“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
-Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland
If you need to be in control at all times, don’t choose this career.
If you think all decisions should be based solely on logic, don’t choose this career.
If you fear change, don’t choose this career.
Recognize that you are necessary as a strategist because of these reasons.
Complexity and change. Speed and ignorance, compounded by human emotion and accelerated by a rate of disruption that most people can scarcely comprehend. These are the reasons we are employed.
Our job is to help our colleagues surf the terrifying wave of chaos, to ensure that we don’t get swept under by it, and if we are good at what we do, to get ahead of it. For there is exhilaration in the ride, when we get it just right. There is opportunity to stand out and achieve something truly worthwhile.
But in order to do so, as any good surfer will tell you, you have to embrace the wave. Don’t try to control it, and certainly don’t fight it. Instead, understand its power, its direction and choose your line.
Where does this chaos come from? It comes from an industry whose prime engine for growth is constant re-invention. It comes from an industry that is at the forefront of technological disruption. It comes from an industry that is built on human decisions, emotions, foibles, biases and unreasonable expectations. And it comes from an industry that preys on ignorance.
In this whirlwind of chaos, it is the role of the strategist to anticipate the direction, identify the obstacles and chart the course. But understand that all of these things can and do change quickly and radically. So how are you supposed to achieve this?
First, understand that you need to be goal oriented rather than task oriented. The outcome is what matters to the digital strategist since the path to get there is liable to change and is open to too many unknown variables.
Second, be pragmatic. Hewing too closely to a single path, to a single approach or channel makes you too rigid to quickly change path as you progress and as the need arises. Be prepared to shift methodology if it helps you side-step an obstacle. Be prepared to hang up your ego if doing so helps you get to your objective.
Third, stay calm. Rapid change is stressful. It is your responsibility within this environment to remain level headed. Again, you do so by focusing on the outcome as opposed to the next step in the path.
Finally, practice, practice, practice. There is nothing like experience to help you identify the warning signs and obstacles and to chart the path most likely to succeed. This is why the strategist is not an entry level role. It is through personal experience that we become great strategists.
Don’t fight the chaos. Embrace it. Hang ten. And don’t forget to smile for the camera.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.