Strategic Thinking and Writing 1949443418, 9781949443417

In today's hyper-connected, dynamic, and ever changing global marketplace, storytelling is the new strategic impera

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Table of contents :
Strategic Thinking and Writing
Advance Quotes for Strategic Thinking and Writing
CHAPTER 1: The Types of Thinking
PART 1 Thinking
CHAPTER 1 The Types of Thinking
CHAPTER 2: The Components of Thinking
CHAPTER 3: Strategic Thinking
CHAPTER 4: The Process of Strategic Thinking
PART 2 Writing
CHAPTER 6: Three Writing Strategies
CHAPTER 7: Strategic Business Writing
CHAPTER 8: Strategic Writing Topics
CHAPTER 5: Amazon’s Six-Page Memo
APPENDIX: List of 300 Words and Definitions
About the Author
Ad Page
Back Cover
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Corporate Communication Collection Debbie D. DuFrene, Editor

Strategic Thinking and Writing

Michael Edmondson

Strategic Thinking and Writing

Strategic Thinking and Writing Michael Edmondson, PhD

Strategic Thinking and Writing Copyright © Business Expert Press, LLC, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means— electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other except for brief quotations, not to exceed 250 words, without the prior permission of the publisher. First published in 2019 by Business Expert Press, LLC 222 East 46th Street, New York, NY 10017 ISBN-13: 978-1-94944-341-7 (paperback) ISBN-13: 978-1-94944-342-4 (e-book) Business Expert Press Corporate Communication Collection Collection ISSN: 2156-8162 (print) Collection ISSN: 2156-8170 (electronic) Cover and interior design by S4Carlisle Publishing Services Private Ltd., Chennai, India First edition: 2019 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America.

Dedication To Jolyon P. Girard, James Hedtke, and Lowell Gustafson

Other Books by Michael Edmondson Success: Theory and Practice Major in Happiness: Debunking the College Major Fallacies Marketing Your Value: 9 Steps to Navigate Your Career

Advance Quotes for Strategic Thinking and Writing “Strategic Thinking and Writing is a must read for students and business professionals looking to enhance their strategic thinking and writing skills. Throughout the book, Dr. Edmondson provides readers the opportunity to perform thinking exercises and self-awareness checks which I found to be that are extremely helpful. Dr. Edmondson reminds us that writing is a process that we need to respect in order to produce a high-quality product.” Monique Oudijk, Bayada Home Health Care “Thinking and writing well is one of the single most important traits you can have in the business world. Knowing how to think and write well helps you to perform and convey great ideas in your workplace. Dr. Edmondson’s Strategic Thinking and Writing will help you capture your ideas and showcase them to your professional audience.  Displaying great ideas with skill gives you power that is well deserved, and this book will help you achieve that easily.”  Katie Calabrese, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship “In an era when more time is spent on constant tweeting than on critical thinking, Michael Edmondson provides an important reminder that the path to success won’t be found by staying glued to a device. Strategic Thinking and Writing is a guide for effectively using the one key element needed to gain the upper hand in any challenging situation: your own thought process.” Ronald Panarotti, Rider University Dr. Edmondson’s Strategic Thinking and Writing is a fascinating piece of literature that will help you remain focused, motivated, and engaged in the art of critical thinking. This book captures real life success stories and provides magnificent exercises, each designed to help people improve their strategic thinking and writing skills. This book has encouraged me to open up my mind, increase my self-awareness, and continuously strive for clear and efficient thinking.  Martha Redondo, Princeton Theological Seminary

Abstract In today’s hyperconnected, dynamic, and ever-changing global marketplace, storytelling is the new strategic imperative for organizations that want to achieve and sustain growth. The power of narrative, however, is built upon the foundation of strategic thinking and writing. As technology has democratized the power to share stories with the world, succeeding in today’s age of collaborative commerce demands that leaders on all levels develop and enhance the business competency of storytelling built on strategic thinking and writing in order to drive customer engagement, enhance business performance, and remain relevant. Perhaps nowhere is the evidence of storytelling more prevalent than Amazon. In his 2018 annual letter, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos repeated his rule that PowerPoint is banned in executive meetings. Bezos replaced ­PowerPoint slides with a six-page narrative that executives prepare. The start of each meeting involves attendees reading the six-page narrative for 30 ­minutes followed by a discussion. Writing the six-page memo requires research, time, and multiple revisions. The six-page memo also requires one to think and write strategically. That’s where this publication can help. Part one consists of three chapters that focus on examining the various definitions associated with thinking and the process of strategic thinking. Part two shifts the attention toward strategic writing and provides the reader with a step-by-step guide on how to create a clear, concise, and compelling six-page memo.

Keywords business; communication; corporate communication; leadership; management; professional development; strategic thinking; strategy; writing

Contents Acknowledgments..................................................................................xiii Introduction........................................................................................xvii Part 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Thinking......................................................................... 1 The Types of Thinking.......................................................3 The Components of Thinking..........................................17 Strategic Thinking............................................................37 The Process of Strategic Thinking.....................................53

Part 2 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Writing.......................................................................... 71 Amazon’s Six-Page Memo.................................................73 Three Writing Strategies...................................................81 Strategic Business Writing................................................97 Strategic Writing Topics.................................................111

Appendix: List of 300 Words and Definitions.........................................127 About the Author.................................................................................149 Index..................................................................................................151

Acknowledgments This book is dedicated to three men who were instrumental in teaching me the art of writing. While an undergraduate at Cabrini College, Dr. James Hedtke and Dr. Jolyon P. Girard in the history and political science department provided ample opportunities for me to learn to write. Through countless one-on-one conversations, classroom discussions, and small group meetings, they demonstrated the highest level of their craft and remained forever patient as this first-generation college student struggled through the learning process. Their dedication to my education formed the foundation of my graduate experience where I encountered yet another remarkable teacher Dr. Lowell Gustafson from Villanova. He challenged me to reach new heights in my thinking and writing. As the outside member of my dissertation committee Dr. Gustafson demonstrated time and again his commitment to my development. To all three men, I thank you and dedicate this book to you. Without your guidance, encouragement, and support, my path through the bachelors, masters, and doctorate would have been nearly impossible. This is the fourth book that Business Experts Press has published for me, so I am indebted to the entire staff for their constant support and guidance over the years. A special note of thanks to Rob Zwettler, Executive Acquisitions Editor, Charlene Kronstedt, Director of Production, Sheri Dean, Director of Marketing, Debbie D. DuFrene, Editor, Corporate Communication Collection and Melissa Yeager, Editorial and Marketing Assistant. It continues to be an honor to work alongside a team dedicated to providing high-quality manuscripts for executives and business students that need reliable, concise information and guidance from experts. To my colleagues at New Jersey City University, thank you for your support and encouragement during the writing process.


A debt of gratitude also goes out to my family for putting up with me being in front of the computer at nights and on weekends. To my wife Lori, our daughter Amanda and her wife Kiersten, and our son Jonathan, I offer my sincere thanks for supporting me through the publication of another book. Your constant encouragement helps me through the research, writing, and editing involved with each publication. Thank you.

“The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a PowerPoint presentation, some type of slide show. In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points. This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience. And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a six-page narrative memo. If you have a traditional PPT presentation, executives interrupt. If you read the whole six-page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on page 4 that question is answered.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Introduction In today’s hyper-connected, dynamic, and ever-changing global marketplace, storytelling is the new strategic imperative for organizations that want to achieve and sustain growth. The power of narrative, however, is built upon the foundation of strategic thinking and writing. As technology has democratized the power to share stories with the world, succeeding in today’s age of collaborative commerce demands that leaders on all levels develop and enhance the business competency of storytelling built on strategic thinking and writing in order to drive customer engagement, enhance business performance, and remain relevant. Perhaps nowhere is the evidence of storytelling more prevalent than at Amazon. In his 2018 annual letter, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos repeated his rule that PowerPoint is banned in executive meetings. Bezos replaced PowerPoint slides with a six-page narrative that executives prepare. The start of each meeting involves attendees reading the six-page narrative for 30 minutes, followed by a discussion. Writing the six-page memo requires time, teamwork, and revisions to ensure the story is as clear, concise, and compelling as possible. The six-page memo also requires one to think and write strategically. That’s where this publication can help. Part 1 consists of three chapters that focus on examining the various definitions and processes associated with thinking, particularly with strategic thinking. Part 2 shifts the attention toward strategic writing and provides the reader with a step-by-step guide on presenting a clear, concise, and compelling six-page memo. Let us begin our journey into strategy thinking and writing by ­examining two short stories: The Small Bird and The Talking Horse. Both examples illustrate the value of thinking strategically. Using the goal-strategy-tactic template explained in this book, both stories will help you quickly understand this powerful framework of thinking.


The Small Bird Story In Mexican folklore, it is said that a long time ago there was a great fire in the forests that covered the earth. People and animals started to run, trying to escape from the fire. An owl was running away when he noticed a small bird hurrying back and forth between the nearest river and the fire. He headed toward the small bird. The small bird was running to the river, picking up small drops of water in his beak, then returning to the fire to throw that tiny drop of water on the flame. He did this several times. Finally, after the third time, the owl approached the small bird and asked “What are you doing? What are you trying to do?” After a brief pause, the small bird answered: “I am doing the best I can with what I have.” The small bird wanted to do something, so he did the only thing he could. He risked his own life to extinguish the fire, one beak of water at a time. With that the owl and other animals followed the small bird’s example. According to this legend, the forests that covered the earth were saved from a great fire by a small bird, an owl, and many other animals that got together to put out the fire.

The Small Bird Strategic Outline Throughout this book you will learn a clear, concise, and compelling approach to creating a strategic outline. This story, and the one about a talking horse, set the stage for helping you understand how to think strategically. Doing so forms the foundation for effective strategic writing. Goal: The goal for the bird is to extinguish the fire and/or save the earth.


Strategy: To accomplish that goal, the bird knows that the only viable strategy involves dropping water onto the fire to extinguish it. Tactic: To implement the strategy of dropping water on the fire, the bird takes it upon himself to fly to the river, pick up some water, and then drop it over the fire. In short, he is doing the best he can with what he has. Notes: The goal of saving the earth by extinguishing the fire is rather clear. It is a short story with little additional information to distract the reader. Due to the lack of resources available, there is really only one viable strategy of dropping water onto the fire. Knowing that is the one strategic choice available, the bird moves into action and does what he can at the tactical level to put out the fire. There is hope, of course, that other birds and animals see this act of bravery and join the small bird at the tactical level to implement the strategy of dropping water on the fire.

The Talking Horse Story Long ago there was a man who stole a loaf of bread from a baker who owned a store in the heart of the town. The man needed the bread to feed his starving family. The baker followed the man home and told the king about the theft. The king had the man arrested and said that theft of any kind in his town was punishable by death. The man pleaded with the king and said he needed the bread to feed his starving family. The king would not listen and sentenced the man to die. The man loved his family and did not want to die. Knowing that the king loved horses but loved being powerful even more, the man said to the king “Sir, would you find value in a talking horse?” The king looked at the man in disbelief and said, “Horses do not talk.” The man said, “Oh but your majesty, if you give me two years, I will train one of your horses to talk and you will be the king of all kings with a talking horse.”


The king thought about the man’s request. Having a talking horse, a horse like no other, would certainly make him a king of all kings, and so he granted the man’s request. The man took one of the king’s horses and went off to teach it to talk.

The Talking Horse Strategic Outline Goal: Not to die is the man’s goal in this short story. Strategy: With little time to respond to the king’s decree of punishment by death, the man thought quickly on his feet and knew that he needed to buy time. Buying time is the strategy. Tactic: To buy time, the man used the tactic of teaching a horse to talk. Doing this allowed him to live two years; thus accomplishing his goal of not dying. Notes: Given that death is involved, staying alive is the obvious goal. Buying time is one of the most effective strategies to use when confronted with a complex situation. The man who stole the bread could have attempted to use other strategies, such as pleading for his life or even attempting to escape from the king’s jail. He chose to use what he considered as the one strategy that gave him the best chance of survival—buying time. He gave himself two years to teach a horse to talk. In those two years, anything could happen. The king could die. Another king could come along and seize power. If the horse were to die during that period, he would ask for another one and then give himself another two years to live. This book provides you with a variety of exercises, assessments, and assignments that are designed to develop a specific aspect of your strategic thinking and writing. Take your time with each assignment and remember that enhancing your strategic thinking and writing is a lifelong process. Your Short Story Find a short story, or write one, that allows you to use the goal-strategy-tactic approach. This framework will form the foundation of your thinking and writing moving forward. Both of the short stories just mentioned are between 200–250 words long.




