By Elinor Hull, Associate Director, LOC Consulting
The pursuit of differentiation in business is a tricky one. Just how tricky was brought home to me when I was travelling on the motorway recently and saw a van for a company with a big advert on the slide claiming ‘innovation in pastry.’ Whilst I am sure the company creates tasty baked treats I am unsure just how innovative it is possible to be with pastry? However, such a claim is a really good example of how words such as ‘innovative’ and ‘strategy’ are frequently bandied about in business with no underpinning justification or basis.
Given that, the real question to ask is: “Has their overuse rendered them relatively meaningless?”
Let’s take strategy as an example - clearly companies are always going to have some form of a strategy, but I wonder whether such a term really engages or resonates with their stakeholders? Is what has been badged as the company strategy an actual strategy or is it their vision, tactics, KPIs or set of goals? Developing a genuine strategy is one of the things that many businesses of all sizes and across all verticals struggle with the most - more often than not it becomes a business plan or even a budget as opposed to a viable, deployable strategy.
The problem is that as more businesses seek to engage their stakeholders with their version of a strategy, the more disillusioned their stakeholders can become. Have we reached the point of overuse and is now the time for a rethink? All good leaders know that when something isn’t working they should change it or cut it loose. So as much as the term ‘strategy’ has become the comfort blanket of business speak, maybe we need to rip up the rule book and accept that not all ideas are strategic by nature.
Still need convincing? Earlier this year LinkedIn ranked ‘Strategic’ as one of the top ten over used buzzwords on the site. In fact the recommendation was to delete it from your profile. Strategy no longer has the gravitas that it once did - and that’s OK, times change and the time has come to take up a new mantel. But if not strategy, then what? ‘Advisory?’ Advisory informs business decisions, investments, culture and company roadmaps. It is all encompassing, but best of all it is relevant and straightforward.
Advisory might not seem at first glance like an obvious to successor to ‘strategy,’ but if it empowers you to define the right thing and as a result do the right thing, surely you’re onto a winner?