Strategy Development Simplified: What Is Strategy & How To Develop One? ✓

In this month’s episode, I teach you various layers of strategy and how to use strategy tools. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

 

shadow-ornament

 

What I’d like to do in about 45 minutes to an hour is to give you a sense of what strategy is, what tools we use to develop strategy, and then teach you how to apply these corporate level tools to our day to day lives through developing strategic thinking abilities.

So if you take this mini-course, by the end of it, you’ll very clearly learn what strategy is and its various levels such corporate strategy, business strategy, and functional strategies.

You will no longer confuse it with tasks or goals, then you will learn about Strategy Canvas with value curves. It’s a tool that will help you see the bigger picture, help you with the positioning of your offerings and hence develop strategies to become… unique. And while I am teaching you these, I’ll run so many case studies to make it crystal clear for you.

Then finally, the second half of the video will be the most useful part to you. Because in reality, you are probably not the strategy manager or the CEO of a large multinational company, you are probably not Coca Cola’s Chairman, so what I did at the 2nd half of the video is to customize strategy development so it can be applicable to your day to day lives. You will learn how to develop a strategic thinking that will apply to your work, apply to your family life, your school, in simple terms; your life. You’ll be a smarter person, because you’ll be more strategic in your thinking, you’ll have more success because you’ll be able to identify more opportunities, you’ll fail less because you’ll be able to identify risks even before they become apparent. And I’ll try my best to do the impossible and cover everything under 1 hour and make it super easy to understand. I’ll try but let’s see if I’ll succeed.

So, what is strategy;

Strategy is a word that gets used a lot and often in a wrong context. Most people confuse it with goals. Essentially, strategy is a roadmap to how we are going to win.

Where you are is your “as-is” state, and where you want to go is your “to-be” state. How you are going to bridge that gap is your strategy.

So, if I was to teach strategy to my children I’d say, you wanna reach the finish line first. You may walk straight to the finish line at 5 kms per hour,

Or you may extend your route, take more time as you have to travel more distance, but collect the speed boost on the way so you go faster at the end at around 20 km per hour. Collecting that speed boost to win would be your strategy.

now let’s get back to the adult world, in business, we have 3 major layers of strategy;

We have Corporate Strategy

We have Business Strategy

And we have Functional strategy

So, let’s start with corporate strategy;

Corporate strategy is choosing what businesses to be in and accordingly how to allocate resources among existing businesses.

For example; let’s dumb things down. I have 2 million dollars. Should I invest that money into real estate go buy a few houses and enjoy the rent? Or should I invest it all in stocks and enjoy the dividends? Or create a basket of multiple revenue sources? So, in this example I decide to take my 2 million dollars and go into real estate business. That’s my corporate strategy.

That’s it. That’s what corporate strategy is. Obviously large companies with their big funds, make bigger decisions. Should I invest further funds into R&D and create a new product in a new industry? Should I go into music distribution industry?  Or should I go into satellite manufacturing industry? Or should I create a basket where I venture into multiple industries? It’s fairly simple right.

Now, I am not covering here how to make that decision. To answer that we need to use various strategy tools. I’ll cover one of them in about probably 10 minutes. Now, we are only going over the definitions. We’ll also talk about so many examples soon once we finish the definitions of all layers. And then I’ll even run a case study for you.

But in very simple terms, corporate strategy = what businesses to be in. That’s it. Don’t complicate it.

Let’s move on to Business Strategy.

Business Strategy is achieving a competitive advantage in a chosen industry. Now what does that mean?

For example, remember the 2 million dollars we had. And that as a corporate level strategy, we decided to go into real estate right.

Now, my business strategy is to buy only townhouses in a specific location, like specific street where I know it will appreciate in value more than other streets. Let’s call it Mayfair street.

Maybe it’s because you know that in 5 years, there will be a big shopping mall nearby which will change the face of the entire neighborhood. So, that would be your business strategy. If you were managing a big corporate then their decisions would be, only manufacture electric cars for example.

So in this case, your corporate strategy is to go into auto industry and your business strategy is to invest in electric cars.

Makes sense?

Now, the 3rd one is Functional strategies. And this is all about functions, like marketing, operations, finance. Now, let’s go back to the 2 million dollar example. I have 2 million dollars, I decided to go into real estate as my corporate strategy, then I decided buy townhouses in Mayfair street because I know the neighborhood will appreciate in value and that was my business strategy, and now for my functional strategies I have the following;

For operations; I decided to outsource the operations to a 3rd party real estate company. They will be responsible for the entire paperwork, maintenance of my rental houses, collection of rents, dealing with tenants. It’s all their responsibility. And they will do this in exchange for a 10% revenue share.