The Types of Thinking The Definition of Thinking Before we delve into the art of strategic business writing—and make no mistake about it, writing in any form is an art—we must first become familiar with thinking. In a May 25, 1946 New York Times article, Albert Einstein noted that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” A common, modern corruption of his quote, “You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it,” fills the search engine results when searching for a quote on thinking. Nevertheless, if you wish to move to the next level of your personal or professional development, learning how to think, plan, and write strategically remains a prerequisite. Thinking strategically requires one to set aside time to think hard, to consider new ideas, and to practice writing in order to present a clear, concise, and compelling story. How much time do you spend in thinking about how you think? Are you aware of how you process thoughts? Is thinking solely a prerogative of humans? Not according to the latest research. Most scientists now feel they can say with confidence that some animals process information and express emotions in ways that are accompanied by conscious mental experience. An article in the March 14, 2017 edition of The Economist noted: “No animals have all the attributes of human minds; but almost all the attributes of human minds are found in some animal or other.” In short, thinking is important; spend time thinking about it. Let’s begin our inquiry into the preparation for strategic business writing by understanding the various definitions associated with the words thinking or think. Lacking a clear definition of the words used presents a significant barrier to communication, education, and understanding.



Before you begin any strategic business writing assignment, define the key words used in order to prevent any misunderstanding. Thinking can be classified as both a noun and an adjective, while think can be defined as a verb. Noun (thinking) • The process of using one’s mind to consider or reason about something. • A person’s ideas or opinions. Adjective (thinking) • Using thought or rational judgment; intelligent. Verb (think) • Have a particular opinion, belief, or idea about someone or something. • Direct one’s mind toward someone or something; use one’s mind actively to form connected ideas. • Take into account or consideration when deciding on a possible action. • Consider the possibility or advantages of (a course of action). • Have a particular mental attitude or approach. • Have a particular opinion of. • Call something to mind; remember. • Imagine (an actual or possible situation). • Expect. • Concentrate on imagining what it would be like to be in (a position or role). Thinking is hard work. Thinking about thinking is even more difficult. If you want to think and write strategically, however, you will need to learn to recognize what you are thinking about as well as how you think. Are you committed? Are you willing to put the time and energy into learning how to be a strategic thinker and writer? If you are, remember the words of Thomas Edison as you move forward: “Five percent of the people

The Types of Thinking


think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five ­percent would rather die than think.” What percentage do you belong to? Self-Awareness Check How often do you spend time thinking about how you think? Why do you believe it is so difficult for people to think about thinking? How often do you remind yourself, or others, that “You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it?” Does doing so help you change your thinking? Knowledge Check 1. Lacking a clear definition of words used presents a significant barrier to a. Communication b. Education c. Understanding d. All of the above 2. If you wish to move to the next level of your personal or professional development, learning how to think strategically remains a. Unnecessary b. Avoidable c. A prerequisite d. None of the above 3. Thinking, or think, can be classified as a. A noun b. An adjective c. A preposition d. Only a and b 4. When used as a noun, thinking means a. The process of using one’s mind to consider or reason about something b. A person’s ideas or opinions c. Failing to make a decision d. Both a and b



5. When used as a verb, think means to a. Have a particular opinion, belief, or idea about someone or something b. Direct one’s mind toward someone or something; use one’s mind actively to form connected ideas c. Take into account or consideration when deciding on a possible action d. All of the above

The Different Types of Thinking There are various types of thinking that allow you to adapt to specific situations. Understanding the spectrum of thinking will provide a greater depth to your strategic business writing. As you review examples of strategic business writing in your research and preparation, see if you can identify one or more of the definitions the author has used. Doing so will make your own writing better, as you can then apply the appropriate type of thinking for a given situation. Abstract thinking refers to the ability to use concepts to make and understand generalizations and then relating or connecting them to other items, events, or experiences. Example: An abstract thinker would see a flag as a symbol of a country or organization. They may also see it as a symbol of liberty and freedom. Analytical thinking refers to the ability to separate a whole into its basic parts in order to examine the parts and their relationships. It i­nvolves thinking in a logical, step-by-step manner to break down a larger system of information into its parts. Example: An analytical thinker may study a bicycle to determine how it works or what is wrong with it. Concrete thinking refers to the ability to comprehend and apply factual knowledge. It involves thinking only on the surface, always literal, and to the point. Example: A concrete thinker will look at a flag and only see specific colors, markings, or symbols that appear on the cloth. Convergent thinking refers to the ability to put a number of different pieces or perspectives of a topic together in some organized, logical ­manner to find a single answer. It involves focusing on a finite number of solutions rather than proposing multiple solutions. Example: The

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deductive reasoning that the Sherlock Holmes used in solving mysteries is a good example of convergent thinking. By gathering various bits of information, he was able to put the pieces of a puzzle together and come up with a logical answer to the question of “Who done it?” Creative thinking refers to the ability to conceive new and innovative ideas by breaking away from established thoughts, theories, rules, and procedures. It involves putting things together in new and imaginative ways. Creative thinking is often referred to as “thinking outside the box.” Example: A creative thinker may look at a product and think of new ways to use it or suggest an innovative solution to a problem. Critical thinking refers to the ability to exercise careful evaluation or judgment in order to determine the authenticity, accuracy, worth, ­validity, or value of something. In addition to precise, objective analysis, critical thinking involves synthesis, evaluation, reflection, and reconstruction. Example: A triage nurse who analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order in which the patients should be treated is practicing critical thinking. Divergent thinking refers to the ability to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions in an effort to find one that works. It involves bringing facts and data together from various sources and then applying logic and knowledge to solve problems or make decisions. Example: Divergent thinking is similar to brainstorming in that it involves coming up with many different ideas to solve a single problem. Unlike convergent thinking, there is no one right answer in divergent thinking. Holistic (nonlinear) thinking refers to the ability to see the big picture and recognize the interconnectedness of various components that form the larger system. It involves expanding your thought processes in multiple directions, rather than in just one direction, and understanding a system by sensing its patterns. Example: Allowing a puppy to run free and explore the world as much as possible. Sequential (linear) thinking refers to the ability to process information in orderly prescribed manner. It involves a step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be obtained before another step is taken. Example: Teaching the puppy a number of tasks in a specific order, ensuring it learns A before B, and B before C, and so on.



Examples of Each Type of Thinking Can you find at least one example of each type of thinking and explain it in a sentence or two? Abstract thinking: Analytical thinking: Concrete thinking: Convergent thinking: Creative thinking: Critical thinking: Divergent Thinking: Holistic (nonlinear) thinking: Sequential (linear) thinking:

A Note on Critical Thinking Critical thinking is a valuable skill for most jobs these days. This is especially true for recent college graduates. Unfortunately, no one clear definition is used to explain critical thinking. As Melissa Korn wrote in a Wall Street Journal article: “Employers complain that colleges are not producing graduates who can solve problems and connect the dots on complex issues, but bosses stumble when pressed to describe exactly what skills make critical thinkers. That leaves job seekers wondering what employers really want and, once on the job, unsure of whether they’re supposed to follow the rules or break them.”1 As one employment recruiter noted: “Critical thinking is one of those words where everyone talks about it but there are 50 different ways to define it.” Here are three common definitions of critical thinking Korn identified 2: • “The ability to cross-examine evidence and logical argument. To sift through all the noise.” Richard Arum, sociology professor, New York University 1

M. Korn. October, 2014. “Bosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That?” The Wall Street Journal. -what-is-that-1413923730, (date accessed July 10, 2018). 2 Ibid.

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• “Thinking about your thinking, while you’re thinking, in order to improve your thinking.” Linda Elder, educational psychologist; president, Foundation for Critical Thinking • “Do they make use of information that’s available in their journey to arrive at a conclusion or decision? How do they make use of that?” Michael Desmarais, global head of recruiting, Goldman Sachs Group For their part, students seem to think they are ready for the workplace. But their future bosses tend to disagree. In 2013, Harris Interactive conducted a survey of 2,001 college students and 1,000 hiring managers on problem-solving preparedness and found 69% of the students felt they were “very or completely prepared” for problem-solving tasks in the workplace, while fewer than half of the employers agreed.3 Judy Nagengast, CEO of Continental Inc., an Anderson, Ind. staffing firm, says she has come across young graduates who “can memorize and they can regurgitate,” but struggle to turn book learning into problem solving at work.4 With that in mind, it is no surprise to learn that employers are leaving positions unfilled because they are unable to identify qualified candidates. Sarah E. Needleman of the Wall Street Journal reported that a recent survey found that “one-third of 848 small-business owners and chief executives said they had unfilled job openings in June 2014 because they couldn’t identify qualified applicants.”5 Don’t assume because an organization has an employment opportunity the employer will hire someone to fill the position. You need to market your value and demonstrate why the organization should hire you. Now that you are aware of just how important critical thinking is for employers, be sure to include an example or two of how you solved a problem using your critical thinking skills in the past.


S. Cole. October, 2014. “Employers Want ‘Critical Thinkers,’ But Do They Know What It Means?” Fast Company. -critical-thinkers-but-do-they-know-what-it-means, (date accessed June 20, 2018). 4 Ibid. 5 S. E. Neddleman. July, 2014. “Skills Shortage Means Many Jobs Go Unfilled,” The Wall Street Journal. -job-openings-1404940118, (date accessed May 2, 2018).



Self-Awareness Check What are the top three types of thinking you find yourself using? Why are these your top three? What experiences, people, or events have impacted your ability to think? Why is the definition of critical thinking so ambiguous? Knowledge Check 1. Thinking in order to separate a whole into its basic parts a. Abstract thinking b. Creative thinking c. Analytical thinking d. None of the above 2. Thinking that involves focusing on a finite number of solutions a. Convergent thinking b. Creative thinking c. Divergent thinking d. Critical thinking 3. Thinking that pertains to careful evaluation or judgment a. Convergent thinking b. Creative thinking c. Holistic (nonlinear) thinking d. Critical thinking 4. Thinking that refers to the ability to process information in an ­orderly prescribed manner a. Convergent thinking b. Creative thinking c. Holistic (nonlinear) thinking d. Sequential (linear) thinking 5. Thinking that involves designing new and innovative ideas by breaking from established thoughts and going “outside of the box” a. Convergent thinking b. Creative thinking c. Holistic (nonlinear) thinking d. Critical thinking

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Understanding How You Think The adjacent pie chart illustrates three categories of knowledge: • things you realize you know – ex: you realize that while driving a car you stop at a red light • things you realize you don’t know – ex: when going in for heart surgery you realize you don’t know how to do that yourself • things you don’t realize you don’t know – there are no examples here, well, because, you don’t know what you don’t’ know.

Ex: I realized I knew the benefits of yoga but also realized I did not know how to practice yoga. I did not realize I did not know there were various forms of yoga to practice (exs: Ashtanga, Yin, and Vinyasa). To understand what you know you must first examine how you think. For example, why do you know anything at all to be true? This is an important question to ask if you want to understand how you think. Let’s deconstruct the first category as a demonstration of identifying how you think. You realize you know that while driving a car you stop at a red light. How did this thought process come to rest in your mind? As with most knowledge we obtain there are three determinants that contribute to our awareness.



• Individuals ?? Who are the family members that influenced you? ?? Who are the teachers that left an impression on you? ?? Who are the co-workers that contributed to your life experience? ?? Who among your friends influenced you more than others? • Experiences ?? What experiences have changed you as a person? ?? What experiences did you refuse to let change you as a person? ?? What experiences did you prevent yourself from having because you were afraid? ?? What experiences do you hope to have in the future? • Reflection ?? How much time do you allocate for reflection on a daily or weekly basis? ?? How often do you reflect upon the lessons learned regarding a specific experience? ?? Do often do you discuss and reflect with the support of others? ?? How do you feel during reflection? What emotions often arise? You realize you know that while driving a car you stop at a red light because a) your mother taught you how to drive; b) you experienced stopping at a red light while driving with your driving instructor; and c) you were required to reflect on the need to stop at each red light you encountered. Exercise: To better understand how you think about what you think about ask yourself how you think about the following quote from Jeff Foster “When there is fear, pain, confusion or sadness moving in you, do not despair or come to conclusions about yourself. Be honored that these misunderstood guests, at once both ancient and timeless, weary from a lifetime’s lonely travel have finally found their home in you. They are children of consciousness one and all, beloved children of yourself, deserving of the deepest respect and friendship. Offer them the deep rest of yourself, and let them warm their toes by your raging fire.” As you reflect on what you think about this statement, identify those people, experiences and emotions that contribute to your thinking. Doing so can help you better understand how you think.

