In strategy, how you move is the second most important thing

One of the most focused on elements of Strategy is how you move aka “game play”. But movement, like many things, can’t exist in a vacuum — movement can only exist in a space.

Game Play (Movement)
Game play relates to the steps we need to take in order to progress, as well as our skill in taking these steps. Game play often comes up when you’re trying to figure out “how-to” do something.

  1. How do I win at Chess?
  2. How do I manage a project?
  3. How do I develop my career?
  4. How do I transform my business?

Space:
Space refers to the context in which game play happens (or in which moves will be made) and it’s more likely you’ll hear it described as “Market Conditions”, “Business Climate”, “Social Setting”, “Political Environment”, etc.

In the context of movement, space represents our situation and without situational awareness movement becomes harder:

  • Challenging to move with the right sense of urgency
  • Acting too soon
  • Making the move incorrectly
  • Making the wrong move

To emphasise this, I’ve taken the same 4 questions I listed earlier and repositioned them with more context (Space):

  1. I’ve been playing chess for years and I’m playing a complete beginner tomorrow, how do I win?
  2. I have an App Idea, there are some similar apps out there, and some are doing quite well, mine has some unique features and relative improvements but the other authors have strong social platforms — large online following or email lists — how do I make my app successful?
  3. Key stakeholders are expecting all of our features to be delivered “Big Bang” in one release, and it’s unclear whether they’d be willing to shift their mindset to a phased delivery, how do I manage this situation and this project?
  4. I’ve seen people getting layed off over the past few years, our leaders are resistent to changing some of our traditional offerings which are quickly becoming dated, how should I grow my career?

Clearly the questions are elevated to a new level when environmental context is injected into them.

But getting context can be a difficult problem to solve. Context often falls in the realm of things where we “don’t know what we don’t know” and its easy to revert to doing what we normally do, instead of stepping back and asking questions about the move we’re about to make.

Got any strategies to step back and figure out what you don’t know you don’t know? Leave a comments below.

4 comments

  1. Hi Raj,
    I tend to question whether I should be doing something at all, when I seemed to have entered the “space” via the wrong “door” (approach). I tend to step back, recharge / refocus / re-align and then try to re-enter the same space. It has occurred on many occasions on projects I have worked on the past and my career as well.
    For my career, for example I picked up a part time job on the weekends doing the complete opposite of siting in front of a computer. It allowed me to re-evaluate my “space”.
    I guess sometimes we can control certain aspects of our space and others we cannot.

    1. Hey Aris, been thinking about this comment for a few days. I think an interesting question is what sort of things do you look for in an environment that tell you it’s a good place to stay or that it might be time to start looking elsewhere?

  2. I try to step outside my own ‘box’ and try to evaluate things as if from a 3rd party perspective. Helps when trying to determine which way the ol winds blowing.

    I’ve also learned it’s painful when your 11 year old takes your queen after only a few opening moves…

    1. wow! smart 11 yr old 🙂

      it’s actually a great insight, it’s difficult not to follow my own bias especially for the big decisions.

      Lately I’ve been quite focused on trying to understand how the IT space within Toronto is likely to unfold over the next 12-18 months and what to do about it.

      Looking at that question from the perspective of a company leader (CEO, CMO, CTO, etc), might be a good way to get a fresh perspective.

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