Let’s talk about another functional strategy; Finance Strategy; my strategy is to pay everything in cash instead of loaning from the bank. By that way, I run a less risky business and don’t have to pay 5% interest to the bank.

Another functional strategy is acquisition strategy. And in our example, that maybe to look for bank owned properties through each bank’s own website and then participate in those auctions.

So, these were the functional strategies. And the list could go on. I could talk about Marketing strategy, branding strategy, so on and so forth – all part of functional strategies.

Let me give you a case study. An actual one.

Before I concluded my management consulting career with PwC Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, I was thinking of setting up my own business. Because the lifestyle of constant travels, and living in hotels for many years, at this age of 36 were no longer something I enjoyed. I wanted to spend more time with my family.

So, while I was going through various business options. I realized that I simply don’t want to take a huge risk and set up my own consulting company. I didn’t want to become a very small fish and compete against giants like PwC, McKinsey, or BCG. I didn’t think I could win many projects - if any at all. And even if I win a major project, how would I deliver it without a big team. Then it would be the same stress and travels again.

So, I decided that my corporate strategy can actually be in career management.

I thought as someone who made it to the top of the corporate foodchain from extremely humble beginnings, I believed I had a lot to offer and share my path for others who want to have similar success in their careers. This was my corporate strategy.

Then my business strategy was to develop a training program teaching people how to get jobs with multinational companies. I teach not only how to get interviews with all these big firms, but also teach them how to pass interviews through the bonus modules. The program is called LIG.

And my functional strategies were as follows;

Let’s start with marketing strategy; my marketing objective was to first establish my authority and credibility.

And saying that “hey I was a former management consultant, a manager, with PwC, come join program” won’t work. People need to believe that you know what you are talking about. That you are credible. Then only they consider joining the program. People need to see value in advance. So, I wanted to do it through free content. Free but invaluable. So, as a result I chose YouTube which allowed me to meet my 2 objectives. One, add tremendous amount of value to my viewers so I can establish the credibility, and 2 have an opportunity to talk about my LIG program to those who are unemployed or underemployed. So, this channel is part of my marketing strategy. That’s the only reason I have all these videos. I don’t have advertisements on my channel. It’s just part of my marketing strategy. By that way, everyone is happy. I am not shoving ads on anyone’s throats. I am providing great value. But for those who really suffer from lack of progress in their careers, now they have the opportunity to do something about it, It’s a win-win.

And the second level of my functional strategy, my pricing strategy was very interesting,

because I have no competition, I wanted to have a price point as low as possible without people considering it a low quality product.

I wanted everyone to benefit from it.

So, initially when we launched, it was 1,200 dollars then we reduced all the way down to 97 dollars.

Ok, now these are enough examples. I hope I was able to clearly explain what corporate strategy, business strategy, and functional strategy is.

Now, let’s talk about tools. Strategy development tools.

The purpose of tools is to help us make decisions and find competitive advantages.

For example, you are working on yoru corporate level strategy and you are thinking of a few industries that you can go into. Which one is the correct one?

So, what do you do?

you take out your strategy toolbox and choose a few tools. You choose a few for analyzing the external environment and then you choose a few for analyzing the internal environment.

For example, you can do; Porter’s 5 forces, and Industry Value Curves for analyzing External environment

And you can do Resources and Capabilities along with McKinsey 7s to analyze the internal capabilities.

It’s just like in real life, right? You wanna screw something on the wall. You open your toolbox, and you pick up a tool, you pick up a screwdriver. You don’t pick up Voltmeter.

It’s the same with us. We have probably about 20 or 30 major tools and frameworks. And depending on your challenge, you pick various tools. Very simple stuff.

The difficult part of being a management consultant, or a strategist isn’t knowing the tools. Learning them, I mean It’s just gonna take you maybe a few months. Easy stuff. The difficult part is to have a strategic thinking ability. But that’s for the second half of the video.

Now, a quick disclaimer; I am not going to cover every single framework and tools available to us. It would take a 20 hour video. I am also not going to cover the most popular ones by MBAs like Porter’s 5 forces, Value Chains, or McKinsey 7s. And simply because

1) they are not relevant to you. They are relevant to Warren Buffett. And consultants to Warren Buffett. It’s funny really, like you search for strategy tools online or in MBA you are taught all of these tools like Porter’s concepts, various other popular ones and the funny thing is no strategist, or a management consultant can actually use any of those tools. They are just not practical.

