Distillations in this newsletter: New: The Triple Diamond Model of strategy; Ikigai and the deficiencies of strategy; Strategy books you might enjoy.


A monthly concoction of insight, learning and things you might have missed for anyone who works on strategy, works with strategy or just loves strategy.

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This month …

  • The Triple Diamond Model of strategy – a brand new model from Goal Atlas.
  • Can Ikigai reveal the four deficiencies of strategy?
  • Books on strategy I’ve been enjoying.

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The Triple Diamond Model of Strategy

A brand-new strategy model from Goal Atlas that takes the best of design thinking and applies it to strategy.

The Triple Diamond Model proposes that:

  1. Strategy is managed by means of three distinct processes: strategy production, strategy adoption and strategy adaptation.
  2. Each process has a divergent thinking phase (where we think of all the possibilities) followed by a convergent thinking phase (where we commit to strategic decisions).
  3. Visually, this can be represented by a diamond shape (divergent then convergent thinking) repeated three times (produce, adopt, adapt).

One of the most iconic representations of design thinking is the Double Diamond model of design thinking, produced by the UK Design Council in 2006 (Fig. 1). This model is built upon two much older, well-established concepts. Firstly, JP Guilford in the late 1950’s proposed that creative idea generation comprises a period in which we think-of-all-the-possibilities (divergent thinking) followed by a period where we select the best (convergent thinking). Secondly, many authors (myself included in my 1995 book, Product Design) proposed that design is an iterative process, where cycles of divergent and convergent thinking are repeated.

The Double Diamond model shows this with elegant simplicity. The first iteration of divergent/convergent creative thinking defines the problem, by exploring around it and gaining insights into its cause and context, and then definies the area to focus on in the next iteration. This next iteration then develops potential solutions to the defined problem and delivers solutions that work.

Applying this way of thinking to strategy reveals that strategy involves three iterations of the divergent/convergent thinking cycle (Fig.2).

  1. Strategy production: A range of possible strategy destinations are explored before one preferred destination (or a small handful of them) is committed to for the strategy.
  2. Strategy adoption: This is where we move from strategy to strategic planning; we need to explore how best to reach the chosen strategy destination and then we need to commit to our preferred methods of getting there.
  3. Strategy adaptation: Finally, because strategy usually continues for several years, we need to explore all the various ways that strategy needs to adapt to changing circumstances (new environmental pressures and in-house strategic accomplishments) and commit to a monitor / review / adapt cycle for the strategy.

As with all design-type thinking, these are neither linear nor strictly separated processes. Discoveries during strategy adoption, for example, may require parts of the strategy we may have thought we’d finished to be re-visited.

The Triple Diamond Model does, however, provide a simple visualisation of the strategy process and lays the foundation for a structured and systematic approach to strategy management.


Can Ikigai reveal the four deficiencies of strategy?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept describing a state of mind. Whilst there is no direct translation of Ikigai into English, the word is associated with a sense of purpose and fulfillment that results in a feeling of being alive. Long-time friend and colleague Marc Winn produced a graphical representation of Ikigai which, although controversial, spread rapidly. Bruce Eckfeldt has argued that this same sense of purpose and balance can apply equally well to business organisations. Whilst reading Eckfeldt’s article, my mind inevitably drifted on to strategy and I wondered if Ikigai could be of value for strategists. The conclusion I reached was a lot more profound than I’d anticipated – does Ikigai reveal four subtle but important deficiencies that strategies can suffer from? Here is my version of the Ikigai diagram, fine-tuned for analysing strategy (Fig. 3).

The important message from Ikigai is that the best place for an organisation to be is doing what its people love doing, what they are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for. Doing only three out of these four may lead to a deep feeling across the organisation that something is missing yet is hard to describe. If, for example:

  1. You feel satisfaction combined with a sense of uselessness, maybe you are doing what you love, what you are good at and what you can get paid for but not what the world needs.
  2. You feel delighted but realise this is not sustainable, you are probably doing what you love, what you are good at and what the world needs but not what you can get paid for.
  3. You feel comfortable but with a sense of emptiness, maybe you are doing what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for but not what you love.
  4. You feel fulfilled but sense a lack of confidence, maybe you are doing what you love, what the world needs and what you can get paid for but not what you are good at.


Books on strategy I’ve been enjoying

Here’s an overview of three books I’ve been reading recently that I thought you might like to know a little bit more about:

  1. Freek Vermeulen, 2017. Breaking Bad Habits. Harvard Business Review Press.
    Vermeulen uses a great case study to make a much more general point about strategy. In response to a new UK tax on newspapers in 1712, which was levied per page, newspapers moved to publishing fewer pages but in a larger format. Hence the broadsheet newspaper format was born. Fast forward 290 years to the year 2002 and quality newspapers were still published in broadsheet format. There was no apparent reason for this: they were more expensive to print, a lot more inconvenient to read and the tax per page ended in 1855. This, according to Vermeulen is an example of a bad habit persisting despite perfectly good reasons to get rid of it. Far from being an isolated exception, Vermeulen suggests that breaking their own bad habits is a way most organisations could reinvigorate their business.
  2. Angus Fletcher, 2021. Creative Thinking: A field guide to building your strategic core.
    Developed for the US Army Command and General Staff College, this 100-page book is made even more accessible by being divided into 30 modules and hence is great for dipping into every now and then. In one module for example (module 9), he explains how to switch your brain from logic to the exploration of cause and effect and how Einstein, van Gogh and Beethoven had their own specific techniques for doing so.
  3. Russell Davies, 2021. Everything I Know About Life I Learned from PowerPoint. Profile Books, London.
    This doesn’t sound like a strategy book, but it is one that is packed with insight and wisdom on how to bring about change within a complex organisation (Davies was as Director of Digital Strategy for the Government Digital Service).


Goal Atlas runs workshops and sprints to help your strategy work better across your organisation. Get in touch if you think we might be able to help.


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