Nothing is personal, everything is personal
How humanity and strategy interact
Before I kick off for the day, I want to introduce you to Boiling the Ocean, a great bi-weekly read on all things strategy consulting and business. It’s just getting off the ground but has already struck a nerve with some established voices, one of which called it “a great newsletter” for up-and-coming consultants. So if that’s your game, consider checking out Boiling the Ocean. (I have to admit, I love the choice of name.)
I had a mentor once who used to say "strategy is a morally neutral endeavor." He meant that strategy is a tool for the wicked and the wise equally, and so it is often used in many ways that would make a priest frown. (Kind of like the internet.)
It follows that strategy is initially cooked up in a kitchen that does not concern itself much with grand issues of good or bad, but far more with success and failure. When a strategist sits and ponders how to achieve success in a given competition, they have to start with what might work. Nothing is personal.
And at that point, nothing is personal. It's all in one person's head, an imprecise blend of art and science designed to move toward some goal. A mental "If, Then" statement—if we do X, then we (may) achieve Y.
This thought pattern is necessarily idealized. You have to think of people as perfect pawns to get the calculation to come out right in early stage thinking. Even if you acknowledge that you cannot predict a person's future actions with precisions—you must nonetheless believe that you can anticipate their general response and direction.
The strategy in the mind is never personal. Nothing has happened yet.