Strategy – craft or science?

I was reading the New Scientist the other day, en route to a friend’s place. Unfortunately, I cannot give you a reference, as I threw away the magazine, but kept my musings. There was an article on scientific peer review. It stated that many more positive research pieces are published, than those that are negative. There was an in-built bias, by association, with the idea that a hypothesis should go forward, rather than being held up to further scrutiny. The article also said that the same research has discovered that a significant minority of papers submitted for peer review did not state the research’s objectives. In short, the article was bemoaning the lack of rigour in the scientific process.

Which caused me to reflect on the idea that progress is not made by the pursuit of perfection; the idea that all risk has to be ruled out before humans can do something new. In a similar vein, I’ve heard some people suggest that the precautionary principle should mean that we don’t do something because we have no idea of the range of consequences.

Applied to strategy, the concept would mean that all uncertainties and scenarios (or as many as possible) are ruled out before action is taken; and that this analysis itself frames the direction taken. I suspect that many campaigners and activists, by their nature, would be frustrated by this.

On the other hand (we are after all very binary creatures), I/you can use our tacit knowledge (gleaned and gathered through experience, sharing and our own research) to decide what the way forward is and go and do it. A crafting strategy, so to speak.

I also acknowledge the comfort that a traditional approach to strategy gives some people – enjoy the planning process – I just think that you’d get 80% of it by acting. And the remaining 20% is the product of the interminable meeting you can all recall.