I think the time has come to coin a new business term. It needs to sound vaguely familiar and reasonably important, otherwise it won’t be very useful. It has to resonate with an ongoing application in business. It must identify a function that almost everyone is aware of on some level of consciousness. It needs to be a term that we can all get behind and utilize to its fullest potential. Based on these requirements, I hereby submit the new business word: Strategery.
The last person to attempt to coin a new word with any amount of success, was Stephen Colbert during his first edition of The Colbert Report on television in 2005. While I do not claim to have even a small percentage of his ability to identify trends and needs in the lexicon, I will soldier on even in the face of these personal shortcomings. He was so successful that his new word has even made it to Wikipedia. If that isn’t a measure of success, then I don’t know what is.
Colbert coined the word “Truthiness”. And the Wikipedia definition of Truthiness (as supplied by Colbert) is:
“truthiness refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. I don’t trust books.”
Of course the public seized on truthiness as truth.
The definition was then further refined and was officially in the mainstream media when in 2006 Dick Meyers of CBS news stated:
“Truthiness is a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.”
From inception to mainstream media acceptance in one year. Think about just how far ahead of the curve Mr. Colbert was with truthiness. Today I believe the support for an individual’s concept of truthiness comes in the form of what are now called “alternative facts”. From truth to truthiness and from facts to alternative facts. He was correct. It just feels right.
Now back to my turn at the plate.
The word “Strategery” was initially was coined for a Saturday Night Live sketch, written by James Downey, airing October 7, 2000, which satirized the then presidential candidate George W. Bush. It actually became a term that was used during the Bush presidential years, but as those years have receded from memory, unfortunately, so has its usage.
But not anymore.
I think in every business discipline, and in every economic realm, there are those shaman like individuals and groups that every organization has, that purport to be able to divine the next industry fundamental shift that is currently residing just beyond the visibility of the event horizon and is destined to be the next game changing event. They claim to be the Visioneers who sound as though they are able to see beyond the future, and who seem to have no discernable role other than that of forming opinions, and possibly writing industry papers about what is out past the most distant of 3 and 5 year business plans and lies in the darkness beyond. These are the people who practice the art of “Strategery”.
The art of Strategery is to purport to look so far out into the future as to be almost useless, but to be able to make it sound as if it is most important.
In this case the word “Visioneers” comes from the 2008 movie of the same name. The movie is set in a dystopian near-future where a Corporation is driving out a culture of independent thought and intimacy. The corporation claims success is achieved by its strict philosophy of mindless productivity and teaches that productivity equals happiness, and the business logo (a middle finger) is the standard greeting in society. Credits again to Wikipedia.
The true art of Strategery is that the Visioneers that practice it can never be wrong. By continually keeping their focus on items that are out beyond the event horizon, and the next industry shift, they can never be directly tied to the current industry events and business performance as they actually occur.
A very good example of this “can’t be wrong” sort of Strategery can be seen in any of the various stock market prognosticators. During any sort of an extended stock market run, either up or down, there will be those that are espousing a “contrarian” point of view. They are the ones that say during a Bull market that a Bear market is coming, and vice-versa.
And they are usually correct. The markets do move in cycles. That’s why they have the names Bull and Bear Markets, and they usually do follow each other. They would only be of value if they could truly predict the point where the market will turn. Most of the time they can’t and will only be able to claim success once the event is long in the rear-view mirror, and they are on to the next pre-event horizon prediction.
Probably one of the first and most famous Visioneers to practice Strategery was Nostradamus. He cataloged all of his divinations and future predictions in a book, purporting to span across hundreds of years, and did it in such a way that no one could tell which event he was foretelling until long after the event in question had actually occurred. In short no one knew what he was talking about, and still don’t until well after the fact. To this date, almost 500 years later, he has not been wrong, but the usefulness of his predictions is generally thought to be non-existent as they have not been recognizable until well after the predicted event has occurred.
A good example of this is that Nostradamus is usually credited with accurately predicting World War II, but the accuracy of his prediction was not generally recognized until several decades after World War II occurred, at which time its usefulness does become questionable.
Technology based organizations are not immune to Strategery either, and in fact they can be a hot bed of such a questionably valued activity. It is easy to spot the Visioneers within these organizations as they will be the ones utilizing the phases such as cloudification, virtualization and Internet of Things amongst others when describing whatever they feel is the next big thing that they will be at the forefront of the charge on.
If you hear:
“The Internet of Things will utilize Big Data to push Virtualization to the Edge.”
There is a very good chance that you are in the presence of a Visioneer practicing the art of Strategery.
How could you prove that statement wrong? How could you prove that statement right? When could you prove anything of value even remotely associated with that statement? Who would actually say something like that?
It appears that value is truly in the eye of the beholder.
However, a true practitioner of the art of Strategery would have probably uttered that statement years ago when those phrases were first coined, not now when there is the potential for some substance and measurability behind them. Today’s master of Strategery would more like be talking about the future next big things, which will include phrases such as robots and machine learning, not so much a virtualized system but virtual reality, and the objectification of experience. (As provided by Pocket-lint: http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/132555-what-comes-next-after-we-re-done-with-the-internet-of-things-intel-gives-us-some-clues)
I understand some of the value that Visioneers and Strategery bring to businesses. I am a little concerned that as the speed with which change is occurring in business increases, so seems to increase the number of people who purport to see Nostradamus like into the future to tell us what will come after whatever is next. And while it may be interesting to speculate on whatever comes after whatever is next, it seems that the commitment of ever larger amounts of precious resources to visioning it creates an increasing risk to the business environment.
The problem for me seems to be that when we have so many people who claim to be so focused on what is so far out in the future, we run the risk of falling into the “Chasing the next shiny thing” syndrome. We tend to devalue whatever we are doing today, or what we plan to do tomorrow because it doesn’t sound as cool as what we think we will be doing in a couple of weeks.
I understand the risk of not having Strategery and that is not what I am advocating. In the past all societies and organizations that had shamans, seers and Visioneers had a very limited number of them. That was part of the mystique associated with them and what made them interesting. Today we seem to be generating entire organizations and processes around them.
Now it seems that we are well on our way to the justification of another overhead group which by its very nature does not lend itself well to any utility or value measurements. If we are going to do it, we might as well have a new name for it: Strategery.