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"Imagination is more important than knowledge... " (Albert Einstein)

Measured over a sentient, professional lifetime,  knowing the HOW of thinking is more critical than knowing the WHAT.  I tell my students that all the time.  And me being me, I plunge even further into the deep end of educational counseling, suggesting that an aspiring leader's electives are better spent learning the HOW - in classes on philosophy, logic and literary criticism, than in slogging through more of the WHAT in accounting theory (an oxymoron...), business law or econometrics.

Why memorize what you can hire? It's not an opinion likely to endear me to business school faculty, but they're frequently part of the problem, not the solution.  The learning and thinking stopped the moment 'Ph.D.' became their last name.

No, successful strategists think like insurgents, NOT like incumbents (see the post below riffing on Seth Godin.)   For that you must learn HOW to think.  

For Lesson #1, turn to "Why Criticism Matters," a fascinating New York Times series about literary criticism's role in a Facebook world.  In critic Katie Roiphe's view,
"The critic could take all of this healthy competition, the challenge of dwindling review pages, the slash in pay, as a sign to be better, to be irreplaceable, to transcend."
You might ask what, exactly, do literary criticism and hospital strategy have in common?  How about if we paraphrased Roiphe like this;
"The hospital could take all of this healthy competition, the challenge of dwindling admissions, the slash in reimbursement, as a sign to be better, to be irreplaceable, to transcend."
Heard any C-Suiters talking "transcendence" at your last strategy session?  I thought not.

Now, literary criticism is not about playing word substitution games.  It IS about surveying the confusing wasteland of ideas and opinions, identifying new trends and voices, being able to find and protect what's important, all while communicating meaning.  Making sense out of confusion.  Constructing a graceful, well-told story.

Ring any bells to you strategists out there?

Roiphe's article quotes Vladimir Nabokov's suggestion that some of his student's ears were "merely ornamental."  Yeah, I know the feeling.   Happens in my business too.

Or this from Pankaj Mishra's essay, here quoting Edmund Wilson;
"“The experience of mankind on the earth is always changing as man develops and has to deal with new combinations of elements; and the writer who is to be anything more than an echo of his predecessors must always find expression for something which has never yet been expressed, must master a new set of phenomena. . . . With each such victory of the human intellect, whether in history, in philosophy or in poetry, we experience a deep satisfaction: we have been cured of some ache of disorder, relieved of some oppressive burden of uncomprehended events.”
Change 'writer' to 'leader' or 'strategist.'  It's LEADERS and STRATEGISTS who should "...find expression for the unexpressed....master new phenomena..."  You know, the stuff you learned in that Advanced Auditing class, right?

By the way, do you know why so many people get lost in thought?  Because it's unfamiliar territory, I'm told.


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