM


7 is the one we forget most ofetn. the urgency to attack a brief can stop us from getting a better view of the problem.

Posted by: Andiho at May 5, 2008 05:37 AM

Fastest strategy is in Asia. With GDP growth some 5-8 times larger than the UK, most of it gets squeezed into faster strategy and execution. The creativity suffers.

You've got to see it to believe it.

Posted by: Charles Frith at May 6, 2008 01:07 AM

'You have been well tought master richard'

no.9 sounds like thinking 'outside the outside of the box'... it isn't I just wanted an excuse to say it, it's always made me chuckle.

Think you might have covered it with no.17 decisiveness, but I always liked 'sacrifice' as a principle; yes you have to be decisive but more than that you have to make tough decisions to throw half cherished ideas away in favour of a fully cherished one.

I've always liked the difference between interesting and useful too. It isn't enough to just be interesting, interesting and useful is better: both are more important than being 'right'.

And to emphasise the point. Right is an opinion, you can't create the perfect strategy, you can never be right.

Posted by: jemster at May 6, 2008 08:28 PM