The Types of Thinking


Thinking Exercise #1: Connect the Nine Dots Nine dots are arranged in a set of three rows. Your challenge is to draw four straight lines which go through the middle of all of the dots without taking the pencil or mouse pointer off the page. Start from any position and draw the lines one after the other. Each line starts where the last line finishes. Try it a few times and then review the solution. Do not look at the answer until you have either given up or found a solution of your own. Do not give up too easily! The answer appears at the back of this publication.

How Did You Solve the Puzzle? Think back to how you were solving the puzzle. Did you solve it by trial and error or did you think through a strategy? Spend a moment thinking about how you solved it and what changes in your thoughts were needed to get you there. The beauty of this nine-dot puzzle is that you literally



have to “think out of the box” to solve the puzzle. Your pencil or mouse must go outside the box of the dots. There is no other strategy to use. The most frequent difficulty people have with this puzzle is that they try to draw all the lines within the dots and they do not initially want to draw lines outside of them because: 1. There is nothing outside the set of dots to associate to. There are no dots to join a line outside the puzzle so they assume a boundary exists. 2. It is assumed that doing this is outside the scope of the problem, even though the problem definition does not say that you are not allowed to do so. 3. You are so close to doing it that you keep trying the same way but harder. Lessons to Be Learned from This Puzzle Look beyond the current definition of the problem. • Analyze the definition to find out what is allowed and what is not. • Are there any real rules to the problem anyway? (An especially valid point in human-related problems—there are only perceptions, not physical rules.) • Look for other definitions of problems. • Do not accept other people’s definitions of problems. They may be either wrong or biased. • If a problem definition is wrong, no amount of solutions will solve the real problem. Investigate the Boundaries • • • •

What are the boundaries which the solution must fit into? Are the boundaries your own perceptions or the reality? What are the possibilities if you push the boundaries? What are the benefits of small boundary changes?

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Hard Work Is Not (Always) the Solution • Repeating the same wrong process again and again with more vigor does not work. • You can be very close to a solution while not getting any closer to reaching it. • Thought is the solution; physical hard work will not work.


The Components of Thinking Introduction Now that we have outlined the definition of thinking and the various types of thinking, we need to examine the elements of how we arrive at our ideas. This chapter provides an overview of cognitive biases, fallacies, and mental models. It is difficult to be an effective strategic thinker and writer if you lack even the most basic understanding of these components of thought. In the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, Henry Drummond questions Matthew Brady on the scientific authority of the Bible. Drummond asked Brady if he believed the first day that God created was of 24 hours. Brady responded “I don’t know.” Drummond queried, “What do you think?” to which Brady quipped “I do not think about things that I do not think about.” After a brief pause Drummond snapped “Do you ever think about things that you do think about?!” If you do not think about things that you do not think about, how can you accurately label yourself a strategic thinker? Do you ever think about the things that you do think about? How do you know? And how do you know that your thinking process maintains any level of sophistication? Understanding cognitive biases, fallacies, and mental models will provide you with the necessary foundation as you look to improve your ability to think and write strategically.

The Top 20 Cognitive Biases Strategic thinking, and more specifically, strategic business writing, ­requires that you have a basic understanding of the most common cognitive biases. Doing so will provide insight into how you think about



what you think. A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive processes, often occurring as a result of holding onto one’s preferences and beliefs regardless of information to the contrary. Biases can arise in many areas of daily life. From how we choose a college to attend to picking out milk at the grocery store, we often make unconscious, suboptimal decisions. From the original Nobel Prize-winning work of psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman to more recent findings, more than 80 different cognitive biases have been identified over the last 40 years. Here is a list of the 20 most common cognitive biases: 1. Anchoring bias: People are overreliant on the first piece of information they hear. Example: In a salary negotiation, whoever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person’s mind. 2. Availability heuristic: People overestimate the importance of information that is available to them. Example: A person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy because they know someone who lived to 100 and smoked three packs a day. 3. Bandwagon effect: The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. This is a powerful form of groupthink and is the reason why meetings are often unproductive. Example: when choosing between two restaurants which are in similar in cost, menu and atmosphere, we often choose the one which has more people sitting in. 4. Blind-spot bias: Failing to recognize your own cognitive biases is a bias in itself. People notice cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in themselves. Example: Executives and senior leaders often have a blind spot and fail to recognize the changing competitive reality in their industries and in their markets until it is too late. 5. Choice-support bias: When you choose something you tend to feel positive about it, even if that choice has flaws. Example: When you think your dog is awesome even though it bites people.

The Components of Thinking


6. Clustering illusion: The tendency to see patterns in random events. This is often the key to various gambling fallacies. Example: When you like the idea that red is more or less likely to turn up on a roulette table after a string of reds. 7. Confirmation bias: We tend to listen to information that confirms our preconceptions—one of the many reasons why it is difficult to have an intelligent conversation about climate change. Example: many people have a confirmation bias and believe that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. 8. Conservatism bias: Where people favor prior evidence over new evidence or information that has emerged. Example: People were slow to accept that the Earth was round because they maintained their earlier understanding that the planet was flat. 9. Information bias: The tendency to seek information when it does not affect action. More information is not always better. With less information people can often make more accurate predictions. Example: Believing that the more information that can be acquired to make a decision, the better, even if that extra information is irrelevant for the decision 10. Ostrich effect: The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich. Example: Research suggests that investors check the value of their holdings significantly less often during bad markets. 11. Outcome bias: Judging a decision based on the outcome rather than on how exactly the decision was made in the moment. Example: Just because you won a lot in Vegas does not mean that gambling was a smart decision. 12. Overconfidence: Some people are too confident about their abilities, and this causes them to take greater risks in their daily lives. Experts are more prone to this bias than laypeople, since they are more convinced that they are right. Example: For example, 93 percent of American drivers claim to be better than the median, which is statistically impossible.1 1

Don Moore, “Overconfidence,” Psychology Today, January 22, 2018.



13. Placebo effect: When simply believing that something will have a certain effect on you causes it to have that effect. Example: In medicine, people given fake pills often experience the same physiological effects as people given the real thing. 14. Pro-innovation bias: When a proponent of an innovation tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations. Example: Roger Smith, then chairman of General Motors, said in 1986: “By the turn of the century, we will live in a paperless society.”2 15. Recency: The tendency to weight the latest information more heavily than older data. Example: Investors often think the market will always look the way it looks today, which leads to unwise decisions. 16. Salience: Our tendency to focus on the most easily recognizable features of a person or concept. Example: When you think about dying, you might worry about being mauled by a lion, as opposed to what is statistically more likely, such as dying in a car accident. 17. Selective perception: Allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world. Example: An experiment involving a football game between students from two universities showed that each team saw the opposing team commit more infractions. 18. Stereotyping: Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the person. It allows us to quickly identify strangers as friends or enemies, but people tend to overuse and abuse it. Example: when you believe the people of a certain ethnicity or background act a certain way. 19. Survivorship bias: An error in judgment that comes from focusing only on surviving examples. Example: For instance, we might think that being an entrepreneur is easy because we have not heard of all those who failed. 20. Zero-risk bias: Sociologists have found that we love certainty—even if it’s counterproductive. Eliminating risk entirely means there is no chance of harm being caused. Example: “Zero-risk bias occurs because individuals worry about risk, and eliminating it entirely means that there is no chance of harm being caused,” says decision science 2

Howard F. Didsbury (2004). Thinking Creatively in Turbulent Times. World Future Society. p. 41.

The Components of Thinking


blogger Steve Spaulding. “What is economically efficient and possibly more relevant, however, is not bringing risk from 1% to 0%, but from 50% to 5%.”3 In today’s social media driven world, people fall into information silos and only listen, watch, or read what is of interest to them. Doing so compounds many cognitive biases. If you want to improve your thinking and reduce the number of cognitive biases you fall prey to, watch a movie, read a book, or listen to a podcast you would normally shun. Engaging in new thoughts, ideas, or issues can help you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line, or an argument. Remember, thinking is hard work and understanding how you think is even more so. Strategic thinkers spend a good deal of time examining what and how they think. Self-Awareness Check Check off each of the cognitive biases that you have previously used: 1. Anchoring bias: _____ 2. Availability heuristic: _____ 3. Bandwagon effect: _____ 4. Blind-spot bias: _____ 5. Choice-support bias: _____ 6. Clustering illusion: _____ 7. Confirmation bias: _____ 8. Conservatism bias: _____ 9. Information bias: _____ 10. Ostrich effect: _____ 11. Outcome bias: _____ 12. Overconfidence: _____ 13. Placebo effect: _____ 14. Pro-innovation bias: _____ 15. Recency: _____ 3

Shana Lebowitz and Drake Baer, “20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions,” Business Insider, August 6, 2015.



16. Salience: _____ 17. Selective perception: _____ 18. Stereotyping: _____ 19. Survivorship bias: _____ 20. Zero-risk bias: _____ ----Were you aware of your cognitive bias at the time? If so, what did you do to improve your thinking process? How will you adapt your thinking moving forward now that you are more familiar with 20 common cognitive biases? Knowledge Check Which of the options best describes the biases listed? 1. When you are overreliant on the first piece of information you hear. a. Anchoring bias b. Availability heuristic c. Bandwagon effective d. Blind-spot bias 2. When you fail to recognize your own cognitive biases. a. Anchoring bias b. Availability heuristic c. Bandwagon effective d. Blind-spot bias 3. When you tend to listen to information that confirms your preconceptions. a. Choice-support bias b. Clustering illusion c. Confirmation bias d. Conservatism bias 4. When you ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” your head in the sand. a. Ostrich effect b. Clustering illusion

The Components of Thinking


c. Confirmation bias d. Conservatism bias 5. When you expect a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the person. a. Stereotyping b. Selective perception c. Recency d. Fallacies Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these 10 common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others. 1. Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than on his or her opinions or arguments. Example: Green Peace’s strategies aren’t effective because they are all dirty, lazy hippies. In this example, the author doesn’t even name particular strategies Green Peace has suggested, much less evaluate those strategies on their merits. Instead, the author attacks the characters of the individuals in the group. 2. Begging the claim: The conclusion that the writer should prove is validated within the claim. Example: Filthy and polluting coal should be banned. Arguing that coal pollutes the earth and thus should be banned would be logical. But the very conclusion that should be proved, that coal causes enough pollution to warrant banning its use, is already assumed in the claim by referring to it as “filthy and polluting.” 3. Circular argument: This restates the argument rather than actually proving it. Example: George Bush is a good communicator because he speaks effectively. In this example, the conclusion that Bush is a “good communicator” and the evidence used to prove it “he speaks effectively” are basically the same idea. Specific evidence such as using everyday language, breaking down complex problems, or illustrating his points with humorous stories would be needed to prove either half of the sentence.



