Skip to content

“Loving to read as a strategist”. Episode 26. The core of the strategist mind.

Trying to catch up with Christmas decorations at home is what awaits me for the weekend. Nevertheless, today we are required to continue with our journey. Have you noticed that we are almost done? Only 4 publications more and we will finish the Autumn-Winter saga of 2022. Incredible, how time passes by. The Winter-Spring saga of 2023 is under reflection and consideration at the moment. Be prepared, because we will stick our next year’s journey in parallel to the Ocean Race 2023.

The Ocean Race 2023 will visit nine iconic international cities over six months, with leg one starting from Alicante, Spain, on 15 January 2023. As all the teams have confirmed their participation in the race, we will make three ‘haul-out’ stops with them too. An introduction to our 2023 Strategy Race is below. We will offer all the details of our themes, per consecutive leg. The next 6 months’ outline and respective subjects will be available on January 15th, 2023. Expect to dive into the ocean waves with us.

Today there aren´t any set of slides. We will only share our own meaning of being a strategist, and how are we grinding, polishing, and refining our role to become our uppermost one.  So, I will be straightforward. These reflections come from my own deduction and induction (according to what I have observed and collected after I graduated from Cornell). This episode is about what is the core of the strategist’s mind, and the challenges that await us during the following decades.

The essence of a strategist.
A strategist is defined in so many ways and contexts. The foundational quality of a strategist is to hold a solid formal education. When I started to learn about strategy, that occurred to me in London. Spring 1998. I was selected for an MBA International Exchange Program from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. The dean chose me to study the third semester of courses at London Business School. Our humble beginnings to learn about the strategic management field commenced there. Then a year later, during my second master’s degree (as a Fulbright Scholar) at Cornell University, I was granted by Dean Robert J. Swieringa (business) and Dean Mark Turnquist (engineering) to opt for management and finance courses at the S.C. Johnson School of Management located in Sage Hall. That is how I continued learning and studying the subject. From that initial novice time up to today, more than 22 years have galloped. During this time, I have kept my toes on different levels of the strategy domains (corporate strategy, business strategy, functional strategy, teaching strategy, writing about strategy, innovating about strategy) not just as an employee, but as an independent practitioner (when doing consulting), as an author, and currently as a corporate strategist “state of the art” theorist. 

With that introduction, my tropical location has not degraded what I do. Of course, I am distant from the American and European universities where top professors are; and I am positioned farther than where the gurus of strategy practice are established (usually at top consulting firms such as Bain, BCG, McKinsey, Deloitte, PWC, etc.).  Although, living so far away has turned out to be a blessing. My geographic setting has challenged me to always ask questions, that are not raised in wealthy lands. The first and most relevant of those inquiries has been: what, how, when, and why many of the strategy theories that work (supposedly well) in the developed economies, do not run well in our poverty nations. Once I returned from Zurich to Central America, my first shock was in financial valuation: how can we apply all the magnificent excel models of professor Aswath Damodaran (NYU) or Professor Bhaskaran Swaminathan (Cornell) about the economic valuation of capital investments to accomplish valuation of companies in Central America?  How do we assemble due diligence in local industries that didn´t want to reveal their truth to us? How to draft a correct business model canvas, Porter`s analysis, a value chain, or a pricing strategy if we didn´t have all the factors in place? Then I faced, how to provide support for decision-making about divestments, organic growth, mergers, strategic alliances, international expansion, vertical growth (backward and forward integration), diversification, adjacencies, portfolio analysis, etc.; when we lack good data? How to do all the latter without the truth, without the certitude of the proper information? How can we apply all the theories that we learn in America and Europe, to places that didn´t have all the historic knowledge in place, or didn`t want to open it with transparency? Oh, la la!. It was hard. Here in the tropics, we didn´t carry the proper historic memory for strategic planning. But then my mind wandered. The questions I was doing had another connotation. I was working in conflicting economies. Many of them barely moved out of conflicts, civil wars, or other domestic troubles.  What a waste of time to see the problems from that developed technocrat’s perspective. The spotlight of my possible answers wasn´t on the tactics.  I was compelled to try to understand the corporate strategy, not the tools to measure the economic results of the companies. If I didn´t dig into understanding the business owners and their institutional ecosystems, in the tropical set-up of my location, it was going to be impossible to try to recreate the big picture in a business strategy driven by financial terms.