Ok now, because it’s YouTube, I just need to take 1 minute of your time to explain this a bit more. Otherwise, some MBA student is gonna be pissed and say “what do you mean Porter’s 5 forces is not relevant. He’s the greatest there is”.

Yes he is. I actually met him multiple times. He is amazing. But let me explain.

What are 5 forces;

5 forces makes you analyze 5 areas when developing a strategy; these are bargaining power of suppliers, threat of new entrants to the market, threat of substitutes, bargaining power of buyers, and industry rivalry. Uhmm in case you don’t understand what he means by substitute here, it’s basically, a plane ride is a substitute to bus ride. They both serve the same purpose but their unique selling points are different.

So, back to the point about 5 forces, do you know how much it costs to actually get analysis on each of these 5 blocks? We are talking about millions of dollars here to properly gather data and run analysis. It’s a major work. You need industry wide data points, they are expensive, then you need surveys, interviews with subject matter experts, purchase data, run analysis, run confidence studies, test hypothesis, it’s a major work. It’s a very expensive work. So, in reality what happens is that you know them. You are aware of the 5 forces, it’s nice and all but you never use it to make decisions. It’s just one of the inputs you are aware of. But not necessarily in a deliverable form.

Which client is going to pay you 5 million dollars just to get an idea on 5 forces. Not many. Maybe only very large corporates.  So, in case you got excited and started writing a comment, there it is. That’s my view.

So, let’s move on.

This tool that I am going to teach you helps us see the overall picture and create positioning strategies. It’s called Value Curves or some also call it Strategy Canvas, and some call it 4 Actions Framework. We call it Value Curves. It’s awesome, you’ll love it.

I’ll talk about it in great details and I will also run a case study for you so you can see how it works in real life.

So, here’s our strategy canvas.

x axis is the offering level

and y axis is the key competing factors

Key competing factors obviously varies from industry to industry. In our case study, I am now taking hospitality industry, hotels.

What would be the key competing factors for hotels? This is your Step 1.

Well, in general, we would have; architecture, lounge appeal, room size, access to technology like internet, room amenities, silence, quality of the bed, and price.

Now, the next thing we need to do is to attach the value curves to this canvas. It’s about to get more exciting.

Now, you can do it on an industry level or a particular competitor level. Let’s take industry in this example.

After having spoken with industry experts, having conducted surveys, let’s say we are able to draw industry value curves. This was Step 2.

Your step 3 is that you need to know your “as-is” state and translate that into a value curve. As-is means your present situation. Basically, how do you perform in those key competing factors.

This is where customer surveys play a key role. you need to run customer surveys and find out where in this canvas YOUR value curves are.

Let’s say you ran customer surveys and you realized that your value chains look like this

So far so good?

Now, this lets us see the overall picture and help us identify trade-offs. It’s a beautiful canvas. Very helpful.

But here’s where things get interesting. Having a high score here doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what we want or need.

Life is all about trade-offs right.

Let’s talk about this.

Step 4

Step 4 is to apply our 4 actions framework to this canvas.

4 actions framework in very simple terms tells us, which of these competing factors we want to eliminate, reduce, raise,

or create new ones if we want to.

Now, let’s reorganize this canvas, look at trade-offs and take maximum benefit from them;

Let’s say I own a hotel where my frequent visitors are backpackers; then I’d have to draw a value curve to suit their primary needs, and save funds from those areas where they don’t care about.

For example, I need to eliminate luxury architecture, and lounge appeal, reduce the price and room size, but raise the quality of the bed, hygiene, and silence. They are backpackers, they walk all day long, so at the end of the day, all they want is to go take a nice shower, check their emails, and have a good night sleep. So, with the money I save from not having a luxury exterior architecture or luxury lounge, I can invest in high quality beds and high speed internet. Makes sense right?

Let’s say I own a hotel in a business center;

Then my value curves will change again, they will need to reflect the new conditions. I need to eliminate or reduce the leisure acitivities such as outdoor pool and waterpark if I had one, raise the lounge appeal, room amenities, access to technology and as a result the price, then I need to create a bar or a luxury restaurant.

This is how you create a competitive advantage and it applies to all industries without exception. It’s a canvas that makes you see the bigger picture and helps you identify areas of strategic advantage.