4. Either/or: This is a conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices. Example: We can either stop using cars or destroy the earth. In this example, the two choices are presented as the only options, yet the author ignores a range of choices in between such as developing cleaner technology, car-sharing systems for necessities and emergencies, or better community planning to discourage daily driving. 5. Hasty generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all the relevant facts. Example: Even though it’s only the first day, I can tell that this is going to be a boring course. In this example, the author is basing his evaluation of the entire course on only the first day, which is notoriously boring and full of housekeeping tasks for most courses. To make a fair and reasonable evaluation the author must attend not one but several classes, and possibly even examine the textbook, talk to the professor, or talk to others who have previously finished the course in order to have sufficient evidence to form a conclusion. 6. Moral equivalence: This fallacy compares minor misdeeds with major atrocities. Example: That parking attendant who gave me a ticket is as bad as Hitler. In this example, the author is comparing the relatively harmless actions of a person doing their job with the horrific actions of Hitler. This comparison is unfair and inaccurate. 7. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if “A” occurred after “B” then “B” must have caused “A.” Example: I drank bottled water and now I am sick, so the water must have made me sick. In this example, the author assumes that if one event chronologically follows another the first event must have caused the second. But the illness could have been caused by the burrito eaten the night before, a flu bug that had been working on the body for days, or a chemical spill across campus. There is no reason, without more evidence, to assume the water caused the person to be sick. 8. Red herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than in addressing them. Example: The level of mercury in seafood may be unsafe, but what will fisherfolk do to support their families? In this example,

The Components of Thinking


the author switches the discussion away from the safety of the food and talks instead about an economic issue, the livelihood of those catching fish. While one issue may affect the other, it does not mean we should ignore possible safety issues because of possible economic consequences to a few individuals. 9. Slippery slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, then eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C, . . ., X, Y, Z will happen, too, basically equating A and Z. So, if we don’t want Z to occur, A must not be allowed to occur either. Example: If we ban Hummers because they are bad for the environment, eventually the government will ban all cars, so we should not ban Hummers. In this example, the author is equating banning Hummers with banning all cars, which is not the same thing. 10. Straw man: This move oversimplifies an opponent’s viewpoint and then attacks that hollow argument. Example: People who don’t support the proposed state minimum wage increase hate the poor. In this example, the author attributes the worst possible motive to an opponent’s position. In reality, however, the opposition probably has more complex and sympathetic arguments to support their point. By not addressing those arguments, the author is not treating the opposition with respect or refuting their position.4 Knowledge Check 1. Green Peace’s strategies aren’t effective because they are all dirty, lazy hippies. a. Ad hominem b. Begging the claim c. Circular argument d. Either/or 2. Filthy and polluting coal should be banned. a. Ad hominem b. Begging the claim 4

For more information on fallacies visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab located at



c. Circular argument d. Straw man 3. We can either stop using cars or destroy the earth. a. Ad hominem b. Begging the claim c. Circular argument d. Either/or 4. Even though it’s only the first day, I can tell this is going to be a boring semester and course. a. Hasty generalization b. Moral equivalence c. Post hoc ergo propter hoc d. Red herring 5. I drank bottled water and now I am sick, so the water must have made me sick. a. Hasty generalization b. Moral equivalence c. Post hoc ergo propter hoc d. Red herring

Mental Models and the Difference between Bias and Fallacy It’s important to realize that a cognitive bias is different from a logical fallacy. A fallacy is an actual mistake in reasoning. A cognitive bias is a tendency to commit certain sorts of mistakes. With practice, we can learn to recognize and completely avoid mistakes of logic. This is not true of biases. While faults of logic come from how we think, and thus we can simply change our thinking to be more logical, biases arise from our mental models that allow us to think. A cognitive bias is not necessarily a thinking error. Biases can manifest as a sort of prejudice, but it’s best to think of them as a thinking tendency. Biases slant our thinking toward certain avenues and conclusions, and often times those conclusions are useful. Behind every cognitive bias is a mental model that is automatic and to which our conscious minds have no access. Biases are a result of the mental models the brain uses to help it quickly make sense of information and experiences.

The Components of Thinking


Mental models are frameworks from which you view life. They help you understand why you are thinking what you are thinking. Mental models, however, are both difficult to identify and even more challenging to change. Mental models can either help us overcome obstacles or hinder our progress through difficult situations. In their 2017 publication Red Ocean Traps, researchers W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne wrote: “Though mental models lie below people’s cognitive awareness, they’re so powerful a determinant of choices and behaviors that many neuroscientists think of them almost as automated algorithms that dictate how people respond to changes and events.”5 Such automation of our thoughts requires a constant assessment of how and what we think, in order to achieve the level of strategic thinking required to solve problems, answer questions, or address issues. One of the more famous mental models is known as the law of the instrument identified by Abraham Maslow in his 1966 publication The Psychology of Science. This mental model is defined as having an overreliance on a familiar tool. In popular culture people are familiar with Maslow’s observation: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” One example of the law of the instrument would be the mechanic who specializes in transmissions. When you drive your car with a radiator problem into the transmission shop, you are more likely to have a new transmission put in than to have the actual problem fixed. When confronted with unfamiliar problems, a person with one mental model, a hammer, will resort to old techniques of questionable effectiveness as opposed to formulating new and better techniques. Recent research provides further light on mental models. Nobel laureate and best-selling author Daniel Kahneman published Thinking, Fast and Slow in 2011 and explained a dichotomy between two modes of thought: “System 1” is fast, instinctive, and emotional; “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. System 1 is defined as fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and unconscious. ­Examples include seeing that an object is at a greater distance 5

W. Chan Kim, and R. A. Mauborgne. 2017. Red Ocean Traps (Harvard Business Classics, Boston).



than another, localizing the source of a specific sound, completing the phrase “war and . . .,” displaying disgust when seeing a gruesome image and reading a text on a billboard. System 2 is defined as slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, and conscious. Examples include bracing yourself before the start of a sprint, directing your attention toward someone at a loud party, looking out for the woman with the grey hair, digging into your memory to recognize a sound, and sustaining a higher than normal walking rate. To understand just how challenging it is to change your mental model, consider Kahneman’s own proclamation: “Except for some effects that I attribute mostly to age, my intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy as it was before I made a study of these issues. I have improved only in my ability to recognize situations in which errors are likely. . . . And I have made much more progress in recognizing the errors of others than my own.” If one of the leading authorities on mental models finds it difficult to improve his own thinking, rest assured you will most likely find it equally challenging, or perhaps even more so. Self-Awareness Check Do you have difficulty finding solutions to problems? Are you aware of your mental models? Is your only tool a hammer; and if so, do you treat everything in your life as if it were a nail? What have you done lately to help yourself develop additional mental models so that you are prepared to provide yourself with alternative solutions when the next issue arises?

A Profile in Strategy #1: Chobani The poet Rumi wrote: “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” People like Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya did just that. As Ulukaya said, “When I started Chobani, I’d never run a company before and there was no plan.”6 Ulukaya is a Turkish businessman, entrepreneur, investor, 6

Forbes, “Greatest Living Business Minds.”, (date accessed May 16, 2018).

The Components of Thinking


and philanthropist based in the United States. Ulukaya is the owner, founder, chairman, and CEO of Chobani, the #1-selling strained yogurt (Greek-style) brand in the United States. On April 26, 2016, Ulukaya announced to his employees that he would be giving them 10 percent of the shares in Chobani.7 Originating from a dairy-farming family in a small village in Turkey, Ulukaya immigrated to the United States in 1994 to study English and took a few business courses as well. In an interview with CNN Money, Ulukaya explains that he was very serious about Kurdish rights and left Turkey due to the Turkish state’s oppression of its Kurdish minority group. He started a modest feta cheese factory in 2002 on the advice of his father. His greater success came from taking a major risk: Ulukaya purchased a large, defunct yogurt factory in upstate New York in 2005, in a region that used to be the center of a dairy and cheese industry. With no prior experience in the yogurt business, he has created a yogurt empire, Chobani, with facilities in several states. It was valued at over $1 billion in annual sales in less than five years after the launch, becoming the leading yogurt brand in the United States by 2011. The popularity of his Greek-style yogurt also sparked the rise in Greek yogurt’s market share in the United States from less than 1 ­percent in 2007 to more than 50 percent in 2013. Ernst and Young named ­Ulukaya the World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.8 The success of his yogurt empire has made Ulukaya a billionaire as he helped to create new jobs in several regions across the United States. According to Forbes, his net worth as of 2016 is $1.92 billion.9 ­Ulukaya figured out a way to translate his dream into reality without a plan or a path. Can you? 7

S. Strom. April, 2014 “At Chobani, Now It’s Not Just the Yogurt That’s Rich,” The New York Times. -employees-stakes-in-the-company.html, (date accessed April 10, 2018). 8 For a complete list of entrepreneurs of the year award visit /gl/en/about-us/entrepreneurship/entrepreneur-of-the-year/world-entrepreneur-of -the-year---past-winners 9 I. Bosilkovski. July, 2017. “Billionaire Hamdi Ulukaya’s Chobani To Spend $5 million to Train, Assist Young Entrepreneurs,” Forbes. /igorbosilkovski/2017/07/07/billionaire-hamdi-ulukayas-chobani-to-spend-5 -million-to-train-assist-young-turkish-entrepreneurs/#ff1893e5d2e2, (date accessed March 3, 2018).



A Profile in Strategy #2: 20 Miles a Day In January 1912, both Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole within a month of each other, leading separate teams. But while Scott and his four companions died on the return journey, Amundsen’s party returned without loss of life. Each team used a different strategy for their journey. Scott’s team would walk as far as possible on the good weather days and rest up on the bad days. Conversely, ­Amundsen’s team adhered to a strict regimen of consistent progress by walking 20 miles every day no matter what the weather. Even on those days when his team could have walked further, ­Amundsen’s team stopped at 20 miles to conserve their energy for the next day’s 20 miles. In his best-selling book, From Good to Great, Jim Collins highlights this trek of roughly 1,400 miles as a case study in diligent consistency. The team that took consistent action made it back safely without loss of life. This 20-miles-a-day strategy is a good case study, as it includes at least seven specific components to consider as you consistently apply your own strategy to achieve a personal or professional goal. The following seven components are in no particular order.10 1. Performance indicators: A good 20 Mile March uses performance markers that delineate a lower bound of acceptable achievement. These create productive discomfort and must be challenging (but not impossible) to achieve in difficult times. 2. Limitations: A good 20 Mile March has self-imposed constraints. This creates an upper bound for how far you’ll march when facing robust opportunity and exceptionally good conditions. These constraints should also produce discomfort in the face of pressures and fear that you should be going faster and doing more. 3. Customized: There’s no all-purpose 20 Mile March for all organizations or individuals. A good 20 Mile March is tailored to the specific goal in any given situation. 10

Brett & Kate McKay. 2013. “What’s Your 20 Mile March?” The Art of Manliness. (data accessed April 2, 2018).

The Components of Thinking


4. Self-imposed: A good 20 Mile March is designed and self-imposed by the organization or individual, not imposed from the outside or blindly copied by others. 5. Time limit: A good 20 Mile March has a Goldilocks time frame, not too short and not too long but just right. Make the timeline of the march too short, and you’ll be more exposed to uncontrollable variability; make the timeline too long, and it loses power. 6. Achievable: A good 20 Mile March lies largely within your control to achieve. 7. Consistency: A good 20 Mile March must be achieved with great consistency. Good intentions do not count.

Thinking Exercise #2: 360 Degrees F. Scott Fitzgerald observed: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Strategic thinkers often hold the two opposing ideas of “this might work” and “this might not work” in their mind as they make a decision and move forward. Can you? Have you? What can you do to improve your ability to hold two opposing ideas in your mind simultaneously and still retain the ability to function? One exercise you can do is labeled “360 Degrees.” This exercise helps you develop not just two opposing ideas, but the spectrum of thoughts involved with a specific topic. Most stories contain multiple interpretations. When analyzing a story, effective strategic thinkers work hard at identifying the various aspects prior to making a decision. Such an approach allows a strategic thinker to exercise a level of sophistication in their assessment. The end product often provides a detailed, nuanced and dynamic insight involving multiple viewpoints for the reader to consider. The adjacent image of a circle contains 12 segments ranging from 30 to 330 degrees and represents a good analogy for you to keep in mind as you go about developing strategies to resolve a problem, answer a question, or address an issue. Remember Fitzgerald’s observation about intelligence. Once you hear of an idea, challenge yourself to think about the spectrum of elements involved with this idea so that you can get a complete 360-degree view of the situation. Only then can you begin to think strategically.



Let’s take gun control as an example. As one of the most divisive issues in contemporary American society today, the typical debate involves being two dimensional: either you are for or against gun control as illustrated in the adjacent circle. Unfortunately, many topics today are split into this simple dichotomy. But American society is far more complex and as such, any strategic thinking involved with this topic should consider such complexities.

