Ditch the Decks, Unleash the Dragons: Why Strategy Isn't a Game trapped in spreadsheets and PowerPoint

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James Kitney
James Kitney
Chief Strategy and Transformation Catalyst
February 13, 2024

Forget boardroom battles fought with fancy suits and PowerPoint presentations. For today's CEOs, the real battlefield is far messier, far more exhilarating than the sterile confines of a boardroom. It's a terrain of uncharted possibilities, where the winners aren't meticulously planned victors, but those who embrace the thrill of the unknown, who unleash the strategic dragons within.

The importance of creating flexible and adaptive strategies

The truth is, most strategies die a slow, painful death under the fluorescent lights of the boardroom. Strangled by analysis paralysis, choked by the weight of five-year plans that crumble at the first unexpected gust of reality. Why? Because the world doesn't unfold according to spreadsheets. It's a vibrant, unpredictable landscape, and our strategies need to be light on their feet, ready to tango with the unexpected. McKinsey identified in 2019 that 70% of traditional five-year strategies fail to achieve what they set out to do. So we MUST do something different!

Five’s Strategy Design approach throws open the dusty windows of the traditional strategic mindset. It's not about predicting the future; it's about designing it. Forget rigid five-year strategies that sit rotting on SharePoint, let's embrace the power of rapid prototyping, testing, and iterating. Imagine your company as a laboratory of possibilities, where every division is a launchpad for bold experiments. Imagine marketing teams staging flash mobs in supermarkets to gauge consumer reactions to new packaging ,or R&D teams building rough-and-ready prototypes to test radical new product ideas. This isn't just about collecting data; it's about learning through action, discovering hidden opportunities, and pivoting before the competition even sees your dust cloud.

Spectacular results through strategy design

The evidence is clear. We’ve seen a number of iconic kiwi brands take this approach to strategy in the past with spectacular results:

* Air New Zealand's Safety videos: Remember the “Bare Essentials” Safety video? From what began in 2009 as a quirky, unexpected campaign that went viral, Air NZ continued the trend of quirky safety videos for over a decade boosting brand love and customer engagement.

* Fisher & Paykel's "Customer Lab": Forget focus groups; Fisher & Paykel invited customers into their design process, literally. Their Customer Lab is a fully equipped kitchen where customers experiment with appliances, providing invaluable feedback that shapes product development. This resulted in features like the "FlexCookZone," a versatile cooktop offering endless cooking possibilities, born from customers' desire for personalised cooking experiences.


These are not isolated tales of success; they are roars from the dragons of experimentation, proof that bold leaps, not careful steps, are the key to outmanoeuvring the competition in today's dynamic landscape.

Empower your teams

But let's be honest, embracing this experimental mindset isn't for the faint of heart. It means letting go of the illusion of control, accepting that failure is not a four-letter word, but a valuable stepping stone on the path to discovery. It means empowering your teams to take risks, to embrace the mess, the uncertainty, the exhilarating joy of learning through action. A 2021 study by Deloitte identified with a strong culture of experimentation are 85% more likely to achieve above-average growth.

So, CEOs of Aotearoa, Australia and beyond, I ask you: are you content with incremental gains in a world screaming for transformative leaps? Ditch the decks, gather your teams, and unleash the strategic dragons within.

Embrace the mess, the uncertainty, the thrilling joy of discovery. This isn't just about business; it's about rewriting the very narrative of your company's future. It's about becoming a force of nature in a world yearning for bold explorers, not armchair generals.

Remember, strategic agility is the new competitive advantage. It's the fuel that propels you beyond the horizon, past the competitors clinging to their five-year plans. Unleash the dragons within, and let them paint the sky with the colours of bold innovation and transformative success.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Peter Drucker

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February 13, 2024
February 13, 2024

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