Napoléon Bonaparte wasn’t the first General to apply strategic thought on the battlefield. However, he has been one of the most studied Generals for his mastering of strategic thought. His famous strategy was to divide an army to make it easier to conquer, but his most effective strategy was to build alliances to suffocate his adversaries. Tactics involve knowing what is the next move when it’s obvious and a strategy is knowing what to do when the path is not obvious. While Napoléon’s enemies were playing checkers and toiling in tactics, he was providing an introduction to strategy by playing chess.
Strategy, like an organization’s culture, is harder to define than to understand. Instead of defining strategy, philosophers have offered maxims to understand the subject. For example, if everyone is going in the same direction, then that wouldn’t be a strategy, it would be common knowledge. The dictionary defines strategy as a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The business definition is the plan that dictates where the company will be in the future and a signal indicating where to shift resources. A strategy is a multi-level process of how an entity can determine where they are in comparison to their competitors, where they can take a competitive advantage, and how they can win in the future. Above all, a strategy is the creation of something novel and unique.
No matter how a person defines strategy, it is the heartbeat of the organization. The lifetime of the companies continues to shrink due to a bad strategy. New ideas and products are followed by cheaper competitors who have improved upon the original design. Successful products in the past would be able to carry a company for decades. Now companies can achieve limited revenue growth before they are squeezed out of the market. This puts the creative tension on a company to continue to innovate and reinvent their strategy. Their only other option is to stagnate and experience a slow death.
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