Like many other business tools, strategic thinking has undergone an evolution. In their 1998 book Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through the Wilds of Strategic Management, Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel defined strategy as:

“…a pattern, that is, consistency in behavior over time… [strategy has] to form as well as be formulated… strategy is a position, namely the locating of particular products in particular markets… strategy is a perspective, namely an organization’s fundamental way of doing things the [company] way… [and] strategy is a ploy, that is, a specific ‘maneuver’ intended to outwit an opponent or competitor.”

The authors plotted various approaches to strategy formation along two dimensions—how controllable the external environment seems to be (ranging from comprehensible to confusing) and how open-ended is the proposed internal process (ranging from rational to natural).

When the world was comprehensible and controllable, the Planning and Positioning schools were appropriate choices. However, in today’s unpredictable and confusing circumstances, a combination of the Cognitive, Learning, and Power schools is the way to go.

The 21 century strategy formulation approach we now need is the best of:

  1. Cognitive: challenging beliefs and paradigms, forming new naturalistic mental models and perceptions.
  2. Learning: exploring what’s emerging and adapting as you go forward to build resilience.
  3. Power: appreciating the importance of relationships, influencing, and negotiating to be agile.