Some of our
guiding principles

Seven key principles we believe every company should live by as they seek to operate, adapt, and make better decisions in a complex and changing world.

1

Strategy is meaningless if it’s based on unreliable information. A reality-based approach always wins.

Same-old strategy is useless when we don’t know what’s true.

Too much business strategy and foresight work is designed to tell leaders what they already know, or what they want to hear. By focusing on appearances, perception, and external possibility, rather than hard reality, this work sells us the illusion of a map while leaving us more lost than we ever were. Like wrestlers putting on a show, it can be fun to watch but it's not a real sport.

Effective strategy needs to cut through this performative layer, to help businesses skate not to a nebulous idea of where the puck is going to be, but to wherever the hell it actually is right now, and to figure out how it even got there in the first place.

2

Every plan has a limited shelf life, but cultivating underlying organisational fitness develops the ability to adapt and adjust in every moment.

The structure is the strategy.

Even the most robust, forward-looking strategy means nothing if your plumbing is broken. Where the instinct might be to move fast and break things, too often this means moving fast into a wall. Instead, we say move slowly and fix things. Transformation is never done. Plans are never finished. Resilient governance sets you up to sustain shocks in the most unstable of operating environments. By focussing as much in the depths of structure, process, organisational psychology and decision-making as we do on the road forward, we manage transformational energy and achieve realistic long-term outcomes through marathons, not sprints.

3

You must unlearn assumptions. Every certainty should be tested, every new idea probed.

You’re not operating on an iceberg. You’re surrounded by them.

All businesses operate at the intersection of hidden systems, and systems within systems— internal and external forces that shape both how they operate now, and what’s coming for them in the future. Operations that used to take place in plain sight have been replaced by complex abstractions, happening deep below surface. But not everything that looks like an iceberg from above has something truly substantial below, and too much time is wasted diving in the wrong places, searching for threats that are no longer relevant.

4

Be ready to listen to truths you don't want to hear. Reckoning provides more opportunity than optimism.

The clearest paths forward might be hidden under the rug.

All stakeholders in a business, from bookkeepers to marketers to investors to customers and community, have their own view on its reality, and their own perception of its successes and failures. It is in the sum total of all these points of view that we can reveal new truth.

You can’t see the gaps in your reality from inside of it. Just as companies hire cybersecurity firms to uncover threats from outside, the same is needed on a strategic level – rigorous research that cuts through internal bias and blindness and speaks difficult truth.

5

Don’t burn energy recycling your existing biases. Build the foundations first with tools to cut through the bullshit.

A team needs more than a pack of Sharpies to create a real plan.

Planning processes that start and end with groups gathered in a boardroom to ideate and communicate by sticky note amplify every systemic failure we’ve already outlined. They result in outputs that are of little tactical value, only documenting what is already known, in a form compromised by the energy and dynamics of the day and the existing filters and knowledge of the participants. Innovation is not a theatre and it is not a lab. Workshops and planning sessions held in response to research and the critical toolbox cut through this to the heart of the matter.

6

Every business needs a thesis. Let it be your foundation.

You can't win if you don't know why you're playing.

Ask yourself, if your phone rang and it was Oprah Winfrey, giving you a single opportunity to tell the world what your business is and why they should care about it, what would you actually say? What are you going to tell Oprah? She doesn’t want to hear about your dynamic solutions for innovative opportunity. She doesn’t want a mission statement. Nobody does. She wants your purpose. Your secret. A company needs to know the story it has to tell. It needs to express how it sees the world, and why it feels it has the right to exist in it. It needs to use this story to inform everything else, from planning to product decisions. If it can’t usefully do that with its existing mission or vision, then that mission and vision don’t reflect the company as they need to.

7

Organisational resilience needs a solid base. Be sure you’re stocked with the no-nonsense tools you need.

If you don’t start with the right tools, it won’t come together.

If you walk into a high-end kitchen showroom, you’ll be told how your cooking will reach professional levels with a Wolf range, a Subzero fridge, maybe a block of Japanese knives. But if you ask a professional chef what you actually need, where they would start in their kitchen, it probably won’t be flashy – a few sheet pans, two good knives, maybe a decent Dutch oven. A cutting board, but the IKEA one will do just as well as any other. A good set of basic tools will not be the cheapest, but also not the most expensive. They’re not the only tools, but if you don’t start with them, nothing else is going to work. These are the tools that take you from having a kitchen, to being a cook.

It’s the same for businesses – a set of core tools to cover the fundamentals don’t just cover the basics for you, but set you up to improvise, to thrive, to cook with what’s at hand.

About

A team of unconventional thinkers and proven leaders.

Solutions

Six core deliverables that every company should invest in.