What is stopping you from…

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Hi Ian,

I attended your strategic thinking program last year, and I must admit that it was not easy applying what you taught. I find that I don’t have the time to do all that you taught us. I have not used the systems thinking aspect, and the reframing. So I was wondering why I actually went for the workshop? Sorry for being so direct.

Ex Participant

Dear Ex,

Thank you for your candor and for your directness. Actually on the contrary, I appreciate you directness and wonder why there aren’t more people like you. I am very intrigued by your email, not least about the fact that you have a hard time applying what you have learnt, but that you have actually contacted me about it. It can be thought of as a “complaint” email, but I see more strategically; you actually want to know how you can apply it, given all your constraints. Otherwise, you wouldn’t reach out to me in the first place, would you? So my response to you now is, “What is stopping you from…?” Let me elaborate…

You don’t have to do everything

While I taught the five competencies for strategic thinking, I did say that you didn’t have to do it all for all situations, didn’t I? In fact, I wrote an article about this recently, rank ordering what I think might be the order of importance of the five competencies; and while I don’t propose that you applied it in this manner to all your situations, you might like to check that article out here:


But let me now ask my questions:

1. What is stopping you from identifying the intent of any action?

If we all know that all actions are driven by our intent, and that these are seldom apparent to us, my question is what is stopping you from identifying intent? From asking the Five Whys? If it only takes about 10 minutes to get there, what is stopping you from doing that?

2. What is stopping you from understanding how you got to where you are now?

If we acknowledge that our situation is the sum total of all the events and decisions that got us here, and that might open up the solutions to get us to where we want to be, then what is stopping you from spending about one to two hours applying thinking in time to uncover the path that led you to where you are right now?

3. What is stopping you from identifying the centre of gravity to give you a holistic solution?

If we realize that complex situations can have simple solutions, and that we need to step back to see the whole system, then what is stopping you from gathering your colleagues to identify the drivers and finding out the centre of gravity of the situation, and implement a once-and-for-all solution?

4. What is stopping you from applying different perspectives to your situation and finding the innovation solution?

If we have 7 perspectives that you can use to shift onto different points of view within 15 minutes, understanding that new perspectives lead to innovative solutions, then what is stopping you from gathering your people to help you see things differently all in a short time?

5. What is stopping you from forming a hypothesis and testing it out?

Knowing that all innovations start off as a hypothesis, and that hypotheses need to be tested so that we don’t lose tons of money in implementing the wrong solution, what is stopping you from creating different market tests so that you become a successful ideas producer?

We are holding ourselves back

In sum, Ex, I want to challenge your thinking to say that you are allowing your constraints to be your excuse for not applying strategic thinking. If you find that nothing is really stopping you from applying each of the five competencies, and from there, to solve your situations more strategically, then you have answered your own problem. But you need to remember this, good things take time, and the same applies to strategic thinking. If we can’t find the time for it, we only have ourselves to blame for lackluster decisions. We are holding ourselves back, not the course, not the model, not our constraints.

Wishing you all the best!

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