Creative Strategy Generation: A book review by Bob Morris

Creative Strategy GenerationCreative Strategy Generation: Using Passion and Creativity to Compose Business Strategies That Inspire Action and Growth
Bob Caporale
McGraw-Hill (2015)

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Michael Porter

Throughout the last several decades, I have been retained by hundreds of companies (start-up to Fortune 50) to help their leaders formulate or update a strategy. At the initial meeting, I ask each of those involved to identify what the given organization’s primary strategy is or should be. On average, fewer than half know what a strategy is and even fewer know what theirs is or should be. For present purposes, let’s think of a strategy as a “hammer” that drives “nails” (tactics) to achieve the given results. This is what Sun Tzu has in mind (in Art of War) when observing, “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” More recently, Jack Welch suggests, “You’ve got to eat while you dream. You’ve got to deliver on short-range commitments, while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it. The success of doing both. Walking and chewing gum if you will. Getting it done in the short-range, and delivering a long-range plan, and executing on that.”

In Part 1 of this book, Bob Caporale introduces four “solo” proficiencies that almost anyone can master in order to complete a seven-step creative strategy generation process. The proficiencies are Analysis (“Where are we now?”), Recollection (“Where have we been?”), Intuition (“Where do we want to go?”), and Artistry (“How are we going to get there.” The statement by Michael Porter that I selected as a title for this review correctly stresses the importance of relevance. Those who master them will become much better prepared to formulate an appropriate strategy. The adjective “appropriate” is critically important. That is to say, the answer to the basic question for each of the four proficiencies should be relevant. In Part 3, he provides what he characterizes as “a quick reference resource” for how to build an appropriate strategy from preparation through production. The abundance of material provided serves as a “toolkit” that contains “Quick Reference Guide,” “Strategic Presentation Guideline,” and “Tidbits of Wisdom.”

“So this book is about correlating the very creative process of writing music with the equally creative process of composing strategies. It is a highly personal account, and you will undoubtedly see that throughout. But to focus on my process would be missing the point. What I am really hoping to do by using this simile (i.e. compose and execute strategy as one would compose and perform music] to encourage you to find and apply your own creative process to the art of strategic planning. All of us are creative beings, whether that creativity displays itself through music, art, writing, performance, business, or science. The trick is to find whatever it is that you are passionate about creating and apply that same process to your business strategies.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Caporale’s coverage:

o ARIA Proficiencies: Analysis, Recollection, Intuition, and Artistry (Pages 7-26)
o Preparation Stage (31-57)
o Baseline Analysis (50-53 and 69-70)
o Inspiration Stage (59-82)
o SWOT Analysis (63-72)
o Developing a Vision (72-79)
o Genre Stage (83-105)
o Market/Customer Segmentation (88-102)
o Ideation Stage (107-138)
o Go-to-Market Plan (119-135)
o Arrangement Stage (139-166)
o Orchestration Stage (167-188)
o Implementation Team (170-187)
o Production Stage (189-208)
o Implementation Strategy (194-199)

I agree with Bob Caporale that the seven-step process he recommends — or another that is comparable in terms of comprehensiveness and cohesion — can help business leaders in almost organization (whatever its size and nature may be) to ensure that there is a strategy in place that can guide and inform efforts to achieve the given objectives. In fact, “whether you are a composer, an artist, a screenwriter, a theatrical producer, or a business strategist, these are the seven steps that will be required to produce your creative work of art. And make no mistake about it: the very best business strategies are indeed creative works of art.

To those who insist they are not “creative,” I urge them to read Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, co-authored by David Kelley and Tom Kelley and published by Crown Business/Random House (2013). They insist that almost anyone can develop a creative, human-centered mindset and help achieve breakthrough innovations. “As brothers who have worked together for thirty years at the forefront of innovation, we have come to see this set of misconceptions as ‘the creativity myth.’ It is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call ‘creative confidence.’ And at its foundation is the belief that we are all capable to highly creative thinking…Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you’ll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place.”

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