Let’s say you have a direct competitor hotel just next to you in the same street. And your value curves compete. Now, it’s like a game at this stage. You are both competing for the same target audience but one of you will need to create a competitive advantage. Let’s say it’s one of those areas where people don’t make reservations in advance. They just show up. So obviously, you will need to put more emphasis on your architecture and your lounge appeal.

Remember this; to win, you don’t have to win in each competing factor. You can just be good in all of these but have a landslide win in only 1 of these factors, and that may just be enough to become a market leader.

Let me give you more examples from different industries, let’s take automotive industry;

What is the best car company in the world? Can you answer this question? You can’t.

What is the best car in the world? You still can’t answer it.

You can’t answer that question without saying it depends. RIGHT?

It depends on what? It depends on the segment. Are you talking about the performance, luxury, reliability, safety?

What are you talking about?

A-ha! Exactly.

That’s what segmentation is all about. Competitive strategy is all about competing to be unique. You don’t want to ever compete on the cost. It’s a zero sum game. You want to be competing to have a unique offering. You want to be the best at that particular offering and just be good in others.

Which car company is this white line? It’s a clear winner in its segment. It has OK luxury, ok reliability, but very good in price and performance.

Can you think of its name?

It’s Subaru. Relatively a low cost but a high performance car.

How about this? High luxury, high reliability, high price, but low performance. It’s Rolls Royce.

How about this? medium luxury, medium reliability, very high performance, and very high price.

How about this? High luxury, medium reliability, high performance, and high price? it’s Aston Martin.

So, you see where I am getting at. Although at a first glance, it looks like they are all car companies competing against each other. They are only competing to be unique.

Aston Martin is smart enough not to compete against Ferrari in Ferrari’s segment. Instead it created its own segment.

Now, Lamborghini is competing against Ferrari and it was not doing very good. It was on the verge of bankruptcy and Volkswagen bought it. Again, now they are trying to be unique and create different segment for themselves. But not working very well.

The key takeaway is you don’t have to be the best in everything you do to win. You just have to be unique in your own segment.

Now, this concludes the first half of strategy development.

We are now going to talk about a lot more important aspect. It’s the strategic thinking. It’s really what counts the most. I suggest you take a break now. Go get some fresh air. And come back when you are ready. Because, you really don’t want to miss this part. It’s going to be life changing for you.

We talked a lot about the strategy, what it is, what it is not, and one of the tools available to us. They are all nice and sweet. But you are probably not managing a large corporate, or a company. You may just wanna know how to develop strategies for your career, how to get jobs, how to get that promotion, how to win that race, and that you need a certain level of thinking that will open all the doors.

Now, what I will share with you over the next 30 minutes will absolutely accelerate your progress. It won’t be a magic formula –magic doesn’t exist - but it will help a lot.

So, to make the best out of these tools in our careers, we need to develop a new level of thinking.

And this new level of thinking which you will learn soon requires

immense amount of mental horsepower.

Not even horsepower,  I am talking about just pure mental torque. And you need that mental torque mental power to be active all the time. I’ll also teach you how. But step by step.

Have you ever taken an IQ test with MENSA or any similar organization? Or even an online IQ test. You probably have at some point in your life. Right?

See, your IQ score from those tests is similar to your car’s maximum horsepower score. You know something about the most car engines with gasoline or diesel, they generate their maximum power at really high RPMs.

RPM meaning revolutions per minute. So, in simple terms, You get maximum power from your car’s engine when your car’s engine is screaming… And that’s not how you drive your car in your day to day life, right? You don’t go to shopping or to your office in the morning with making your engine scream just so you can have power available to you all the time. If you do it, one it’ll be very uncomfortable and 2, you’ll run out of gas very quickly.

Instead, what you do is, you just gear up, put the transmission on the next gear. So, you sacrifice power for comfort and economy.

So, continuing with the same analogy, your brain works very similarly. You only get peak powers when you absolutely need it. Other than those times, your brain just gears up, and sacrifices power over comfort and economy. In this case, economy represents saving glucose or alternatively ketones. So, just like how you save gas in your car by not driving at extremely high RPMs all the time, you save glucose and ketons in your brain by not pushing it so hard.

So far it’s very clear right?

If you enter some sort of a test, then your focus gets activated, you command your conscious to fully engage in the activity at hand, and use your maximum IQ. But once the test is over, you go back to only using 10 to 20% of your mental capacity and spend the rest of your day like that. You are not even aware of this. It just happens automatically.

Now listen to this carefully,

to be an insanely successful person in everything you do, you need to use your brain at near maximum capacity all the time. Not once in a while at high RPMs like I gave in the example.

