Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Looking up to the Starry Sky, Standing on the Solid Ground

It’s often practically difficult but ideally essential to create creative while realistic strategies. The possibilities-based approach stated in the article “Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy”, however, would save many strategy makers out of their problematic status quo with bold ideas while still enable them to visualize a realistic future under the scientific methodology. What could be better than a fusion of science and art in strategy making?

To me, the most creative step is “Generate Strategic Possibilities”, which is “the creation of novel hypotheses” that conventional strategic planning lacks. I would like to call this step “looking up to the starry sky”.

Passionate about audience development for theater, I’m often thinking about in what ways can theater performances reach more audience in China. Although the overall market is gradually growing, the average number of theater performances that a person attends annually is still much behind many western countries, no matter how rapidly China’s economy has developed. For a theater company or a presenting venue, what can be their strategic possibilities (or “stars in the sky”) to attract more people to theater?

Fan-based drama could be a possibility, especially to open up an untapped market as what The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles did. Immersive theater based on a well-known Chinese literature (e.g. Thunderstorm by Cao Yu), just like the Macbeth-based Sleep No More, could be a possibility, which would be a totally new but exciting theater experience to most Chinese audience. Another possibility I can think of, inspired by Met Live in HD, is showcasing theater live in movie theaters or streaming theater simultaneously on online platforms (which already happens to many pop concerts in China), which will at least lower the barrier of entry for audience (given the expensive ticket prices) and reach more geographical regions and audience. It may even enhance audience experience by enabling them to see more clearly compared to, for example, watching from the gallery of Heinz Hall, though at the expense of physical experience.

Besides, the most realistic steps, in my view, are “Specify the Conditions for Success” and “Identify the Barriers to Choice”, which would be the premise of “careful generation of custom-tailored tests of hypotheses” that conventional strategic planning also lacks. I would like to call these steps “standing on the solid ground”. The best part of this possibilities-based approach is reverse thinking, by looking at “what must be true for each possibility to be a terrific choice”, instead of solving the existing problem straightforwardly. Given the theater example, I have to ask myself what must be true for Fan-based Drama, Immersive Theater, or Theater Live in HD to be a good choice. It might be a potential new market, an adaptive audience base or the company’s capabilities in finance and human resources. Stars could be so beautiful that blind people’s eyes. In addition to thinking widely, strategy makers have to make sure they are standing on the solid ground.

Reference:A.G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin, Jan W. Rivkin, and Nicolaj Siggelkow, Bringing Science to The Art of Strategy, Harvard Business Review, September 2012 Issue

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