The Components of Thinking


For example, in his 2016 book, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, journalist Colin Woodward explores the cultural differences in American history and believes the United States is made up of 11 culturally disparate regions that could easily be their own unique countries, and the dynamic between these regions has shaped the American character11:

“The American effort to achieve consensus on the appropriate balance between individual and collective freedom is hampered by the simple fact that America is not a unitary society with a single set of broadly accepted cultural norms, like Japan, Sweden, or Hungary. It’s a contentious federation comprising eleven competing regional cultures, most of them centuries old, each with a different take on the balance between individual liberty and the common good.”12 11

C. Lynch. October, 2017. “America May Be More Divided Now Than at Anytime Since the Civil War.” Salon. -divided-now-than-at-any-time-since-the-civil-war/, (date accessed August 4, 2018). 12 Ibid.



As a result of these competing regional cultures, there is often a third component to many issues that I will label “conditional,” otherwise known as the “grey area.” Individuals who fall into the conditional category are neither for nor against a specific topic. They fall into the grey area and often consider the nuances involved. On the issue of gun control, a nuanced examination would involve supporting gun ownership, but only after certain conditions are met. Effective strategic thinkers and writers can often help build the bridge of consensus necessary for conditionals to agree. Conditionals delve into the nuances involved with a topic and seldom fall into the dichotomy of “for versus against.” The adjacent pie chart includes seven specific topics within the larger issue of gun control: 1. Age of gun owner; 2. Location to purchase a gun; 3. Restrictions on who can buy a gun; 4. Regulations at the state and federal levels; 5. Sales policy to purchase a gun; 6. The role of background checks; and 7. Types of permits required. If you subscribe to the “for versus against” dichotomy you will most likely ignore these specific topics. If you would like to think strategically about the larger issue of gun control, however, you will need to spend considerable time thinking about each of these concerns.

The Components of Thinking


For example, let’s say you are against guns. According to your thought process, no one should own a gun regardless of age, employment position, or other conditions. If that is the case, then you would agree with the following statements: • Women should never own a gun to protect themselves. • People who work in remote areas of the country, where emergency support would take a great deal of time to arrive, should not own a gun. • Celebrities should never own a gun to ward off stalkers. • Members of the military or police who retire should not be allowed to keep or own any firearms after they leave the service. Conducting this exercise will help you see the grey areas in most i­ssues. Remember that you are conducting an exercise with opposing ideas; some of which may be against what you believe. Strategic thinkers train themselves to be aware of as many sides of an issue as possible. If all you read, view, and see feeds into your current view on a topic, it will be rather difficult for you to think, act, or write strategically. A myopic view on any subject often illustrates a lack of thinking. Spend time and develop your ability to think strategically. Doing so will help you grow both personally and professionally. ----360 Degree Exercise Select a topic, other than gun control, and create a 360-degree view of the key concerns within that issue so that you can prepare to think and write strategically. Try to identify at least six conditions that are involved with the issue you select. The preceding gun ownership example had seven conditions.


Strategic Thinking Introduction As author Ellen F. Goldman noted in The Journal of Strategy and Management: There is widespread agreement that strategic thinking is important for the direction and sustainability of organizations, but is often absent or at least significantly lacking. The gap in practice is fueled by historical confusion of the concept among both scholars and practitioners, where the terms strategic thinking, strategic planning, and strategic management are used interchangeably, and strategic thinking is referred to as both a noun and a verb.1 Since strategic thinking serves as a prerequisite for strategic business writing, we will use the definition of strategic thinking as identified in Wikipedia as “a mental or thinking process applied by an individual in the context of resolving an issue, winning a game, or resolving a problem, strategic thinking includes finding and developing a strategic foresight capacity for an organization by exploring possibilities, while challenging conventional thinking to foster decision making today.” In 1963, General Andre Beaufre wrote that strategic thinking is a mental process, at once abstract and rational, which must be capable of synthesizing both psychological and material data. The strategist must have a great capacity for both analysis and synthesis—analysis is necessary 1

E. F. Goldman, A. R. Scott, and J. M. Follman. 2015. “Organizational Practices to Develop Strategic Thinking,” Journal of Strategy and Management 8, no. 2, pp. ­155–75. doi:10.1108/JSMA-01-2015-0003.



to assemble the data on which he makes his diagnosis, synthesis in order to produce from these data the diagnosis itself—and the diagnosis in fact amounts to a choice between alternative courses of action.2 To help you understand how strategic thinking differs from conventional thinking, consider practicing the 15 traits outlined in the following section.

Top 15 Traits of a Strategic Thinker To be strategic is to be innovative, resourceful, purposeful, and ­intentional, which is why so many top businesses use a strategic planning process to stay ahead of their competition. By thinking and planning strategically, professionals can also define a clear vision of their objectives, identify where the greatest opportunities lie, and create and implement an action plan geared for optimum results and success. If you want to become more strategic, practice one or more of the following 15 traits and habits.


Strategic thinkers

Conventional thinkers



Open networks

Closed networks

Long-term focus

Short-term focus

Willing to take risks

Risk averse

Able to prioritize

Unable to prioritize



Lifelong learners





Reliant on others







Encourage change

Maintain status quo

Growth mind-set

Fixed mind-set

Action based

Process based

A. Beaufre. 1965. An Introduction to Strategy (New York, NY: Frederick A. Prager).

Strategic Thinking


1. Future-based: With a strong knowledge of the past and an awareness of the present, strategic thinkers maintain their focus on a future they are able to create. Sometimes they are aware of challenges, but oftentimes they remain oblivious to issues that will arise. Ironically, it is often this lack of awareness that allows them to create the future they envision. Michael Smithson from the Australian National University said: “One of the positive things that comes from ignorance is freedom. To have personal freedom you need parts of your life and your future that you don’t know about, otherwise you’re not free to make choices. Ignorance sparks creativity, with scientists, artists and entrepreneurs all capitalizing on it.”3 2. Open networks: If you continuously connect with people from organizations outside your industry or field, you are more likely to be exposed to people from different backgrounds, levels of education, and areas of expertise. Strategic thinkers label this activity as creating an open network of connections that gives them access to ideas that they would not likely have had access to. Recent research suggests that having an open network is “challenging, because it requires assimilating different and conflicting perspectives into one worldview; but it’s the sparks that fly when people of different backgrounds and worldviews knock against one another that actually make open networks so valuable.”4 Additionally, multiple, peer-reviewed studies suggest that simply being in an open network, instead of a closed one, is the best predictor of career success. 3. Long-term focus: With one eye on the present, strategic thinkers keep a strong focus on the long-term impact. One long-term strategic thinker is Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. When thinking about launching Amazon back in 1994 as the Internet was just emerging, he used a regret minimization framework to think strategically. According to Bezos: “I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.’ And I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not 3

“Ignorance Really Can Be Bliss,” Australian National University, June 10, 2015. J.Stillman. January, 2016. “This is the Biggest Predictor of Career Success,” Inc.




going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.”5 4. Willing to take risks: Strategic thinkers understand the role of taking a calculated risk and do so, comfortable with not knowing the outcome. As Jeff Bezos said: “I raised $1 million from 20 investors, $50,000 each, they got 20% of the company for $1 million; 40 told me no. So I had to take 60 meetings to get 20 ‘Yes.’ First question was always ‘What is the internet?’ It was 1994, and early 1995. It has been one foot in front another, I think that is true for most businesses. You proceed adaptively, step by step, you figure it out, you have a success, then you double down on that success, you figure out what customers want.”6 5. Able to prioritize: Those with multiple projects happening simultaneously often need to use strategic thinking on a daily basis. Doing so requires one to prioritize tasks on a rolling basis from morning to night. Author Brian Tracy noted that, “Your ability to improve your organizational skills and prioritize tasks is a measure of your overall competence. The better the plan you have, even if as simple as creating a to-do list, the easier it is for you to overcome procrastination and get started, to eat that frog and keep going. One of your top goals at work should be for you to prioritize tasks by using your organizational skills to get the highest possible return on your investment of mental, emotional and physical energy.”7 6. Nimble: Changing direction, incorporating new information, and adapting to situations are all part of being nimble. To be engaged in strategic thinking requires you to remain flexible. Such flexibility is the cornerstone of identifying new solutions, answers, and strategies. In today’s hyper-competitive, ever-changing, and dynamic 5

J. Stillman. June, 2016. “How Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Made One of the Toughest Decisions of His Career,” Inc. 6 Ibid. 7 B. Tracy. “How to Prioritize Tasks with a To-Do List,” Brian Tracy Newsletter.

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global marketplace, strategic thinkers need to practice being nimble as much as possible in order to achieve and sustain growth. Being nimble is linked to survival. Remember, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself. 7. Lifelong learner: American journalist, satirist, and cultural critic H. L. Mencken wrote: “The human race is divided into two sharply differentiated classes—a small minority that plays with ideas and is capable of taking them in and a vast majority that finds them painful and is thus arrayed against them and against all who have traffic with them.”8 ­Unfortunately, research supports Mencken’s observation. Recent research suggests that “regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire.”9 Even though people may accept it on one level; ultimately they reject it because it makes them feel uncertain. Strategic thinkers, however, commit to lifelong learning in order to practice being as open-minded as possible. 8. Creative: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is arguably one of the most accomplished strategic thinkers today, and he clearly understands the importance of creativity. Bloomberg was fired from Salomon Brothers in 1981, in part because no one accepted his creative idea of financial data analysis and presenting it in real time. As Bloomberg noted, “Back then, most financial professionals didn’t know how to use a computer, much less have one on their desk. Organizations resist creativity and innovation and those that do inevitably fail because people are more comfortable with what they know than with what they do not.”10 8

H. L. Mencken. June, 1925. “Homo Neanderthalensis,” The Baltimore Evening Sun. D. Burkus. 2013. The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass). 10 Forbes, “Greatest Living Business Minds,” no date. https://www.forbes .com/100-greatest-business-minds 9



9. Self-reliant: Engaging in strategic thinking, planning, and writing does indeed require collaboration, but it is anchored in self-reliance. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”11 Strategic thinkers try to figure out a way to move forward as they stay focused on their goal. 10. Focused: Staying focused in today’s hyper-connected world challenges even the most disciplined strategic thinkers. Remembering Pareto’s Principle can help. Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noted the 80/20 connection in 1896. The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Essentially, Pareto showed that approximately 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Focus on the 20 percent to drive results.12 11. Intuition: Colin Powell, former head of U.S. military forces and former secretary of state, remains one of the most adroit and skilled strategic thinkers in modern times. His leadership theories are a subject of study by many scholars and practiced by many of his admirers in the military and in public and private sectors, too. When it comes to making strategic decisions, Powell says that we need between 40 and 70 percent of the total information to make a decision. He believes that with less than 40 percent of information, we are bound to make a wrong decision. At the same time, if we keep looking for information 11

R. Waldo Emerson. 1841. “Self-Reliance.” F. John Reh. April, 2018. “Understanding Pareto’s Principle-The 80-20 Rule,” The Balance Careers. 12

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beyond 70 percent, we may miss the opportunity. It will then be too late to act. According to Dr. Steven Anderson, a leadership author and analyst, we as human beings can tap into intuition to fill in the rest of 30 percent gap between the 70 percent information that we get and all the information required to make a decision. We need to trust our guts. Our intuition or guts come in handy to help make good decisions in spite of having less than complete information. 12. Results: Author Napoleon Hill noted: “The most mediocre idea acted upon is far more valuable than a flash of genius that resides only in your mind.”13 Strategic thinkers focus on results. Even though they lack some information, they are willing to take the risk and learn from implementing their idea. They are comfortable with failing and know they can learn from the experience. If they hold on to their idea they will never know if they can successfully translate theory into practice. On its web page, the consulting company Deloitte wrote that, “In a rapidly changing world, workgroups don’t have time to react to developments; members need to increase decision-making velocity without cumbersome approval processes, taking actions quickly and learning from each one.”14 13. Encourage change: Thinking differently to encourage change allows strategic thinkers to increase their ability to find innovative solutions. As Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen concluded, from their study of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and executives, almost anyone who consistently makes the effort to think differently can do so. Individuals labeled as innovators of new businesses, products, and processes spend almost 50 percent more time trying to think differently as compared to non-innovators. 14. Growth mind-set: Contrary to public belief, earning an MBA from an elite university is not the fastest way to reach the corner office. With an understanding that professional development is directly linked to 13

H. Lui. January, 2016. “This Principle from Amazon’s Team will Change Your Life,” Medium. 14 John Hagel, et. al., “Bias Towards Action,” Deloitte, January 31, 2018. https:// p rioritize-action-over-discussion.html



personal growth, strategic thinkers maintain a growth mind-set and challenge themselves to grow and learn throughout their career. In one study of 2,600 CEOs, three different growth mind-set strategies were used: (1) they move into a smaller role, (2) they “take a big leap,” and (3) they inherit a mess. Of the CEOs, 97 percent undertook at least one of these catapult experiences, and close to 50 percent had at least two. As Elena Lytkina Botelho and her colleagues noted in a Harvard Business Review article: “The catapults are so powerful that even people in our study who never aspired to become CEO ultimately landed the position by pursuing one or more of these strategies.” 15. Action based: Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright who spent most of his life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Picasso demonstrated e­ xtraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a naturalistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the twentieth century, his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. As Picasso said, “inspiration exists but it has to find you working.” Strategic thinkers like Picasso are action based.

