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Strategy Synthesis: Story View Of Competitive Strategy

Should strategies be viewed as stories?

28Jan

Freek Vermeulen, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, once stated that a good leader must also be a good storyteller. Freek wasn't encouraging CEOs to become best-selling authors or even inspiring them to improve their oratorical skills, but instead, he was stressing the importance of their ability to put together a strategy that reads like a well put together story.

Like a good blockbuster film, strategies need to have a clear beginning, middle and an end, with a narrative that can be easily communicated to the rest of the company's stakeholders.

So how should a CEO actually go about creating an effective strategic story? One of the most important concepts which makes a strategic story successful is when it's linked to a company's resources. A company that's experiencing lean times can still have an interesting strategic story if it has a longstanding brand that has in the past resonated with people. An iconic brand's story should always have its main competitive advantage at its core, which should act as its 'leading star'.

In an article by Freek Vermeulen, he identifies the resurgence of the 'Sadler's Wells' theatre in London, which at one point was putting on unsuccessful shows night after night, as a good example of a strategic story that tapped into an organisation's resources. Freek states, 'Spalding [the company's CEO] took over and highlighted his leadership with a clear story. He started telling everyone that the theatre was destined ‘to be the centre of innovation in dance’ - this was made possible by the fact that the theatre had a historic dance reputation that had been designed specifically for dance productions.

This story wasn't just successful because it was connected to a company's resources, it also brought clear competitive advantages. These connections should be clearly related to the market and it should be obvious how the story can bring success to the company.

A good story is nothing without its characters and it's the same for strategies. The characters in company strategies aren't actors however, but employees, products and services. Compiling strategic stories are without question important to the development of a competitve company and should be looked at by CEOs who want to take their company forward in a progressive manner.

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