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Strategygram – The Magician and the Wand (by Sattar Khan)

ET brings part thirty-seven in the Strategygram series.

This Strategygram titled ‘The Magician and The Wand’ is part of a series created by brand strategy consultant Sattar Khan. Each Strategygram condenses a strategic thought into a single image. The collectible series is a visual guide to strategic thinking and provides handy image prompts for your branding workouts.

Do you remember “The Parable of the Kitchen Gun”? Edward Russo and Paul Schoemaker tell it in Decision traps.

Once upon a time, long before iPads and QR codes, a restaurant owner was plagued by the constant bickering between his cooks and waitresses.

The conflicts became so dysfunctional that he enlisted the help of four consultants, each an expert in their specialty.

The sociologist diagnosed the situation as a status hierarchy problem—higher-status cooks were forced to take orders from lower-status waitresses. His recommendation? Send cooks and waitresses to an outreach program.

The anthropologist discerned the problem as a reversal of gender roles that violated broader societal and cultural norms. Male cooks had to work on orders initiated by waitresses. (Yes, this parable is this old.) His recommendation? Appoint a senior cook to oversee the workflow: the waitresses would bring the order forms to him and he would then assign them to the other cooks.

The psychologist defined the situation as a case of sibling rivalry – the cooks and waitresses were vying for the attention of the parental figure, the restaurant owner. His recommendation? Send cooks and waitresses for weekly counseling sessions to quell jealousy and appease competitiveness.

The information theorist determined that the friction was caused by cognitive overload. There were too many controls to keep in mind during rush hour, with the inevitable finger-triggering and stress-triggering slip-ups. His recommendation? Have waitresses enter orders into a new computer system which would then display the orders in the correct order for the next available cook.

The boss was completely puzzled and perplexed. Each view seemed reasonable, but he couldn’t implement all the recommendations, let alone pay for them all. Also, even if he could find money for one of the solutions, what if that solution didn’t work?

The drama in the restaurant continued to escalate until one day, totally frustrated by the discord, the boss voiced his dilemma out loud to a young cook standing nearby.

The young cook mentioned, “In the restaurant where I worked earlier, we had a simple wooden rotating spit in the kitchen. The waitresses hung their orders there. When a cook was ready to start cooking, he would turn the spit and take the next order. Everything worked fine. Do you think it could work here too? »

The boss replied that he did not know but that he would ask the opinion of the four consultants.

Each specialist said their original recommendation was the best solution, but it might be worth trying the kitchen spit idea.

The sociologist said the spit would remedy the status imbalance because each order from a waitress would have to wait until the cook was ready to take it.

The anthropologist said the spindle, being an impersonal object, would remove the static of gender role reversal where women handed orders to men.

The psychologist said the brooch would recast the interaction, sidestepping the sibling rivalry.

The information theorist said the spindle would reduce cognitive overload, since commands would be stored on an external memory system, much like that of a computer.

The boss went ahead and installed the kitchen spit. It was a huge success. And he never had to go back to consulting again.

The moral? If it’s a good idea, it will make sense from different angles. But also: the frameworks and models that we use as a result of our specialized training, dig invisible furrows in our mind, confining our flow of thought in these conceptual channels.

These strategic frameworks and templates encircle our perceptions, restrict our premises, constrain our proposals. The propositions may not be wrong – they may indeed work – but without the foundation of full thinking they are sub-optimal.

Strategic frameworks tell us what to look for in a situation – the components and the configurations, the connections and the changes – but each framework comes with built-in assumptions and logical clues about what is noise and what is a signal, what counts and what does not. ‘t. And that’s where the quicksand is.

The frameworks, patterns, techniques, and tools that we instinctively love and use — our go-to solution technologies, the ones we begin to reflexively think with — are powerful but also palliative. They can impress our audience, even if they suppress our thinking.

At one point they trick you into thinking you’re apprehending the elephant, although you’re only selectively grabbing the trunk, tusk, tail.

The seductive power of popular strategic executives or their brilliant new successors recalls John Culkin’s warning: “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.

You therefore keep in mind that, whatever the framework, the model or the tool of your intellectual arsenal, the situation is the boss.

You see the situation with a beginner’s mindset; you listen to what the situation, with its parameters and constraints, tells you, taking it into account without the filtering and shaping effects of pre-formatted solution methodologies, without the assumptions inherited from your previous experiences, without the contamination of derived thought; what about you purpose built your frameworks, models and tools so that you bring your unique insight to this unique situation and conjure up your unique solution.

What you enjoy is the emancipation of new perception, the application of first principles, the release of clichéd thinking.

Frameworks, formats, templates, tools and techniques are essential to developing your professional expertise. You soak up their learning, but not their conditioning, their cajoling.

These are intellectual calisthenics, not intellectual prostheses. You appreciate where the magic really comes from.

As a sign posted above the entrance to a hypothetical Wizards’ Club might explain: “The magic isn’t in the stick, it’s in the magician.”

Check out previous Strategygrams here.

-Sattar Khan can be contacted at [email protected]

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