The Need to Think Differently Successful people understand that translating dreams into reality often involves the need to think differently. Life in the twenty-first century certainly challenges individuals to think differently about everything. We need to implement the process of thinking differently in our lives so that we become adaptable to the changes ahead. Amid today’s ongoing disruptive developments, it is important to remind ourselves that “the truth about change is that we tend to overestimate its speed while underestimating its reach.”15 In order for individuals to succeed today, as author Youngme Moon noted, they “need a fresh set of insights, not a fresh set of 15

J. J. Selingo. 2013. College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students. Las Vegas, NV: Amazon Publishing.

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instructions.”16 But thinking differently, and moving away from the usual way of doing things, approach to life and work is a formidable challenge. Brian Kapler noted in the Harvard Business Review “people often refuse to relinquish their deep-seated beliefs even when presented with overwhelming evidence to contradict those beliefs.”17 As author Paul Arden wrote in his 2006 book Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite, people are trapped not because they make the wrong decisions, it’s because they make the right ones. According to Arden, “We try to make sensible decisions based on the facts in front of us. The problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everyone else.” As the current research indicates, both genetics and environment impact one’s ability to think differently. Harvard psychologist Shelley H. Carson explains that creativity is an activity open to everyone both at home and at work. Scientists, investors, artists, writers, and musicians are just a few of the many occupations that benefit from creativity. Teachers, engineers, and health-care professionals can all benefit from developing their creativity. Unfortunately, many adults limit their creative thinking. Carson reported in her book, Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life, that 60 to 80 percent of adults find the task of thinking differently uncomfortable and some even find it exhausting. Connecting the unconnected through associational thinking exhausts adults who have lost the creative skills once practiced throughout childhood. Unfortunately, the process of maturing from childhood to adulthood involves growing up in an environment that punishes anyone who thinks differently at home or at school. As Sir Ken Robinson noted in his 2006 TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity?: “People grow out of creativity; they get educated out of it.” Education demands conformity and often runs counter to creativity that requires an individual to pursue a novel idea. Thinking differently requires someone to leave the “usual way of doing things,” while risking failure, ridicule, and nonconformity. That exposure is very anxiety provoking for many people. In addition to the 16

Y. Moon. 2010. Different: Escaping the Competitive Heard. New York, NY: Crown Business. 17 B. Kapler. 2013. “Free Yourself from Conventional Thinking,” Harvard Business ­Review.



research on the anxiety related to thinking differently, there is also substantial new work in the field of neuroscience. Neuroscience research during the last few years suggests that the right brain/left brain distinction fails to provide a comprehensive picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain. The belief that the left brain is realistic, analytical, practical, organized, and logical, while the right brain is creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic is becoming less unassailable as more research is conducted. In short, the latest research suggests that no one side of the brain has a monopoly on creativity. “The entire creative process, from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification, consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions.”18 Many different brain regions work together during the creativity process. Recent evidence suggests that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”19 For those individuals who claim they are too left-brained to be creative, this new research challenges them to think differently about how they think. Highly creative people who think differently have figured out that failure is a learning experience and, as such, is a necessary and expected part of future success. So, while roughly one-third of anyone’s capacity for innovation comes from genetic endowment, two-thirds of it is still driven by the environment. As Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen concluded, from their study of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and executives, almost anyone who consistently makes the effort to think differently can do so. Individuals labeled as innovators of new businesses, products, and processes spend almost 50 percent more time trying to think differently as compared to non-innovators. Two examples of individuals who thought differently and changed their respective worlds were high jumper Dick Fosbury and skier Émile Allais. In the nineteenth century, track-and-field athletes jumped over a horizontal bar for an event called the high jump. Athletes jumped over the bar using a straight-on approach or a scissoring of the legs technique 18

J. H. Dyer, H. Gregersen, and C. M. Christensen. December 2009. “Entrepreneurship The Innovator’s DNA,” Harvard Business Review. 19 “Large Scale Brain Networks,” Wikipedia, brain_networks

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as the jumper landed in sawdust landing pits. With advancements in the landing pads, jumpers started to implement the Western roll technique where the inner leg is used for the takeoff while the outer leg is thrust up to lead the body sideways over the bar. While athletes worked on improving their performance, Dick Fosbury—from Portland, Oregon—eventually discovered a new technique during the 1960s that would revolutionize the event. Fosbury started jumping over bars in the fifth grade using the scissor kick technique and cleared 3 feet 10 inches. In high school, despite the dire warnings of every coach who watched him, he invented the ‘Fosbury Flop’ and reached 6 feet 7 inches. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in front of 80,000 spectators, the 21-year-old Fosbury cleared a record breaking 7 feet 4 1/4 inches.20 After applying the Western roll technique for the early part of his career, ­Fosbury took advantage of the raised, softer landing areas and leveraged such developments to think differently. During his running approach, he directed himself over the bar head and shoulders first, sliding over on his back and landing in a fashion that would likely have broken his neck in the old, sawdust landing pits. During Fosbury’s early days of practicing his new technique at the University of Oregon, people said that his approach was unnecessary. The usual way of jumping over the bar was good enough. His approach went against the best practices of high jumping. Luckily, Fosbury ignored those early critics and went on to establish a new way of thinking and jumping. Émile Allais also ignored critics with his revolutionary approach to skiing. Allais was a daring champion French skier who helped shape his sport by developing and popularizing a new style of skiing in the 1930s, with skis parallel to each other rather than angled inward in a V shape. The French Skiing Federation adopted that as its official style. Skiers all over the world, like high jumpers with the Fosbury Flop, started to use the parallel method of skiing. Simply by changing the position of his legs and skis, Allais helped promote a more smooth, efficient, and fun form of skiing. Jean-Claude Killy, the French skier who dominated the sport in the late 1960s, credited Allais for teaching him to take risks and hailed 20

J. Durso. 1968. “Fearless Fosbury Flops to Glory,” The New York Times. http:// .html?scp=7&sq=1968&st=cse, (date accessed February 17, 2018).



­ llais as “the father of modern skiing.” Allais often challenged the status A quo and did a somersault in an event and landed on his skis without losing time. The New York Times once described him as “a congenital candidate for the suicide club” and marveled at how he often seemed to be out of control before miraculously recovering. He impressed competitors so much that a German skier once called Allais “the greatest all-around skier the world has ever known.” But exactly how does one go about learning to think differently? How does one challenge the status quo and help people develop new mental models? The act of thinking differently is not the same as learning how to do so. To find that answer we now turn to a more philosophical approach involving the concept of ending thought. It is only when we clear our minds that we can see clearly. Such clarity will then permit us to not only think differently but also accept such thoughts as viable options to whatever it is we are trying to accomplish. Ending thought is underappreciated, overlooked, and misunderstood. Let’s take a moment to learn what it means and the value it has within the art of strategic thinking.

Ending Thought Jiddu Krishnamurti was a philosopher, speaker, and writer. He studied psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and how to bring about radical change in society. He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasized that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.21 Ending thought was just one of the many topics he discussed throughout his life. By “ending thought” he did not mean to stop thinking altogether. Ending thought meant to clear one’s mind of the clutter in order to see, think, and process clearly. It is difficult to engage in thinking, if our brains are filled with noise. Many people were confused upon hearing of Krishnamurti’s concept of ending thought. Some discredited it and defined it as Oriental nonsense. Scholars believe that thought is the highest form of intelligence and 21

Visit for more information.

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action, the very salt of life and, therefore, indispensable. Thought has created civilizations and allowed man to make progress in the arts, sciences, and in business. The opposite of thinking would suggest that people are asleep, in a vegetative state, or daydreaming. Krishnamurti sought to educate those who misunderstood him. For Krishnamurti, thought is the response of memory, the past. The past can be defined as something that happened eons or a moment ago. When thought acts, it is this past which is acting as memory, as experience, or as knowledge. Any thinking in the present is based on this past and directed toward pleasure or the avoidance of pain. When thought is functioning it is the past, therefore there is no new living at all; it is the past living in the present, modifying itself and the present. So there is nothing new in life lived that way, and when something new is to be found there must be the absence of the past, the mind must not be cluttered with thought, fear, pleasure, or anything else. As Krishnamurti wrote: “Only when the mind is uncluttered can the new come into being, and for this reason we say that thought must be still, operating only when it has to—objectively, efficiently. All continuity is thought; when there is continuity there is nothing new. Do you see how important this is? It’s really a question of life itself. Either you live in the past, or you live totally differently: that is the whole point.”22 To live totally differently than those whose thoughts are stuck in the past, one needs to recognize that the brain is the source of thought. To think requires substantial work. To think strategically requires even more work. As Krishnamurti wrote: “The brain is matter and thought is matter. Can the brain—with all its reactions and its immediate responses to every challenge and demand—can that brain be very still? It is not a question of ending thought, but of whether the brain can be completely still. Can it act with full capacity when necessary and otherwise be still? This stillness is not physical death. See what happens when the brain is completely still. See what happens.”23 When the brain is still, one can see clearly. Then, and only then, can you begin to think strategically. 22

J. Krishnamurti, “The Urgency of Change ‘Ending Thought,’” http://jiddu-­, no date. 23 Ibid.



A Profile in Strategy #3: Doug Pederson Strategic thinking often involves asking the question “Is there something more than this?” Doug Pederson, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL) engaged in strategic thinking and forever altered his life and that of Eagles fans everywhere. In only his second year as a NFL head coach, Pederson guided the Eagles to a Super Bowl Championship. After 14 years of playing football, Pederson retired but was ­unsure if he wanted to coach. He thought he’d try it to see if he liked it, and so and his family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. He applied for the football coaching job at Calvary Baptist Academy, an 800-student ­K-through-12 school, where he took his sons to school every day. Pederson, in a Sports Illustrated interview reflecting upon his four years at Baptist, said: “I was extremely happy coaching and mentoring young men. Thinking back on those four years, it taught me a bigger lesson. I wondered, Can I teach football? Can I coach football? The advice that I was getting from some of my coaches and peers was, you need to go find out if you can teach and coach. Do you like the journey? Do you like the process?”24 Pederson liked coaching. And he liked coaching high school football. He started to understand the game from a different perspective. That perspective, when coupled with his love of coaching, allowed him an opportunity to ask himself one critical question. As Pederson said “After that fourth year, I just started thinking, ‘There’s got to be something more than this.’ That’s when I reached out to Andy Reid.”25 Pederson had played under Reid, who offered his former player the job as offensive quality control coordinator. Pederson took that job and would eventually follow Reid to Kansas City and became the offensive coordinator there. In 2016, Pederson returned to Philadelphia as the Eagles’ new head coach. If Pederson had not asked himself “Is there something more than this?” during his time coaching high school, the Eagles may not have been Super Bowl champions. 24

P. King, January, 2018. “His Career Forged in Darkness, Eagles Coach Doug ­Pederson Ready for Spotlight of Super Bowl 52,” Sports Illustrated. 25 Ibid.

