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The importance of strategy in a disposable world

‘I can’t believe it’s February already… where is the year going?!’ How many times have you heard a version of that line relating to the perceived rapid erosion of our lives?

Don’t worry: this isn’t a morbid article counting down to our deaths or some life-coaching sermon on ensuring you live your life with no regrets.

Rather, this is an argument for the need of my pet subject at Further – strategy – in the increasingly disposable world in which we find ourselves.

We seem to live our lives at breakneck speed and, while I imagine that generations before have professed a similar thing, the rise of short-termism, impatience and the Internet of Things places an even greater value on having a coherent, thought-out strategic plan – particularly for businesses.

Not convinced? Then please indulge me for just a few minutes.

Short-term politics

Telling a few porkies to win votes is hardly a new idea, so you can forgive Donald Trump and those leading the charge to Brexit for doing exactly that. But what’s becoming more worrying is the seemingly short-term politics we’re now engaged in.

Take the EU referendum. It doesn’t matter which way you voted – the point is that it shouldn’t have been held.

Politicians are placed in government every five years in the UK so that they can put together a long-term strategy to meet the needs of the countries they serve. (Yeah, yeah…I know, but that’s what they’re supposed to do).

Some of the electorate will agree with their ideas, others will detest them. The important thing is that there is a plan.

But what good is a referendum which then throws that plan into disarray after just a year? Especially when the desire, from a large number of those voting to leave, was simply for something different.

A second Scottish referendum is being talked up following the EU vote – presumably that will continue until the vote goes the SNP’s way – and it goes to show the concerns around taking the short-term view.

Hold another EU referendum tomorrow and, following many gloomy recent forecasts about the UK economy, the vote could well go the other way.

As E B White, author of Charlotte’s Web and former contributor to The New Yorker, said: “Although you can take a nation’s pulse, you can’t be sure that the nation hasn’t just run up a flight of stairs”.

How can such a huge decision for us all be taken so lightly? How does it fit into the UK’s spending for the next few years? How does it affect the UK’s growth strategy? What taxes might need to be raised to cover any post-Brexit shortfall?

Perhaps that’s why the canvassing on both sides was so ugly: neither side had even looked beyond the vote.

They were playing short-term politics.

Elsewhere, other nations have begun questioning Trump’s short-term focus as he attempts to ‘make America great again’.

“There is clearly a need for the US to be increasingly strategic and agile in our region and to resist the temptation to focus on short-term expediency,” says Dr Martin Parkinson, who heads Australia’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

During a time when short-term thinking is in danger of taking over, those who can stand out in the crowd are the ones with a true vision.

How refreshing would it have been if either Trump or Clinton had delivered a four-year strategy on the economy, health, foreign policy, environment etc rather than talk about putting up walls, throwing their opponent in jail or mocking disabled people.

It could be argued that politicians are merely pampering to the masses and that politics – just as with TV – is being dumbed down.

But that’s exactly the time for strong leaders to show real qualities.

Disposable

Perhaps it’s the dumbing down which is causing a number of these issues.

Steve Brookstein, Ben Haenow, Leon Jackson – victims of a throwaway show in arguably the most ruthless business of all. The X-Factor builds a bunch of unknowns up and then tosses them away when they’ve been sucked dry, the whole saga sometimes taking just a few months.

And then there’s the screen blight of reality people. The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore, The Wags of Wigan… some of whom bizarrely opt to leave the platform which gave some level of fame to their fake tan and vacuous faces.

They’re left clinging on to a shred of celebrity status by agreeing to appear in other reality shows like I’m a Washed-Up Fake-Tanned Has-Been in Big Brother’s Jungle, Please God Leave Them in There. This narcissistic cycle of reality people appearing in other reality people’s reality TV shows doesn’t show any signs of abating either.

Impatience

It appears that those desperate for their five minutes of fame will stop at nothing short-term – but it’s hardly surprising when we’re teaching ourselves and children to be impatient.

Same-day delivery, streaming TV services, on-demand music, downloadable rice. And the Internet of Things will only accelerate this desire to have everything yesterday.

Our roads have always been dangerous, but there’s more red-light jumping and tailgating happening now than in previous years. Impatience is everywhere.

Strategic thinking

When this short-term, disposable, impatient thinking translates into your digital marketing efforts then you’re on a hiding to nothing.

And it’s why strategic thinking needs to be a key component of your marketing efforts.

Creating a clear, structured roadmap to hit objectives ensures that you don’t get side-tracked by chasing Periscope followers or end up shelling out for a smartphone app which sits, gathering virtual dust, on the app store shelves.

Apply clear, focused thinking to solving your business need and produce a strategy aligned to that. If the tactics you need to employ include advertising on Snapchat to attempt to hit a certain demographic, then fine, but don’t do it just because the MD has asked you: “Why aren’t we on <insert latest hyped-up social media platform here>?”

Set yourself apart from the crowd, give yourself time to construct a truly data-supported piece of work and don’t become that reality TV person – you’re much better than that.

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