Go too far

Welcome to the final lesson of this introductory course!

Consider this your “graduation”.  After this mail you’ll receive a selection of links to other more in depth resources which I think you’ll find useful.

You’ll also start receiving my new lessons.  One per week, each designed to improve your strategic thinking as a founder.

To wrap things up, I want to talk about what I’ve found to be the single biggest factor in determining whether a strategy succeeds or fails:


That’s right, aggression.  Strategy has this reputation as being somewhat wet and cerebral, but as we covered in lesson 5, it should actually be seen as a discipline of action.  That’s the whole point right?

Well, not all action is equal.  You can act timidly, or you can act boldly.  The gift a good strategy gives you is the permission to act boldly.  Freed from uncertainty, and no longer needing to sit on the fence, you can truly attack one direction – in a way that’s unprecedented in your market.

Such attack is the main difference between iconic brands and the vast mass of forgettable ones.  Red Bull, Tesla, Patagonia, Apple, Monster – what these companies all have in common is that they over-execute.  They take their strategy to places which other companies wouldn’t.

So effective is aggression that you don’t even need a particularly good strategy to make it work.  I would suggest that the market positions of Red Bull and Patagonia (for instance) are actually pretty undifferentiated.  They fail the test of being the “only” that we discussed earlier.  Red Bull essentially represent pushing limits, and Patagonia eco-friendliness, both of which are pretty generic for their categories.  What differentiates them instead is how far they are prepared to take them.  Take a generic position far enough, and soon people will start to think you own it (even though you really don’t).

This concept is especially important for independent, founder led brands.

Your best defence against the corporate monoliths is not doing something they can’t, but something they won’t.  Something they wouldn’t have the balls to try.

Take a look at your business.  Ask yourself “could Unilever (or whoever the corporate equivalent is in your sector) have conceivably made this?”.  If the answer is yes (and it normally is), then you’re in a position of serious vulnerability.

You need to make use of any asset you have which bigger companies don’t – and the main one is guts.  Act in a gutless way, and you essentially throw away your advantage.

When you’re executing your strategy then, don’t just seek to deliver on it.  Seek to over-deliver.  Trust me, whatever you think is “appropriate” will come across as “bland” when it hits the street.  To hit the mark, you have to aim beyond.  Shoot for the stars to reach the moon, isn’t that something people say?

Brands typically worry about being too divisive, or turning people off.  This is actually way harder to do than you think.  In the UK the leading protein bar manufacturer is called Grenade, and it’s top product is the “Carb Killa”.  Some might say this is a rather limiting – even niche – vibe to put out there.  It seems trashy, a bit unpleasant, and unremittingly male.  However Carb Killa has not only become the number two confectionery product in the country (please note that’s all confectionery, not just protein bars) – it has done so with a 50/50 male/female split.

So much for the supposed “risk” of their strategy.

Ultimately the market will reward companies which are totally and completely themselves.  Which are unlike anything else out there.  It doesn’t matter hugely what they do; just that they do it whole heartedly.

This then is your goal.  It’s not the strategy but what you do with it that counts.

So don’t waste your good thinking on lame doing.  Back yourself.  Not only can the market take it – it craves it.



A simple but crucial one to finish on.

Bearing in mind the value your company is trying to bring to the world – what would be something you could do to deliver it which would be going “too far”?

Perhaps it would be too expensive?
Or too disruptive to your operations?
Or too controversial?
Or divisive?
Or too strange for a business in your sector?

Not all such ideas will be great – far from it.  But this is where the great ideas will be found.  Commit, if you can, to just one of them.


Now you have a good handle on strategy, I want to give you a final thought:

It’s not for everyone.

Strategic commitment is not required in order to create a conventionally successful business.  Most successful businesses lack coherent strategies, and even fewer commit to their strategies in the manner described above.

No, true strategy is not a means to mere success.  It’s a means to something more – greatness.

If you want to know what I mean, read this piece:

Beyond success – the anatomy of greatness

Πηγή: basicarts.org

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