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Thinking Exercise #3: The Milkshake Exercise Objective: Assess your level of awareness as it relates to connecting with others. Directions: Read the statement below and answer the questions. In How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton Christensen shares the story of a fast-food restaurant chain that wanted to improve its m ­ ilkshake sales. The company started by segmenting its market both by product (milkshakes) and by demographics (a marketers’ profile of a typical ­milkshake drinker). Next, the marketing department asked people who fit the demographic to list the characteristics of an ideal milkshake (thick, thin, chunky, smooth, fruity, chocolaty, etc.). The would-be customers answered as honestly as they could, and the company responded to the feedback. But alas, milkshake sales did not improve. The company then enlisted the help of one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the job “that customers were hiring” a milkshake to do. First, he spent a full day in one of the chains’ restaurants, carefully documenting who was buying milkshakes, when they bought them, and whether they drank them on the premises. He discovered that 40percent of the milkshakes were purchased in the morning by people who were generally by themselves and had a long commute to work. The next morning, he returned to the restaurant and interviewed customers who left with milkshake in hand, asking them what was the job they had hired the milkshake to do. “Most of them, it turned out, bought [the milkshake] to do a similar job,” he writes. “They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more ­interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.” The milkshake was hired in lieu of a bagel or doughnut because it was relatively tidy and appetite-quenching, and because trying to suck a thick liquid through a thin straw gave customers something to do on their boring commute. Understanding the job requirement, the company could



then respond by creating a morning milkshake that was even thicker (to last through a long commute), and more interesting (with chunks of fruit) than its predecessor. The chain could also respond to a separate job that some customers needed milkshakes to do: serve as a special treat for young children—without making the parents wait half an hour as the children tried to work the milkshake through a straw. In that case, a different, thinner milkshake was in order.26 When marketing yourself to others, learn to apply lessons from the milkshake story and ask others what jobs they need done. Doing so can help you figure out if what they have available is a good fit with the type of work you are looking for. To use an analogy from this story, perhaps the organization is looking for a bagel but you have yogurt to offer.

Questions 1. Write down a situation you faced in the last few weeks, where you hired someone to fill a specific need (and no, we are not talking about hiring a plumber to fix a leak). What lessons can you take away from this observation? 2. Write down a situation where someone hired you to fill a specific need. What lessons can you take away from this observation?


“Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing,” Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge, February 14, 2011.


The Process of Strategic Thinking Until now, we have discussed strategic thinking in a generic sense. Starting with this chapter and throughout the rest of the book, we will shift to the specifics involved with writing strategically. Before starting a strategic writing assignment, review some of the information covered in the first three chapters. Refresh your memory regarding cognitive biases, fallacies, and mental models so you avoid making any of those in your writing. Note that writing strategically requires a good deal of preparation, time, and effort. It will take years to demonstrate a high level of proficiency. Please understand that while going into the process. When given an assignment that involves critical thinking, either at school or work, do allow yourself enough time to conduct the research, think through the process, and then write a clear, concise, and compelling memo.

The Starting Point “The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing that one exists.” While many people claim ownership to this quote, one thing remains clear: you cannot write a strategic business paper without recognizing the problem. Doing so correctly allows you to set the stage for a clear, concise, and compelling presentation of your solution. Defining the problem incorrectly generally serves as a distraction to the reader, and often discounts any potential solutions you present in the paper. To ensure your piece of strategic writing provides a strong starting point, follow these three steps and answer the following questions within the first paragraph or two.



Step 1. What is the problem? Step 2. What are the causes of the problem? Step 3. What is the extent of the problem? Step 1: What is the problem? Clearly define the problem so the reader understands it fully. Write as if the reader is a fifth-grade student. Follow the simple rule of “if you can’t explain it to a fifth grader, you don’t understand it yourself.” Example: “While technology is currently providing more information and resources than ever, an overabundance of screen time is detrimental to the social and physical health of all human beings, especially children under the age of 18.” This is the first sentence in the opening paragraph of a six-page paper. From the very beginning the reader understands the problem under review in the paper: “screen time for children under 18.” The author provides additional supporting evidence in subsequent paragraphs. Step 2: What are the causes of the problem? Identify the causes of the problem. Articulate the causes of the problem immediately after you define the problem. Doing so provides a focus for the reader. If you abruptly state the problem without explaining the causes (step 2), or illustrating the extent of the problem (step 3), you risk losing the reader from the very beginning of your paper. Since most problems often have multiple causes, and there are constraints in space, identify just one or two causes clearly and succinctly for the reader. Example: “Children are becoming addicted to technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions from birth. Due to all the benefits regarding resources, information, and staying connected through social media, 65% of people in the United States have a smart device, or eventually gets one. Seeing their parents constantly utilizing technology creates an internal craving in children for technology. Parents tend to feed into this craving by giving

The Process of Strategic Thinking


children devices such as tablets and cellphones to keep them quiet or occupied, since it is the easiest way to divert a child’s attention. Parents also use technological devices as incentives for children, which only intensifies the technology addiction. What parents may not realize, however, is that they are depriving their children of opportunities to develop certain social skills that require the absence of technology use.” Step 3: What is the extent of the problem? After you have defined the problem and its causes, the third step in the starting point requires you to illustrate the extent of it. Illustrating the extent of the problem sets up the next component of your white paper that requires you to state a goal that would result in a resolution to the problem identified. Example: “While the time children spend staring at screens can be controlled or monitored by parents, this excessive screen time is a consequence of constant technological advancements. According to statistics updated in May of 2017 by the Minnesota Department of Health, ‘more than 60% of children under two use screen media, and 43% watch television every day.’ The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “estimates that American children spend a whopping seven hours a day in front of electronic media.’”

Goals After you have clearly articulated the starting point of your strategic business writing by identifying the problem, its causes and extent, you will then need to define a goal. Like most words the term “goal” has a wide spectrum of definitions and meaning. For this exercise, and in this text, the term goal is interchangeable with objective. Goals and objectives are one in the same. Some people differentiate the two, but that often confuses the process. You outline the problem, and then you state a goal to reach in order to resolve that problem. The process remains easy, while the execution often complex.



Just as there are different types of thinking, there are different types of goals. Some of the more common types of goals are: • • • •

Long-term and short-term goals Stretch goals SMART goals Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)

Long-Term Goals and Short-Term Goals The names of those are pretty self-explanatory. A long-term goal is something you want to do in the not so near future. Long-term goals require time and planning. They are not something you can do this week or this year. Long-term goals often require more than a year to achieve. For example, earning a four-year college degree takes, well, four years. On the other hand, a short-term goal is something you want to do in the near future. That means today, this week, this month, or by the end of this year. A short-term goal is something you want to accomplish soon. A short-term goal is a goal you can achieve in, at the most, 12 months. Earning a passing grade in this semester’s history class is a short-term goal.

The Process of Strategic Thinking


Stretch Goals Stretch goals inspire us to think big and remind us to focus on the big picture. They require extending oneself to the limit to be realized. They represent a challenge that is significantly beyond the individual’s current performance level. Stretch goals energize and push you to work more intelligently and harder at meeting what seems to be more difficult targets and to accomplish more than if you had set an easier goal. When you set a stretch goal for yourself, you know that you may not meet it 100 ­percent, but by moving in this direction you will likely achieve extraordinary results. SMART Goals The acronym SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. They help us form a plan of actions in translate a goal into reality. SMART goal setting brings clarity, structure, and trackability to your goals. • Specific—exactly what it is that you want to achieve. • Measurable—you must be able to track progress and measure the result of your goal. • Achievable—you should see the way to achieve your goal by taking certain steps. • Realistic—the goal should be realistic and relevant to your stretch goal. Make sure the actions you need to take to achieve your goal are things within your control. • Time-bound—your goal must have a deadline. BHAGs BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, an idea conceptualized in the book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras. According to Collins and Porras, a BHAG is a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’s existence. BHAGs are meant to change how we do business, the way we are ­perceived in the industry, and possibly even the industry itself. Collins and



Porras describe BHAGs on a corporate level as nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside a comfort zone and displaying corporate commitment, confidence, and even a bit of arrogance. A BHAG is usually a 10+ year forward-looking goal that describes your future. It should stretch you and guide you, while helping you determine what to say yes and no to, as you progress to accomplish your goals. A BHAG can also be a personal vision statement. Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? What are some bold or daring things you’d like to accomplish? Three BHAG examples: • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home. • SpaceX: Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars. • Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Strategies Your strategy, detailed in the white paper, must clearly explain a plan of action to achieve the specific goal you described. To create viable strategies from which to choose, use the following three-step process: Step 1: Brainstorm Step 2: Prioritize Step 3: Decide Let’s say you need to identify a new coffee supplier at your office. Much bigger problems exist in the world, but your boss gave you this task. Even a task as small as this can benefit from strategic thinking. Step 1: Brainstorming might result in the following strategies as potential options: 1. Purchase a “Bean to Cup” machine. 2. Purchase a machine that uses k-cups. 3. Have an employee go to a store each morning to pick up everyone’s order.

The Process of Strategic Thinking


4. Hire someone go to a store each morning to pick up everyone’s order. 5. Ask people to bring in their own coffee. 6. Hire a coffee supplier to set up a cart in the office building. For assistance on learning how to develop brainstorming ideas, see the chapter entitled “Red Ocean v. Blue Ocean.” Step 2: Prioritize the results of your brainstorming based on a specific criterion. For this example, we will use cost as the criterion that allows us to prioritize the six options. 1. Ask people to bring in their own coffee (no cost to company). 2. Have an employee go to a store each morning to pick up everyone’s order (indirect cost to company in lost productive work time for pick-up employee). 3. Purchase a machine that uses k-cups (~$200 up front and $100 monthly). 4. Purchase a “Bean to Cup” machine (~$900 up front and $400 monthly). 5. Hire someone go to a store each morning to pick up ­everyone’s order (~$800 monthly). 6. Hire a coffee supplier to set up a cart in the office building (~$1,200 monthly). Step 3: Deciding on a specific strategy does not necessarily mean that you select the item at the top of your priority list. For this example, the company CEO passes on the first two strategies (1. ask people to bring in their own coffee or 2. have an employee go to a store each morning to pick up everyone’s order). The CEO believes in treating her people to free coffee and purchasing a new machine that uses k-cups remains the most affordable option for her among the remaining four options. To help with the selection process, many people will review the tactics involved with each strategy. The next section will explain tactics and their relationship to strategies. Understanding the decision-making process will serve as a useful tool when people read your white paper and ask you how you determined your strategy. A mature strategic thinker



and writer will incorporate the other strategies considered in any conversation about the white paper. Intelligently discussing how you selected a strategy among many ideas remains one of the reasons why writing a clear, concise, and compelling white paper takes time to develop, several draft attempts, and substantial editing.

Tactics During the decision-making process of selecting a strategy, tactics are often included as part of the evaluation process. The easiest way to remember the difference between strategies and tactics is that: strategies help you achieve the goal, while tactics allow you to implement the strategies. This process provides you with an efficient and effective means of thinking and writing strategically. Let’s take a look at one example. One strategy under consideration, and ultimately selected, was: “­Purchase a machine that uses k-cups (~$200 up front and $100 monthly)” To fully understand this strategy you will need to list all of the tactics involved with implementation. NOTE: When you are deciding on a strategy, it is very ­important not to dismiss a strategy as you are thinking about all of the tactics involved. It is at this point in the process that some people will dismiss a strategy as quickly as it is placed on the table as an idea because they are thinking of all of the work involved. As noted earlier in the strategies section, remain open to considering all strategies, and their tactics, prior to making a decision. How quickly you make a decision is a critical component of your decisionmaking process. Here are eight of the tactics involved with the strategy “Purchase a machine that uses k-cups (~$200 up front and $100 monthly)”: 1. Research the different machines. 2. Identify a location for the machine. 3. Determine which k-cups to order. 4. Define the inventory of k-cups required. 5. Create a schedule of ordering new k-cups. 6. Decide who will oversee the machine and supplies. 7. Figure out what department/s will pay for the machine and supplies. 8. Locate a supplier for the machine and supplies.

The Process of Strategic Thinking


Some strategic thinkers will detail all the tactics involved with each proposed strategy prior to making a decision. Over time you will figure out the best way for you to think strategically, but this guide can help you get started.