That is how I started 20 years ago. Over the years of living in Central America, I have been observing. If you see my watercolors, these represent how my brain functions as a strategist. I love to paint in detail. The same happens when I strategize. I try to observe business, economics, and education patterns, with all that my vision allows me. It is impossible to create a good strategy if we aren´t observers of the core details.  Only by observing from the inside out, and from the outside in, we can ask ourselves the right questions.  And observation takes a lot of time. It takes that we put the problem under different contexts, space, and time light. Observation requires patience. We had to do the observation in a region with no satisfactory data. I was forced to see beyond the data. I was pushed to observe reality, with dedication, perseverance, and with “discernment”. That is how I learned that the essence of a strategist is not data analytics. It is the observation of the truth. When we observe correctly, we investigate with tweezers. This, I learned, in Central America. Additionally, another feature of excellent strategists is to accept that reality is not driven by the data that we collect with our observations. It is beyond what we see or watch. The real truth is what we don´t see, or we don´t read on the Internet. Apparently, what you see in a video or in a speech, in financial statements or books, or in written reports (made by practitioners or academics) usually is not the whole truth. The truth is found behind what you scrutinize. Any data can be modified or altered. But observation of the facts, talking and interviewing those who directly moved the actions, watching their causes, and monitoring the effects have been priceless.

“Agatha´s notebook”. From the exercises of the collection saga “Loving to read as a strategist”
Size: 7 x 5 ply. Baohong Cold Press 300 GSM. Painted with Van Gogh & Ecoline Liquid Aquarelles pigments. NFS

It is impossible to become a good strategist without making mistakes. That is another characteristic of someone who is practicing for it. The figure of the blunder is simply another remark I have noticed: if we are trying to do something, we will always make errors. Those who don´t make mistakes are probably not doing anything… But the mistakes that require us to move forward for excellence in our life as strategists are not related to tactics, but to the core corporate strategy.  The decent side of making mistakes is that we learn from them. When we accept the misconception, we immediately comprehend all the whereabouts (where, what, who, when, how, and why is not the way to go); and if we find the error on time, we are prepared with all the gear to rectify and fix it. To be humble to recognize our mistakes is not something that characterizes strategists of mediocrity. Only those who are overseeing on elevated levels, will not only assume the misstep or slip-up; but they will do something to repair it. Those will put everything on board to correct it with a passionate craving that is beyond comprehension.

An excellent strategist is not a problem solver, critical thinker, or analytical guru to help you to do profits. The essence of our goal on this planet goes beyond financial profits or economic results. We will always want to craft and do all that it takes to make this earth a better place, not just for us and our nearest communities; but for those who are unprivileged and deserve to reach at least a middle-class status all over the world. It is not about winning for profit, it is about making enterprises refined, respectable, and honorable with their employees, their families, their societies, and the environment.

The latter qualities of a strategist provide us a paintbrush of the core of the strategist’s mind. Of course, there are more elements on the list. But we have written the main characteristics that will be required of the strategists for the new generations to come.

Libraries are like lights in the darkness hanging from a tree. Illustrative and non-commercial image. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.

From military strategy to integral strategy.
Several times since we started with Eleonora Escalante Strategy, I have written that all our models in corporate and business strategy are driven by the legacy of war. We simply switched 5,000 years of physical and weaponized fights, conquests, and wars between kingdoms to gain power; and we wrote the same recipe in business and economics. Our strategy frameworks have to change for the next generations to come. Our evolution for dignity and love to humans must transcend from war to peace. And our strategy models are required to shift, little by little, under the premises of a new philosophy of life: the cooperation and solidarity between humans. It will take several generations to change the mentality from war to a mentality of solidarity.

During the last 7 years, my own strategic philosophy has changed. Today I am not the same person who wrote the Strategy Regatta 2017-2018.  Even my own value proposition of consulting services has been transformed, for the finest.  My own original corporate presentation was removed from this website a couple of years ago. What I do now, is not what I was planning to do as a strategist, when I started this endeavor. The beauty of sharing all my strategic reflections and explorer discoveries has metamorphosed me into a new different professional, and I am not plotting to move back to where I was. On the contrary, I am obliged to share what I observe. I am devoted to doing it because I really care for the well-being of the people who suffer, and I truly believe (from my observations as a strategist) that there are organic structural embedded theories and core aspects in our “business world” manners of doing things, that require a renovation. Otherwise, if we continue pursuing the wrong corporate and business strategy models; we will end up continue battling. We will continue doing what our ancestors did with the Alexandria Library (killing books). And we will continue using our inventions to destroy the excellent industries that were not meant to be touched by our own disruptions.

Illustrative and non-commercial image. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.

