Distillations in this newsletter: Framing: a lesson from behavioural economics. Using framing as a model to inject creativity into strategy development. The case for strategy workshops. The synergy of Virgin Atlantic’s ‘double helix’ strategy. Digital avoidance strategy. The front-line paradox.

STRATEGY DISTILLED:

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 …

Framing – one of many findings from behavioural economics we need to know about as strategists.
A new model (Framing: Frame-stretching & Frame-setting) released from Goal Atlas on Creative Commons.
The case for strategy workshops.
Three snippets related to strategy you might have missed on strategic synergy, digital avoidance and the front-line paradox.

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Lessons from behavioural economics

Framing – one of many findings from behavioural economics we need to know about as strategists.

What is it? Framing is the use of a set of ideas (the frame) to make sense of the world around us. How we interpret someone rapidly closing and opening an eye, depends on whether we frame it as a blink (involuntary movement due to a speck of dust) or a wink (a socially meaningful signal directed at an individual). How individuals within an organisation frame situations can have a profound effect on their subsequent attitudes and behaviour. To some individuals in a company that recently landed a Venture Capital funding round, this was recognition of our success and an opportunity to accelerate us towards even more success in the future. To others it was an attempt by faceless rich people to get even richer on the back of our collective labours.

Why does it matter for strategy? Framing explains why different people can hold very different views about the same facts and hence may have wildly different beliefs about where the most promising future for their organisation lies. A key part of strategy development, therefore, is to try to make sure people are, as far as possible, framing the strategy situation in similar ways. Where this is not possible, the next best option is to have people’s different ‘frames’ out in the open and mutually understood. This way, a common strategic destination may still be agreed, even if different people may explain and justify the strategy in different ways because they frame the world differently.

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A new strategy model from Goal Atlas, released on Creative Commons …

Framing: Frame-stretching & Frame-setting

We have taken the principles behind framing and applied them as a creative strategy tool to help you ‘think of all possible [strategy] ideas and then select the best’. Framing uses different strategy models (e.g. SWOT analysis, value proposition design, stakeholder analysis) to re-contextualise the strategy being developed, and, in doing so, inject sources of creativity into strategic thinking. It stimulates ‘divergent thinking’ by frame-stretching and then ‘convergent thinking’ by frame-setting. Framing is a key part of strategy development and use of a variety of frame-stretching and frame-setting tools can enhance the range and quality of strategic ideas.

Frame-stretching is a creative thinking technique using strategy models as a basis for coming up with new ideas about what could potentially be included in a new strategy.

Frame-setting is an exercise to select, refine and combine creative ideas generated for a new strategy. It differentiates between what’s included in strategy and what’s excluded.

Download the Framing model as a pdf or see all 17 strategy models released by Goal Atlas so far.

Released under Creative Commons License, all our models are free for you to use in your strategy documents and presentations (attribute to Goal Atlas 2021).

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The case for strategy workshops

Workshops are amongst the most valuable strategic tools available to senior leaders. Here is the case for their use in your organisation.

Why strategy workshops? The key benefits of a well-run strategy workshop include:

Productivity: A workshop is designed to be a high-productivity event – participants get a lot back from the time they invest. For this to happen, considerable preparatory work may be needed by the workshop facilitator.

Diversity: A workshop is designed to solicit a diversity of inputs. Try, as far as possible, to invite participants with different backgrounds, responsibilities and objectives.

Inclusivity: Every participant matters, and every participant’s voice is heard. This has two benefits: firstly, every participant’s contribution is listened to and valued. Secondly, there are no passengers in a workshop

Safety: A workshop is a safe-to-fail environment – commitment to the psychological safety of participants needs to be made clear in the facilitator’s introductory remarks. Ensure that all criticism is constructive and that it is ideas that are judged, not individuals. Explain how great ideas are often triggered by someone else’s outrageous, silly, far-fetched or impractical ideas.

Defence from bias: A workshop can be a great defence against ‘confirmation bias’ in strategic thinking. Learn more about confirmation bias from last month’s newsletter.

Impact: A workshop ought to have an executive sponsor – to ensure the conclusions of the workshop are acted upon and enable them to have their intended impact.

