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There’s a lot of smart people who have already shared their perspective on breaking into strategy. While I am still on that path, I haven’t found a ton of thought pieces on how to develop an eye for design and how that might help grow one’s strategy brain.

i.e. — “great strategists are creative, great creatives are strategic”

Hot take, I don’t think everyone should try and be a ‘designer’. However, if we are to build a level of trust with a creative, it’s important to have a level of empathy and work to understand their point-of-view. As a strategist, or anyone who collaborates with a person in a creative profession, this starts with exposing yourself to their world. 

Going to art museums, listening to diverse music, watching weird films, actively reading about creative campaigns out in the wild, observing the habits of people in other countries, being interested in what creatives are interested in, attempting to do a creative hobby of your own, enjoying things for the sake of enjoying it — these are all great ways to open up your mind to think creatively. 

Why is this important?

As a strategist, identifying what problem to solve is half the battle. And like a good detective, coming at the situation from multiple angles is important. Imagine if an investigation was decided based on one bystander interview. In the context of strategy deliverables, a  competitive analysis that only includes financial reports isn’t enough. Hence, the four-Cs.

A silly example — a local business wants to open a second location in town five years from now. They’re stable at the moment, but they need to increase their revenue to be in a healthy place for a business loan. 

In this situation, a strategy brain might default to a competitive analysis or look at the positioning to set up future partnerships. While this business oriented approach is important and helpful, oftentimes it neglects the most visible aspect that impacts a customer. CX Design.

I’m not saying strategy folks should be able to wire frame a retail store path-to-purchase or know how to combine the latest technology into a design experience. I think it’s impotant we listen and learn from the domain experts there. 

But if we’re in the business of deciding where to play and how to win, understanding what systems are already working out in the world is critical to whatever recommendation we might make. Being open to those design practices and seeing how they help reinforce or hinder the larger brand strategy is key. This also helps us support creatives and sell whatever concept the team lands on. 

In addition to the career take on strategy + design — I’m also a fan of just putting weird and interesting things in your life for the sake of it. We all need a bit of excitement and feeding that creative side of our brain is a great way to shake up our day.