The article in Saturday’s NY Times is a classic example of how strategic discussions unfold as discussed in Gavitte & Rivikin’s 2005 Harvard Business Review article “How Strategists Really Think: Tapping the Power of Analogy”—not only in business, but in terms of international interventions as well. Not discussed in the NY Times article is the critical use of mapping the analogy being used–What is similar, and more important, what is not similar or is critically different between the new situation? Gavitte & Rivikin point out that the tendency for advocates is to naturally focus on the similarities.
Once the mapping is complete, what is equally important is:
- Assessing what are the critical unknowns, what is being assumed, vs. what is known.
- Considering the critical unknowns—asking what different scenarios might unfold, what options they offer, and how much risk and investment are we willing to make.
- Framing the intentional goals being pursued. Are they possible?
To think further about mapping both the analogies being used and possible scenarios in this case just check out Thomas Friedman’s column in the Sunday Times Sunday Review section. Listen to how our political representatives are discussing the policy arguments.
In today’s world of constant change being able to think strategically be it around personal career choices, organizational related options, or participating in broader policy discussions is a critical skill set. Developing this skill set in our society is a major adult learning and educational challenge. Complexity doesn’t follow ideological reasoning.