So, you need a brain that outputs its maximum power all the time not just once a day for 5 minutes. Or once a week for 20 minutes, or once a month for 1 hour.

Now, in the past, there was a good reason for your brain to evolve to work this way. Your brain consumes the highest energy/highest calories in your body. Although it weighs only around 1.4 kilograms and only equals to about 2% of total body weight, it demands 20% of our resting metabolic rate. That’s huge. That’s a huge amount of energy consumption. And that’s just to keep things in order.

So, in the past, like millions of years ago, like from 3.2 million years ago, from the time of infamous Lucy  until only about 10,000 years ago which is when we transitioned from hunter-gatherers to farming, the food supply was limited. All these millions of year… As a result, your brain learned to adapt and cut down on energy usage until it was absolutely needed.

So, now, when you push the brain a bit too much, unless you are trained and used to it, it gives you temporary mental exhaustion, or mental fatigue. You leave an important exam or test, and you feel this right? The mental exhaustion. It’s the evolution speaking. It’s telling you, hey, you are using it too much, I don’t like it, take it easy…

It’s just not used to it.It didn’t evolve to work that way.

But

we live in different times now, don’t we?

We have no shortage of food supply. We can buy calories now. Therefore, we need to push and train our brains to start using 100% of our brains 100% of the time because we can buy calories. What is limiting me? It’s not Glucose or Ketons.

Why am I saying this? I am saying this so you understand that you already have the same hardware used by Einstein or Isaac Newton. You are as genius as they are. You are just limited by the software. Not the hardware.

I am gonna talk about “the how part” very soon. But I wanna give a few more examples before I get there.

We are like a moth. A Moth guides  itself by light sources. And in the past the only light sources at night were the moon, planets and stars. And their guidance strategy was that if you can keep those light sources at a constant angle, you would be able to go in a straight line.  And because those light sources, like stars, are so far away, you’d be able to go straight.

But things changed when small local sources of light came to being like candles, or light bulbs, then that strategy of keeping light at a certain angle resulted in them circling around the candle and possibly spiraling into their death. That’s why you see so many insects like a moth spiraling around your light bulb in your garden at night.

So, the evolutionary strategy they adapted, that made them survive, are no longer making them survive. This, not evolving and adapting fast enough is the reason so many species go extinct. You don’t have to look far away for animals going extinct; like Leopards, or Darwin’s Fox from Chile. It’s happening all around you. None of us, including homo sapiens are fast enough to evolve. The only reason we survive and thrive and they go extinct is because as species, we are not faced with a challenge that is bigger than our capabilities to solve. There isn’t a being smarter than us at the moment. And The only challenge we are up for is the one that comes from other homo sapiens.  That’s why we never needed to challenge our mental capacity that much. Because we already won with what we had. Why consume more calories, why put more effort unless we really need to. We already won.

If you are wondering why I am sharing this with you, just be patient. Everything will make sense soon.

The point is your peak IQ means nothing. In terms of hardware, you are as smart as Isaac Newton, or Einstein, or Nicola Tesla. You have the hardware.

The difference is in the software. They learned to adapt and exude incredible amount of brain power throughout their work. Throughout their days.

Think of Isaac Newton. Do you think he’d be able to develop Principia  if he only had 10 minute IQ peaks a day.

Or Einstein, he released 4 publications in 1905 that changed the future of humanity. His first publication taught us how to measure the size of molecules in liquid, the second taught us how to determine their movement. His 3rd publication described how light comes in things called photons which is the foundation of quantum physics and the last one was the biggest of all,

special relativity. In 1 year he released all these publications and revolutionized science.  Again, how far do you think he could go with 10 minute peaks a day. Einstein was not and is not the smartest man ever lived. But he was the man who was able to use very high mental power throughout his day.

So, the key takeaway is keep that light turned on at 80 watts throughout the day and you never need 100 watts once a week. You’ll be smarter than all geniuses.

Deniz, ok, fine, how do I do it then? I am sold. I get it. Evolution. We need to adapt. Keep the light on.

but

how do you do it?

OK, now let’s move on to the 2nd part;

, you don’t need a secret pill, you don’t need surgery, you don’t need anything that you don’t already have.

You already have the hardware for it.

You just need to update the software a bit. You need to command it.

Yeah right... Deniz, I don’t think it’ll just listen to me.

It will. If you know the secret ingredient it will have to listen to you. It can never reject you.

And the secret ingredient is “questions”.

What? Questions?

Yeap.

