Strategists love lenses.
We use them to look at organisations, at markets, at societies, at the world. They absorb information. We use them to choose what to see, and more importantly, what not to see. By doing that, we understand trends and create recommendations and plans that organizations of all kinds can follow.
Strategists also love to change lenses.
Looking at the same information from different vantage points reveals key insights. As such, we often hear strategists ask — what if we look at this through a different lens? And so yes, we do like to change lenses often, so that we can absorb information differently. Some do it to be able to absorb more information, or to see it differently, and some do it in order to adapt to the zoom in / zoom out approach to strategy eloquently described by John Hagel.
As Hagel pointed out, since we’re facing a socio-economic shift, organizations must find an alternative approach to strategy which looks at the world from a dual perspective — one focused on the near-term, six to twelve months, and the other focused on the much longer term, ten to twenty years ahead. The key is then to focus on these two horizons in parallel and iterating between them.
This latter approach to strategy is designed to account for the increasing speed of change, but also to enable a link between long-term strategy and execution. It is without doubt one of the major upgrades to strategic thinking that we’ve lately.
But does the zoom in/zoom out framework go far enough? It still assumes that markets, organisations, societies, if they change, somehow change towards a point of equilibrium, from where it won’t have to change anymore, at least for a while. In practice, however, this state of equilibrium that we seek through our lenses, is, in fact, constant change.
Therefore, strategists are faced with the risk that the tools they use are downplaying two major areas:
· one is speed of change: the world moves at unprecedented speed, which requires more agility than organizations think they need.
· the other one is in the nature of information: it is either abundant in such a way that it creates a poverty of attention. Or it is scarce, in a way that creates a poverty of actionable insight.
One condition makes it hard to change lenses on the go — due to the time this takes — and the other makes it more difficult to use the lens you currently have with any meaningful results.
And in practice, smaller companies can only afford to resource themselves with only one lens anyway — as the privilege of having multiple, interchangeable strategy lenses exists mainly within large organisations.
As my colleague Ben Robinson wrote, we now face the conditions where strategy should pivot to a function that creates the conditions for maximum agility so to impose as few of these constraints as possible; from a preservation strategy to a continuous growth strategy.
This creates the imperative for strategists to develop more execution skills, as they are faced with the task to create the conditions where organisations can experiment at fast speed.
Strategists will love lenses even more when they work them properly.
Faced with these conditions, strategists need to transform their lens from a static window of the world, to complex adaptive systems — which account for speed, execution and feedback loops, as well as experimentation. Specifically, they need upgraded skills that allow for filtering abundant information (or expanding insufficient information), while also creating the right depth of insight, but at much higher speed than before.
In other words, in search for meaning where equilibrium is represented by constant change, strategists will need to up their game and learn also to use the aperture of their lens. Or find people who do.
In the new networked world, the best talent, resources, and sources of information sit both inside and outside organizations, not exclusively inside them anymore.
With that being the case, there is a gap, and need, for some kind of vehicle that could bring together information about how the world is changing from people making this change happen. And this is how, brainstorming on the shore of Lac Léman with Ben Robinson, we conceived the platform we’d wanted to join but couldn’t find and which we believed was critical to exposing new thinking from a newly-forming community.
Welcome aperture | Hub!
Aperture is an independent content hub and a community, built on the exchange of ideas around technology, strategy and the dynamics of the platform economy.
It brings together strategists, marketeers, growth enablers, entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers. And its content platform has a clear focus on highlighting the ideas of those thinking and doing things differently — we like to call them theorist-practitioner professionals. It therefore bridges the world of strategy with the world of execution.
Its aim is to improve collective intelligence by subjecting ideas to multiple exposures — establishing the right context, narrowing down the arguments and encouraging contrarian viewpoints — all within a safe, non-polarizing environment.
Because as much as we like to think that with the advent of social media, we have that kind of environment, we do not. In fact, social media as we know it has already peaked, creating the space for small-scale, networked communities that interact in a more orchestrated manner, allowing for sequential narratives to form.
Aperture | Hub is no technological revolution.
It is merely calling it as it is: the two main vehicles for professionals to seek meaning and make sense of the world are flawed.
One is the corporate stamped collateral (reports, events) that are either too self-serving or way too edited (in other words, censored). These are stable environments, but lack vibrancy, to quote Ian Hathaway.
The other vehicle is the wild, wild west of social media, which is neither self-serving nor censored, but the trade-off for these features is that it is polarizing, aggressive and built on the wrong engagement mechanisms that promote information abundance over return on attention. It is stuck in instability. Most people simply back out from engaging through it — creating the conditions for group-think and self-enforced bubbles.
The biggest confusion that we see is that, in order to build up social capital for the fast-changing business environments of today, strategists and by extension other professionals plug themselves into sources of instant and real-time information. But, despite popular opinion, doing so does not lead to self-empowerment, but rather diminishing utility, for the sake of social status.
While we do not oppose any of the two major forms of organizing communities, we do feel there is space for a healthier layer on top — one that introduces instability for the benefit of vibrancy, but with a path of becoming more stable in time. One that is more inclusive and co-creates for and on behalf of its audience, re-introducing utility back into networked communities.
Hence, what strategists need is reputational devices, and Aperture | Hub, through its content and events, aims to be one, by bringing transparency to the act of professional self-publishing and creating context by adopting a much calmer approach to how everyday events are being digested. It aims to inspire and to satisfy people’s intellectual curiosity, as well as to be execution-oriented by facilitating best-practices.
Consequently, by creating the perfect conditions where noise is good, we aim to create a content platform that offers voice to professionals that sit inside organizations — to be able to share expertise and projects they are passionate about in a free manner — and empowerment to the ones who sit outside organizations, such as freelancers and independent consultants — so that they can continue to learn from interaction, while also differentiate their work through mechanisms that are more complex than 5-star ratings.
Aperture | Hub is a place that fosters the right patterns of interaction and crowd-sources the right content for strategists and growth professionals to learn how to properly use their strategic lenses.
Aperture is committed to distributing the best and most diverse content, regardless of the status of the user producing it. As well, we’re committed to distribute the work of individuals, rather than more established brands. This means including our readers in mechanisms that enable them to become content producers.
We’d like to know more about the work you do. And here’s our email to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign up to our fortnightly newsletter where we curate and discuss the most relevant reading materials around strategy, marketing, evolution of the firm and broader tech context.