Strategy and design theory

2020-08-11 ☼ DesignStrategyGoalsOrganizations

I teach a course at UCL on strategy and design theory. It is an unconventional strategy course because I do my best to avoid using or talking about cookie-cutter strategic frameworks. Instead, we try to go back to very basic ideas underlying strategy, in part by using old-school design theory.

I wrote a series of short pieces as summary readings for the course. Each piece was designed to take only about 15 minutes to read and digest. They are all posted here somewhere, but this post brings them all together. This is the sequence:

  1. Strategy by design: Defines strategy; describes the conventional idea of good strategy; explains some problems with the conventional idea of good strategy; defines design; explains how design helps fix problems with conventional strategy.
  2. Goals are the foundation of strategy: Goals defined; conventional understanding of business goals in strategy; practical reasons for the prevalence of this understanding; key concepts and assumptions underlying this understanding; problems with this understanding; hierarchy of goals and abstraction in goals; goals are inherently subjective; how design thinking treats goals; how design thinking can improve the way conventional strategy thinks about goals.
  3. Meta-level strategic thinking: Underlying assumption about the nature of strategy (or design); What meta-level strategic thinking is; Types of goals: super- and sub-ordinate; Consequences of goal-type for freedom to act; Types of problem-situations: risky vs uncertain; Consequences of problem-situation-type for strategic choice; Design thinking as an appropriate approach for uncertain problem-situations.
  4. Understanding the strategic situation: Inside and outside the organization; Types of environment; Specialists and generalists; Environmental constraints lead to similarity and difference; Assessing the environment; Internal resources; What makes a resource strategic?; A broader view of the strategic situation; Environmental resources; Internal constraints.

If you liked these ideas, you could also sign up for my weekly newsletter or buy a copy of my new book, The Uncertainty Mindset: Innovation Insights from the Frontiers of Food (which is about uncertainty, innovation, organizational design … and cutting-edge cuisine).

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