Currency to buy my boat, my house, my car, everything is question marks.

Currency to lead a very successful life is all question marks. That’s all you need, to get it started. Questions are commands you give to your brain. For it to get to work. And stop preserving energy.

Critical thinking at its core is nothing but an ability to ask questions without even being aware of it – if I made sense at all there.

It’s the state of mind that your brain is constantly looking for an opportunity to ask questions around you.

You had this ability before. You needed this ability before. Badly. Do you know when?

When you were a child. Growing up, your brain needed to work a lot harder than it does now as the environment constantly changed, your body changed, your mental capacity grew, your height your weight, so many unknown inputs so it needed to stay active a lot more frequently than it is now.

So, what do I do then?

Your first level of action is to put conscious effort to ask questions. Like consciously, just ask questions about so many things, why did I do this report, why did I go there, how do I change my career, what do I need to do to get that promotion, initially these questions won’t come up naturally, you have to look funny to ask these questions, but after a week or a month, you’ll notice something very strange. You’ll notice that your brain now continues the effort without you consciously asking for it. It starts asking the questions subconsciously now. You won’t need to sit down and ask questions. Those questions will start to pop up out of nowhere. And that’s how you win.

It’s questions. So, you need to ask the right questions? But, How do you know which questions are the right questions? How do you get to the right questions?

By asking a lot of stupid questions but within a scope.

I know I am a bit at high level now. But just be patient because we’ll get to the examples in a moment.

In life, you are only one smart question away from completely transforming your life for better. You are only one right question away from being super rich, wealthy, insanely peaceful, and happy. Just 1 question. But you won’t know what that question is until you start asking all bunch of nonsensical ones.

Look at IKEA, one of the few companies that truly mastered the art of strategy, positioning, segmentation, and value chains. Do you think IKEA’s founder Ingvar sat down with management consultants like me and ran competitive strategy analysis. No. Not at all. He didn’t have any money to hire consultants at the time. He just asked a lot of questions, and eventually he just got to the right question. But how was he able to ask the questions. How did he even think of asking these questions? Because that’s how he grew up. If you read his biography, you’ll see the traits that he constantly challenged status quo. He questioned everything to a degree that was annoying for people around him.

Fine you didn’t grow up that way, but it’s not too late. You can still start training your brain to adapt.

Over time as you repeat these steps, your brain automates this activity. It lets you do it without even thinking about it.

Now, in your consciousness you have space for about 3 things. So, you can do about 3 things at any given time. You can speak to a friend in person while texting to another friend, while watching a movie at the same time.  All of these things require conscious effort. But here is the interesting part. You can do almost infinite amount of things that your brain learned to automate earlier.

Meaning, while you are doing all those 3 conscious things, you can also ride a bicycle, you can eat, walk, and drink. The point is, as long as you don’t need tools such as your hands or your body parts you can run almost infinite amount of background tasks. The tasks that are automated.  That’s your goal, ask so many questions all the time, that your brain learns to automate the task of “asking questions”.

And if you can get there, I am sorry, when you get there, your brain will perform at very high power levels all the time. You’ll perform similar to how Einstein did, or how Isaac Newton did.

Deniz, what does it have to do with strategic thinking? I am confused.

EVERYTHING!

Strategic thinking is creating your positioning in life at work, at home. It’s answers. Answer are the outcomes of questions.

Questions are not natural to us. It requires thinking. Thinking is uncomfortable. Using your brain is uncomfortable. We don’t like thinking. Why don’t we like it? Because it uses so much energy. What’s wrong with it? Because that’s how we evolved? Why did we evolve that way? Because the food supply was limited. Ah… Got it now.

So, how do we break it? We break it by automating the question asking process. Because we can only do 1 of 3 things in parallel. The questions need to pop up in our minds without putting conscious effort. And in order to get there, we need to first consciously ask questions, teach the brain to automate it.

This is the exact roadmap you need to follow. You’ll know when that transition happens. Because, you’ll realize you are now getting so many more questions popping up all of a sudden. Then you may choose to answer them or ignore them. But the important thing is having those questions coming to surface. So, your brain did its job. It automated the question asking process. And the best part is, it won’t go away.

You can still ride a bike even if you don’t ride it for decades. Once it’s automated, it’s not going away.

Let me just give you a quick example. A short one.

Yesterday night, me and my wife were watching a Netflix Documentary, called The Stan Romanek Story. It’s about this man claiming that he was abducted by Aliens. And he has incredible footage, tapes, pictures, videos, everything. Supposedly, it’s the most credible case towards alien presence on earth. It’s incredible you should watch it. And there was a scene in the documentary where he actually shot a video of the aliens. You can see the alien. It’s crazy.