How to make strategy workshops succeed?

People: Workshop planning involves at least two key people. Firstly, the workshop sponsor – they need the answers a workshop seeks to provide, and they also have both an interest in the outcome of the workshop and the authority to act upon the workshop conclusions. Secondly, the workshop facilitator, who will manage the workshop proceedings and deliver the workshop conclusions.

Purpose: A workshop sets out with a clear and explicit purpose. Examples could include:
• To build the foundation for deciding …;
• To decide …;
• To examine the evidence for and against …;
• To prioritise …;
• To review the decision to …;
• To risk-assess …;

Process: A workshop usually benefits from working around a process, model or framework. Here’s one that works well.

Frame it, See it, Do it is a workshop process that begins with the facilitator explaining a framework for participants to think about a topic – this is ‘Frame-it’ part. Then show an example of how to apply the framework – the ‘See-it’ part of the process. Finally, participants are asked to apply the framework to something of their own choosing – the Do-it part.

Imagine we were in a workshop to devise a new mission statement for an organisation. We frame this challenge in two ways. Firstly, the term ‘mission’ is defined. An organisation’s mission is its purpose. What is the organisation, now? What does it do, what does it aspire to be, right now. Secondly mission is placed in context, alongside other ‘identity signals’ of the organisation. ‘Vision’ is all about the future. ‘Strategy’ is how we plan to get from mission and make progress towards vision (see more in Goal Atlas’s House of Strategy model). This completes the ‘Frame-it’ part of our workshop on mission. The next step is to exemplify it. We choose LinkedIn as an example. Their mission is ‘connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful’. This is the very heart of what LinkedIn does. It is LinkedIn’s purpose. Which connects elegantly with LinkedIn’s vision to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. With these learnings, our workshop participants are now well equipped to start working on a new mission for their own organisation in the Do-it part of the process.

Frame-stretching, our new strategy model released in this newsletter, is, of course, another model that can form the basis of a strategy workshop.

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Snippets related to strategy you may have missed …

The synergy of Virgin Atlantic’s ‘double helix’ strategy

We often hear about how the key initiatives within a strategy ought to give rise to synergy. Synergy is where an interaction gives rise to an outcome that is greater than the sum of the interacting parts. Usually one of the initiatives has an amplifying effect on the outcome of the other initiative. We hear about such synergies often enough but it is refreshing to hear about one actually happening. Virgin Atlantic has taken their well-established expertise in customer experience (CX) and then applied the same principles to employee experience (EX). In exactly the same way that they seek to understand and improve the lifts and drags on customer experience, so they now seek to do the same for employee experience … with the added benefit that this not only creates a happy workforce but that these happy employees serve customer needs better, making for happier customers, which makes for happier employees and so on around the loop.

Digital avoidance strategy

We often talk about digital transformation at the heart of strategy but less often about digital avoidance. Yet this is the strategy that has seen the UK’s most loved satirical magazine Private Eye thrive over recent years. With everybody spending so much time on screen “a hard copy publication that you can sit in a chair … and read suddenly turns into a sellable item,” explains Private Eye’s Editor, Ian Hislop in a recent interview. This is a great example of a counter-intuitive or trend-reversing strategy. Think what direction the world is moving in and consider what it would mean if we moved in the opposite direction. As the world thinks big, what would happen if we think small? Rather than working out how to succeed with the goalposts where they are now, how would we win if we were able to move the goalposts? Counter-intuitive thinking is almost always a useful exercise, even if only to confirm the value of your more conventional thinking.

The front-line paradox

In an article in MIT Sloan Management Review from a couple of weeks ago, Carsten Lund Pedersen from Copenhagen Business School, suggests that front-line employees are often the first to sense strategic change yet the last to have their voices heard.

Despite the treasure trove of insights front-line employees can offer up for strategic decision-making, top management teams rarely ask for their opinions and hence “deprive themselves of new information that could improve their analyses — risking decisions being made in isolation within the C-suite echo chamber”. Citing examples from companies such as Best Buy and Zara, Pedersen goes on to suggest what steps strategists can make to better engage front-line intelligence in strategic decision-making.

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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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