The legacy of our ancestors is a history of wars. Thousands of wars since before our Neanderthal times.  And that mental chip of strategy for winning wars has continued with our competitive strategy for business and nations. That way of thinking is now more sophisticated, we are making the battlefield virtual. Our legacy of 5,000 years of wars using our inventions has evolved to the digital. But that shift stills shows matters of power, a staple of domination, an affair of imposition: the subjugation of the most vulnerable under subtly hidden slavery (the technologies that will extinguish our health). The high risk with disruptive technologies is the substitution of humans in everything, including whatever we do by going to college or university or extreme-level problem-solving tasks.  In no time, if we don´t do anything to change our core strategy domains, we will continue producing the wrong business models. And leaders will continue neglecting humans from their pretty diligent occupations; procuring technological insensibility over traditional cultivation and higher education. The disgrace of the excessive digital model is that blocks real interaction between people. It impedes democracy. It takes us back to the times of the barbarians, when people did not care for the efforts of others, but only for themselves. A lot of selfishness around. It takes us to the dark ages, before the Renaissance, but now we are living in our homes without socializing, as in a virtual prison. Under the meta-virtual autocratic regime. Excessive technology can ruin democracy and economic prosperity, are you aware of this?. With every saga, there are lessons to learn. Every saga of us has delivered a lesson for me. And it is shared with you. And there are more sagas to come.

People are required to make a decent living. This respectable living only occurs in reasonable personal, city-dwelling, educational and corporate surroundings. Their salaries must be of the ample middle-class range (between $28,800 to $170,000 dollars per year). And the distribution of the income should be according to the effort of education, and dedication they have invested in building their competencies through practice. Without meritocracy, everything seems unfair.  If a digital system foundation is based on many followers (by showing only what is non-ethical for society), we need to reflect if this system is appropriate. If a digital economy procures cannibalization of the products of the defenseless, something is wrong. If a digital showcase scheme of our businesses affects those in weak or poor positions, to the extreme limit that the only way to survive is to become a trader or retailer of Chinese products, then something is not right. If the digital system dignifies the mendicant model and “donations model defeat”, then what we are doing is creating digital vagabonds, who are not begging in the streets but on the Internet. And the saddest part is that these digital scroungers are the top intellectuals, authors, artists, and well-studied composers who have given it all in their long-learning cultivation. If a digital economy is creating narcissism as a tribute to the ignorants who don´t want to study after high school; then something is incorrect. If the digital economy only helps to segregate minorities, then something is wrong. If the digital system generates more panhandlers in the group of people with top-level mental development, that is enough reason to stop this path. Or at least regulate it. The digital requires stricter regulation than the real. Otherwise, it will blow up in our faces, sooner or later.

The wholesome well-being of any person is demonstrated and only comes naturally when he or she has reached a certain level of a stable income. It is usually in the Middle-Class status where you can find them. Building up a society of middle-class citizens with an integral educated mindset is a precondition to respect, solidarity, love, and peace. An economic system that increases the gap between the rich and the poor is hurting us. So be aware of that. The greatest and most pleasant person on earth, living in conditions of poverty, will not show happiness to the world if living under extreme deprivation. Our business and economic models are urgently required to provoke that minimum level of contentment, particularly to “moms-to-be”, or to mothers carrying children, who are the role models for the kids of our families. We still have a lot to work to do in the following centuries to come. Notably at the mental level, through reading.

Announcement: Our next Tuesday´s publication is “Reading content as a strategist”.

Illustrative and non-commercial image. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.

Strategic Music Section.

Music Reading chill-outs

Today´s musical reading counsel is about loving to read as a strategist. Reading is a fundamental foundation for anyone who is dedicated to decision-making. If you are hired to make decisions or to build frameworks for helping business owners to make decisions, then it is a requirement that you can read under the Literacy 5 level (OECD). So let´s practice. As business owners, we are urged, to put extra effort to recover our reading competencies. It is not an option, but an obligation. That is a duty for all the owners of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) too. We mistakenly believe that just because we have a small office or we are entrepreneurs in humble conditions (most SMEs are currently under financial stress), it is not our role to learn to read and teach others with our intent.

On the contrary, if you have employees, it is your responsibility to also help them to read. As a business owner, you can do appreciation reading waves with your workers.  For example, you can contact your closest bookstore representative or the librarian of your community and ask for advice about books or meaningful stories. You can also buy them at a discount (half a dozen or a dozen books) and start a book club for you and your crew too!. I already expressed the importance of book clubs. But today it is influential to comprehend that as a boss of a business, it is possible to become a role model for reading. You can invite your team to share a book club for one hour, once a week (at lunchtime for example). Reading matters!

Our music for reading today is another holiday Christmas collection.
From Halidon Music. Traditional Christmas carols arranged for string orchestra by Matt Naughtin Performed by Metamorphose String Orchestra Conducted by Pavel Lyubomudrov.

See you next Tuesday 13th of December with the 27th episode of the saga “Loving to read as a strategist: Reading content as a strategist”. Thank you for reading to me. Blessings.

“Loving to Read as a Strategist”. Illustrative and non-commercial image. Giphy source from Nazaret Escobedo

Sources of reference are utilized today. None.

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  All are used as Illustrative and non-commercial images. Utilized only informatively for the public good. Nevertheless, most of this blog’s pictures, images, or videos are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s