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19 Ways for Developing Strategy Insights

19 Ways for Developing Strategy Insights

One of my favorite words is the Japanese word Satori, translated as “comprehension; understanding” or “a flash of insight.” Insights allow us to see what others—or most others—were not able to see or what they ignored. Insights allow us to see what we ourselves have not seen before, or have not understood the importance of prior to a flash of insight. It allows us to see the world in new ways.

Insights arrive suddenly, usually when we do a different activity such as taking a shower or washing our hands. One quality of insight is the feeling that the information is correct. The truthfulness of information is self-evident. The flash of insight also feels like a process of creation. Something meaningful to us is created at that moment. Something that we value greatly.

When we try to trace how insight was created, we fail to see the underlying process. However, cognitive neuroscientists observed certain brain activities associated with insights. For example, one second before we experience an insight, there is a pre-insight in the right rear side of the visual cortex. At this moment, our external senses are blocked for a brief moment.

An interesting observation is that insight doesn’t always come with positive emotion, as people generally think. Sometimes we realize something that is bad news for us or for someone we care about. That is also an insight, but it brings a negative feeling, such as a feeling of worry or regret, not a positive feeling, such as excitement or awe. For example, when we get an insight that someone has betrayed us, it is still an insight, but it doesn’t come with positive emotions.

If you follow the Legacy program and see how Michael thinks to build our new investment business, you will see this process in action. He keeps running the same questions and observations through his thought process. It is interesting to see how that is developing. The gold-miner startup used the very same process. We developed an insightful new business despite having access to the same data as everyone else.

Aiding the generation of strategy insights

Generating an insight can’t be forced, but we can take certain actions to increase our chances. Here are 19 ways you can increase your chances of generating insight. This is not a full list of ways to generate insight, but just selected 19 ways I find useful:

  1. Understanding the core source of the problem.

  2. Looking at asymmetries of assets and interests of parties involved. Refer to the “Competitive Advantage with Kevin P. Coyne” course to learn more on how to see and use asymmetries in developing competitive strategy.

  3. Making assumptions explicit.

  4. Analyzing assumptions and testing them to see if they hold true.

  5. Looking at other people’s points of view also assists in seeing the situation in a new light.

  6. More than looking at others’ points of view, passionately arguing others’ points of view further assist in the generation of insights.

  7. Taking a look at the bad habits of the players involved, including your bad habits.

  8. Analyzing the “this is how we have always done this” actions of industry players.

  9. Looking at how other people handled a similar situation can also assist in generating insight. For example, when developing a strategy, be it a career strategy or a corporate strategy, reviewing others’ strategies can help generate insight that can be the foundation of a successful competitive strategy.

  10. Visualizing an imaginary mentor, someone you greatly admire for certain attributes, giving you advice can also help in generating insights.

  11. Meditation quiets down your mind, reduces anxiety, and aids problem-solving and the generation of insights.

  12. Recognizing unconscious constraints. For example, during my MBA I was convinced I needed to major in Finance because I accepted a job at a Corporate Finance division of a major bank after graduation. But there was a “Strategy Implementation” course that I passionately wanted to take. And I could not take both. Only when I realized that no one actually cares if I major in Finance or not, and that it is my rule and I can change it, I was able to easily switch to a “Strategy Implementation” course. That constraint was unconscious. I did not think about it consciously. It was just always there blocking me from taking courses I wanted to take until I realized it was there and removed it.

  13. Brainstorming with others, building on each other’s points.

  14. Searching more widely. For example, looking at what is done in similar situations in other industries now, what was done in a similar situation in your or other industry 10-50-100 years ago, or learning from other countries.

  15. It is helpful to ask how your situation is viewed by your competitor. How is it viewed by your customers? How is it viewed by your children, spouse and friends?

  16. Looking at only a part of a problem and analyzing it in great detail. You can use the decision tree technique we teach in The Consulting Offer to do this.

  17. Asking “what if” questions.

  18. Asking “why” at least 11 times.

  19. Allowing time in your day to not think about anything. For example, while taking a shower don’t listen to books or music. Listen to the silence.

These are some of the most powerful ways I found to increase the chances of generating insight. In competition, you generally want to approach a situation differently from competitors. To approach a situation differently you need to have a different insight at the core of your competitive strategy. A powerful insight that is different from what your competitors base their strategies on is what allows you to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage for a period of time. And, of course, strategy is an ongoing process because your competitors are not sleeping 24 hours a day. They are on the move too. But a strategy built upon a powerful insight gives you a margin of time to strengthen your position and maintain the momentum.

If you want to see a compilation of powerful strategy insights, we have a book where we compiled Monday morning 8 a.m. posts that we shared in the past with our audience. You can get your copy of that book here.

Kris Safarova

CEO, FIRMSconsulting.com and StrategyTraining.com

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