Now, when my wife saw the footage, she first didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the authenticity, then she freaked out thinking what if it’s real. Then she continued watching the documentary just like 99% of the people.

But when I saw the footage,within a few seconds my brain asked at least 10 questions and answered them. Let me walk you through the questions it asked, it’s very interesting;

the first question came to my mind was, why does he look humanoid? Human like. Then, I asked why does he have extremely white almost colorless skin, then big dark eyes. Hmm.

Now, what are the probabilities of us being visited by an alien that look extremely close to looking like us? But only smaller like a 10 year old child. But still extremely similar to us. I mean even on the exact same conditions, same atmosphere, same air pressure, we look very different than billions of other organisms on earth. So, that was interesting. I took this as input number 1

Then the next question immediately popped in my head was, why does he have dark black eyes. Who needs those eyes? Well, having bigger eyes doesn’t make you see better but it allows you to collect more light. Because the rods and cones are larger so they gather more light and as a result better low-light vision. So you can see at night. This was my input number 2

Then the next question, immediately huh, these are like within seconds, why is his skin so white without pigments. When does that happen? Well, it happens when we are not exposed to a star, in our case Sun. This was input number 3.

Then I looked at the inputs, looks like human but smaller, looks like an albino, with dark big eyes.

Then the killer question was asked, can it be us? Can it be us in future?

Sure can. In 3.2 million years we become this from Lucy. Maybe 3 million years in future, we may look like that alien. Next question, conditions to result in us evolving that way, is it within a possibility? Absolutely…

You block the sun tomorrow, including global warming, sun becoming more radiant, we will have to move underground.

Less nutrition so become smaller, no sunlight, so we become whiter as pigments are no longer needed. If we no longer absorb light, we will no longer need pigments in our skins and hence we’ll become white, and since we lived underground so long, we evolved into having bigger eyes with bigger rods and cones to see better in dark.

If that footage is indeed authentic, and probably not, but if it is, then there is a high likelihood that they are future humans. How are they able to come to us, who knows. Time travel? Glitch in the simulation that we live in? If we live in a simulation? God sent them? Who knows. But asking just a few questions, I was able to arrive at a few hypothesis. And it all happens within a few seconds. It’s not like you sit down with a pen and paper and consciously ask questions. No. It’s all automated. They just appear.

You’ll get there. You’ll see. Your brain will become a constant question machine. Now, why is that important?

Here’s an interesting thing for you. Pre-internet your ability to analyze your environment was limited by both your ability to ask questions and find answers.

You couldn’t get the answers you needed to move on to the next question.

So, Not only you couldn’t ask questions, but you also couldn’t find the answers. It was just a negative feedback loop.

Now you can find the answers but still limited with questions. And what good is having an ability to find answers if you don’t know the questions...

That’s what we are trying to solve.

OK, now I’ll continue with some examples of how strategic thinking can apply to your career. But I suggest you give another break. Get some fresh air and come back later.

Now, let me give you some examples of strategic thinking at work. Not necessarily for top corporates but mom and pop shops, or for your own small department.

Here’s an interesting story.

One day, we were travelling around southern Europe and we were in a very popular tourist destination, in a very crowded street. It’s one of those areas where shop names were not even mentioned, instead their signboards said things like; Italian t-shirt, cell phone brands,  I am sure you have been to those places.

Anyway, we just needed a lighter. So, we entered one of the shops, at 4 pm with intention to buy a simple lighter. That’s it, just a lighter.

And we left that place at 5 pm with bags full of stuff we didn’t need, we bought spices, shoes, sandals, bags, backpacks, necklace, computer cables, and a lot of them were either extremely low quality or fake as we came to understand in the evening. So, he duped us.

He mastered the art of human phsyocology, I was so mad at him, but I was also so impressed. he almost hypnotized us, gave us subliminal suggestions, and they worked. We were almost in a trance state and we didn’t even buy a lighter. He was able to sell us all these fake and low quality goods.

So, how is this relevant to the topic? Well, the guy aapparently asked a few very smart questions to himself, didn’t he?

Is branding important for my business?

No.

Is customer retention important for me?

No. You never see the same tourist twice. They come and go.

Is quality important for me?

No. Quality of the product will not be obvious at the time of the purchase. It just needs to look good.

Ok, then what do I have to do?

Screw the customer!

