Why Learning Through is Essential for Sustainable Strategic Positioning

Business, politics and war: Why a strategy is not a plan | The Economist.

In a series of recent integrative literature reviews that incorporate complexity theory, learning through experience, and adult development theory, Dr. Aliki Nicolaides of the University of Georgia, and I argue for educational practices that foster an ability for thinking strategically in today’s socio-economic environment. The need for applying educative frameworks that facilitate and stretch the capacity of adults to make meaning and choices for timely action under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity is further reinforced by a book review of “Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman” in last weeks The Economist “Why a Strategy is not a Plan.”  In this review it becomes clear that even:

A run of success…does not mean you will be on top forever.  Strategy…is really about trying to work out how to get from one stage to another… A strategy that starts with objectives and works backward is one that is likely to fail.

The review concludes with the observation that:

Although it is usually better to have some kind of strategy than not, unless you are prepared to adapt it as circumstances change it is unlikely to do you much good.

The points made in the review underlie the way strategy development is a process that requires continuous learning—a kind of learning targeted toward preparing one for agility.

Developing strategy under conditions of high uncertainty involves engaging in a learning process. Paradoxically, under conditions of rapid change and uncertainty, experience (especially successful experience) is a double edge sword. Experience is valuable, but also blocks from reaching new insight.

Here are three critical questions to be continuously asking:

1. What, specifically, made this work successful so far in this context and     how might emerging trends change the context?

2.  What new uncertainties exist and what scenarios and options might emerge?

The old saying “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” leads to the third question:

3.  How can we break our own success?

In today’s world “when it’s broke, it’s often too late to fix it.” Strategic learning practices, when well used, help answer all three questions.