Friday, January 20, 2012

The poetry of good strategy. Or is it vice versa?

I'm a failed poet. Fortunately, that's enough of a poet to understand how freakishly insightful poetry can be. Of course it's sometimes flowery or obscure. But the poesy I fall hardest for is the stuff that flips perspective and snaps the brain out of rutted thinking. The closing lines from Sandra Beasley's Vocation  illustrate this:
Once I asked a broker what he loved
about his job, and he said Making a killing.
Once I asked a serial killer what made him
get up in the morning, and he said The people.
This flip happens all the time in skillfully written poetry. For example, right at this moment I'm looking at a Kay Ryan poem tacked to my cork board that compares silence to shark's teeth. Much to my delight, this flip happens in good strategy too. One of the best ads last year was Chrysler's Imported from Detroit spot. To embrace Detroit, the city of jokes and nightmares, as the source of Chrysler's newfound strength is strategic brilliance personified.

There are many examples of perspective-altering strategy across business, politics, even sports--from NetFlix's revolutionary business model to Billy Beane's respin of baseball. But sadly, I see far more examples of shooting for expected and hitting mediocrity.

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