I have two fantastic books on the nightstand right now. Actually one fantastic, another monumental.
First the fantastic. I'm nearly done with Good Strategy, Bad Strategy. This book, written by a UCLA business professor and well-known strategist, has plenty on creating good strategy, from initial understanding to ways of stepping beyond the expected. But I like his take on bad side even more. He serves up some hardcore slap-downs on the budgetary goals, high-flying visions, and motivational slogans that far too frequently masquerade as strategies.
After reading the first couple chapters of Thinking, Fast and Slow, my (stage 1, for those who've read it) guess is that this is because real strategy--the kind that distills insight into a unique, succinct, meaningful, and actionable direction--is too hard. According to this mind-altering book, our brains prefer to go with the gut--or rather, the kind of subconscious thinking responsible for fast decisions--because it's easier. It literally takes less energy.
But this energy conservation, although invaluable for everyday life tasks and blink decisions, leads to "strategies" such as "we're committed to being a leader our industry!" and "our objective is to improve the world AND increase returns!" Real strategy requires both creative leaps and rigorous logic (stage 2, for those who've read it). And that's hard, conscious brain-work.
Few people can work their brains as hard the book's author Daniel Kahneman. From what I've gathered from this book already, the fruits of his labor are incredible. And I still have around 400 pages left to go!