That’s it. As unethical as it is, he found a strategy that made him the most money by asking just a few questions.

The guy didn’t hire management consultants. Just as how Ikea’s founder Ingvar also didn’t. And when you come to think of it, all these strategy tools we have, porter’s 5 forces, PEST, Blue Ocean, Value Chains, Value Curves, they all serve one purpose. And that is the facilitation of question asking process.

And this isn’t only applicable to companies, or profitability. It applies to every single aspect of your life, be it sports, school, career, getting your promotion, everything. It applies to everything.

Now, let me give you another example.

If you watched my previous videos, you’d know that I am a champion sailor. I mean I don’t make money from it. I am a management consultant but it’s something I do since the age of 6.

Now, let’s apply a similar level of thinking to sailing and what questions lead me to become a very successful sailor.

So, to be the first I need to cross the finish line first. Ok. Now let’s ask some questions;

Question 1: Do I need to be the fastest in all points of sailing? I mean do I need to be the fastest in each leg, like; upwind, reach, or downwind? Hmmm… No, not really.

Question 2: Ok, which point of sailing then makes the biggest difference? Well, when we go upwind, we cannot surf, so the maximum speed for all of us is limited by hydrodynamics. Let’s say it’s 3 knots for Optimist. But when we go reach or downwind, we can surf the waves, and that makes us reach greater speeds up to 15 knots. So, if I can train hard enough to just be the best sailor in reach and downwind then I will make the biggest difference.

This was the question, I asked myself when I was 7 years old, and I figured that it is going to be my strategy. And in all my 30 years of sailing, I just stuck by this strategy. We start the race in upwind, out of maybe 100 plus racers, I am usually in top ten or top 20 but never top 5. But then we turn to reach, I make up to top 5 and when we get to downwind then I am in top 3 or 1st.

Now this level of thinking is exactly what corporate strategy teaches you, doesn’t it? We talked about this before. You don’t have to be the best in everything you do. Remember the example, what’s the best car company in the world?

Now ok, you can say, you know I am not managing a small business, Deniz… nor am I a sailor or sportsman.  I am just a mid level employee.

Fair enough. Let’s cover more areas then.

Let’s say you are a sales manager. Your upwind may be your B2B sales, your reach is your repeat customers, and your downwind is your joint venture partnerships. Now, sit down and draw the importance of each of these. And figure out which ones you need to be good and which one you need to be the bests.

Another example;

You want to have your MBA at Harvard Business School. Good.

Your upwind leg is your GPA from your Bachelor’s degree, your reach is your work experience, and your downwind leg is your references.

In simple terms, this applies to any industry, profession, any person. It’s very similar to the value curves we did earlier. Isn’t it?

Let’s take it to extremes.

You want to have a boyfriend. Ok

Your upwind is your looks

Reach is your social status

Downwind leg is your character.

Makes sense?

Now, the final topic is the trade-offs and limitations.

One of the reasons I was never the best in upwind was because I was very small compared to the others at that age. They were bigger than me. And in upwind we hike, so physically I wasn’t as strong or as big as they were. And there was nothing I could do about it. Physically, they matured faster than I did. It’s a limitation.

For example, in your case, you may never be the best looking girl or a guy in the world, maybe you will never look as pretty as Jennifer Connoly, and that’s fine. Because,  if you can have a really good character and perhaps a strong social status, then that’s good enough for you to have your dream partner.

Or in sales, maybe you are really bad at B2B sales, but if you can be great at JV partnerships, maybe that’s all it takes for your employer to give you that promotion.

In essence, that’s what strategy is all about. You are competing but you are competing to be unique.  And the only way you can win is by finding the right answers, the way you can find the answers is if you ask the right questions, and the only way you can get those questions when you need them is if you train your brain to automate that activity so questions come to surface all the time without you using 1 of the 3 slots that are available.

Thanks for your time and if you benefited from this video, please feel free to share in Twitter and Linkedin. And if you share in Linkedin, please feel free to send me an invitation. I’d love to connect with you.

And finally, if you are not happy with your current career, I strongly suggest you check out my LIG program. That’s where I share with you some of the advanced and unknown strategies to land yourself interviews and jobs with multinational companies.  Now, LIG is not a magic formula. Magic doesn’t exist. But it quadruples your chances and significantly shortens your job hunt process. Oh plus, I have an interesting promise. If you take action and implement what you learn at LIG, and still don’t get results within 30 days, I will personally work with you to make sure you get to where you deserve.

Very well, once again, thank you and see you next month.