Strategies and Tactics in Business To better understand the application of strategies and tactics, let’s examine the IBM 2018 Survey of C-Suite Executives. The majority of C-suite executives will proclaim that survival today requires constant reinvention. As noted in the survey report, “Remaking the enterprise is not a matter of timing but of continuity. What’s required, now more than ever, is the fortitude for perpetual reinvention. It’s a matter of seeking and championing change even when the status quo happens to be working well. As new opportunities—some of them disruptive—emerge, the organizations that remain open to change can orchestrate advantage.”1 The following series of strategies and related tactics included in the IBM report offer executives a few options to consider, as they look for ways to reinvent their organizations. 1. Strategy #1: Interrogate your environment a. Tactic #1: Remain on high-alert and avoid complacency about past successes: Actively scan the business landscape for disruptive change coming from industry incumbents, including those in adjacent industries. b. Tactic #2: Design and play a new offense: Boldly evaluate, experiment, and engage with new business models, industry-shaping platforms, and ecosystem strategies that you could adopt to significant advantage. c. Tactic #3: Get even closer: Create opportunities for frequent and intense interactions with customers, partners, and competitors. Test existing assumptions and drive totally new strategies.


IBM, C-Suite Study, 2018. Visit for report.



2. Strategy #2: Commit with frequency a. Tactic #1: Divest to invest: Act quickly against the possibility of disruption by adopting a fluid capital reallocation mind-set. ­Frequent capital reallocation from low to high potential opportunities should be an agile exercise. b. Tactic #2: Invest for new growth: Create market-shaping and capability-building investments that inject innovation, new talent, and technologies into your enterprise. c. Tactic #3: Prioritize advocacy and co-creation over advertising: Maximize investments that build customer trust and brand value. 3. Strategy #3: Experiment deliberately a. Tactic #1: Seek innovation over institutionalization: Don’t solidify a competitive advantage; it’s likely fleeting. Expect it to be transitory and start working on the next audacious opportunity. b. Tactic #2: Write new rules: To create a more open and collaborative culture, look for ways to challenge traditional norms. c. Tactic #3: Find energy in motion: Create new motion through continuous innovation, but don’t dismiss the potential to benefit from others’ ideas. Find opportunities to co-create with customers, partners, and even competitors. For the complete IBM report visit insights/c-suite-study

The Strategic Planning Outline Template (SPOT) The adjacent image is called a Strategic Planning Outline Template (SPOT). SPOT provides you an opportunity to create a simple overview for your six-page paper. Presenting a clear, concise, and compelling piece of strategic business writing demands that you design a strong strategic planning outline. Use this template for every piece of strategic business thinking, planning, or writing. Photocopy this page or simply diagram this outline on a blank sheet of paper. SPOT consists of four separate, yet equally important, elements. This chapter explains each of the following four elements in greater detail.

The Process of Strategic Thinking


• Current situation/problem: this box in the upper left-hand corner allows you to identify your topic. • Goal: the Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goal you have in mind. • Strategy: the strategic imperative that you will use to accomplish your goal. If you want to, you should consider listing the other strategies you thought about using on the right of the strategy box. • Tactics: the steps required to help you accomplish your strategy. In a six-page memo three tactics would suffice. There is no steadfast rule here so the number of tactics discussed will be up to you. As a rule of thumb, two would be a minimum and four would be a maximum. This SPOT will help you see your strategic thinking in a very clear fashion. Once outlined, review your SPOT with someone and see if that person can follow your logic where you identify a problem, set a goal to resolve that problem, create a strategy to implement to achieve your goal, and then develop a series of tactics to help you implement the s­trategy. For more information on each of the four elements of SPOT, review this chapter.



Understanding Blue v. Red Ocean Strategies Blue Ocean Strategy is a marketing theory from a 2005 book entitled Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors and codirectors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and 30 industries, Kim and Mauborgne argue that companies can succeed by creating “blue oceans” of uncontested market space, as opposed to “red oceans” where competitors fight for dominance, the analogy being that an ocean full of vicious competition turns red with blood. They assert that these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees, while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant. The book presents analytical frameworks and tools to foster an organization’s ability to systematically create and capture blue oceans. An updated edition of Blue Ocean Strategy was published in February, 2015. Kim and Mauborgne argue that while traditional competitionbased strategies (red ocean strategies) are necessary, they are not sufficient to sustain high performance. Companies need to go beyond competing with each other. To seize new profit and growth opportunities, they also need to create blue oceans. The authors argue that competition-based strategies assume that an industry’s structural conditions are given and that firms are forced to compete within them, an assumption based on what academics call the structuralist view, or environmental determinism. To sustain themselves in the marketplace, practitioners of red ocean strategy focus on building advantages over the competition, usually by assessing what competitors do and striving to do it better. Here, grabbing a bigger share of the market is seen as a zero-sum game in which one company’s gain is achieved at another company’s loss. Hence, competition, the supply side of the equation, becomes the defining variable of strategy. Here, cost and value are seen as trade-offs, and a firm chooses a distinctive cost or differentiation position. Because the total profit level of the industry is also determined by structural factors, firms principally seek to capture and redistribute

The Process of Strategic Thinking


wealth instead of creating wealth. They focus on dividing up the red ocean, where growth is increasingly limited. Blue ocean strategy, on the other hand, is based on the view that market boundaries and industry structure are not fixed and can be reconstructed by the actions and beliefs of industry players. This is what the authors call the reconstructionist view. Assuming that structure and market boundaries exist only in managers’ minds, practitioners who hold this view do not let existing market structures limit their thinking. For them, extra demand is out there, largely untapped. The crux of the problem is how to create it. This, in turn, requires a shift of attention from supply to demand, from a focus on competing to a focus on value innovation—that is, the creation of innovative value to unlock new demand. This is achieved via the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost. As market structure is changed by breaking the value/cost trade-off, so are the rules of the game. Competition as in the old game is therefore rendered irrelevant. By expanding the demand side of the economy, new wealth is created. Such a strategy therefore allows firms to largely play a non-zero-sum game, with high payoff possibilities. Starbucks remains of the most successful organizations to employ a blue ocean strategy: Starbucks entered a historically crowded marketplace, the coffee shop industry. However, it found its way to success through the blue ocean strategy. Starbucks separated itself from the competition by combining differentiation, low cost, and a customer-oriented approach from the beginning of its operation. Starbucks also focused on maximizing its brand’s exposure, rather than in solely focusing on itself as just another coffee shop. In terms of differentiation, Starbucks offered a variety of products, such as smoothies, teas, and coffees that no other establishment was offering. By training specialized staff, the company operated with less staff than would usually be needed. S­ tarbucks also championed professionalism and excellent customer service, for ­example, offering personalized coffee cups. To enhance the customer ­experience, Starbucks changed the furnishings in their stores, creating a comfortable environment that persuades their customers to spend more time in store.



Strategy Canvas Strategic thinkers and writers use a variety of tools to help them craft clear, concise, and compelling stories. The strategy canvas that represents a visual representation of the current market is one such tool. Arriving at an original thought remains the cornerstone of strategic thinking. To do that, however, one needs to scan the current situation, identify how the current market is similar, and then suggest a new idea to implement. To identify a blue ocean strategy that makes the competition irrelevant, here are the steps involved with creating a strategy canvas. You should try to create a strategy canvas for any of the six-page memos you write. • Step 1: Define the marketplace you need to assess. (e.g., fast-food restaurants that focus on chicken). • Step 2: Identify at least three of the current players in the marketplace. (e.g., Chick-fil-A, KFC, and Popeyes). • Step 2: Select a shape to represent each player (e.g., a circle represents Company A, a triangle represents Company B, and so on). • Step 3: List the dynamics currently driving the marketplace. (e.g., pricing is often a very common dynamic driving the fast-food marketplace). • Step 4: Place the shape related to each player in relation to how close or far it is to the other players. In the adjacent strategic ­canvas provided here the topic is fast-food restaurants that focus on chicken only. You will see that the three shapes represent Chick-fil-A, KFC, and Popeyes. Since they each have similar pricing, all three shapes are close together on the canvas. NOTE: The canvas does not use a high or low ranking. The objective is to have a visualization of the relationship between the players and the current dynamics driving the market. Identify at least five or more dynamics for your canvas. • Step 5: On the right side of the canvas, draw a vertical line. This is where strategic thinking is involved. Identify that one dynamic that will help you create a blue ocean strategy and make the competition irrelevant. See the next page for an example of a strategy canvas.




A Profile in Strategy #4: The Blue Ocean Strategy of Starbucks After operating Starbucks for 15 years, the original owners sold the small coffee shop with just six stores to former manager Howard Schultz with a vision to expand across the globe. It was during this time that Howard Schultz went searching for investors who believed in his vision. Of the 242 investors Schultz talked with, 217 rejected him. In Life Entrepreneurs, ­Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek wrote about the time when Schultz’s fatherin-law visited him during this 200 plus rejections. As Schultz recalls, “He asked me to go for a walk. I knew what was coming. We sat down on a park bench. As God is my witness this is exactly what happened. He says: ‘I don’t want to be disrespectful but I want you to see the picture I’m looking at. My daughter is seven months pregnant and her husband doesn’t have a job, just a hobby. I want to ask you in a heartfelt way, with real respect, to get a job.’ I started to cry, I was so embarrassed. We went back to the house and I really believed it was going to be over. That night in the privacy of our bedroom, I told my wife the story. I was so disappointed. Not angry, disappointed. She was the one that said: ‘No, we’re going to do it. We’ll raise the money.’ If she’d said: ‘He’s right,’ it would have been over. I’m sure of it.”2 With a tremendous belief in his vision and a relentless amount of perseverance, Schultz convinced enough investors to give him the money he needed and soon Starbucks opened its first locations outside Seattle at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Chicago, Illinois. By 1989 Schultz had opened 46 stores across the Northwest and Midwest. Today there are over 20,000 Starbucks locations around the globe. As Schultz observed, “I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see and pursuing that vision.” Schultz launched Starbucks as an international brand by using the blue ocean strategy and positioning his coffee shop as the “third place,” where people could go to besides home and work. Doing so revolutionized our way of living, working, and interacting with others. 2

Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek, Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, Jossey-Bass, New York, 2008.

The Process of Strategic Thinking


Thinking Exercise #4: How Good Do You Want to Be? All you have to do is answer one question: “So how good do you want to be?” Only you can answer this question. Take your time. Do some research and figure out if you want to be quite good, the best in the world, or somewhere in between. Why did you answer the way you did?




Amazon’s Six-Page Memo Why the Six-Page Memo? Since 2004, Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, has implemented an old-school approach to management, free of the three key mechanisms his company is known for: cloud technology, mobile applications, and sophisticated algorithms. He requires his team to write a six-page paper. Doing so improves meetings in several ways. • It forces deep thinking. The six-page, data-rich narratives that are handed out are not easy to write. Most people spend weeks preparing them in order to be clear. Needless to say, this forces incredible, deep thinking. The document is intended to stand on its own. Amazon’s leaders believe that the quality of leaders’ writing is synonymous with the quality of their thinking. • It respects time. Each meeting starts with silent reading time. The memos are distributed at the meeting with the assumption that people do not have the time to read the document in advance. • It levels the playing field. Think of the introverts on your team who rarely speak during a meeting. Introverted leaders at Amazon “speak” through these well-prepared memos. They get a chance to be heard, even though they may not be the best presenters in the organization. • It leads to good decisions. Because rigorous thinking and writing is required—all Amazon job candidates at a certain level are required to submit writing samples, and junior managers are offered writing style classes—team members are forced to take an idea and think about it completely.



• It prevents the popularity bias. The logic of a well-thought-out plan speaks louder than the executive who knows how to “work the halls” and get an idea sold through influence rather than solid, rigorous thinking and clear decision making. Reading together in the meeting guarantees everyone’s undivided attention to the issues at hand, but the real magic happens before the meeting ever starts. It happens when the author is writing the memo. Writing a clear, concise, and compelling six-page memo is unconventional, tough and incredibly time-consuming. But Bezos’s management trick does one thing incredibly well—by forcing his team to use the medium of the written word, the author of the memo really has to think through what he or she wants to present. As Bezos reminds his management team, full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have thought it out clearly. In having to write it all down, authors are forced to think out tough questions and formulate clear, persuasive replies, all the while reasoning through the structure and logic. Understanding the structure of the six-page memo will make your writing process more effective.

Structure of the Six-Page Memo The structure of your six-page memo can vary widely. Here are two useful and simple narrative structures that will really help in the development and understanding of a clear, concise, and compelling six-page memo. The first is called The Impact of Time Approach and the other is The Question and Answer Approach. Use one or both of these when you are outlining your six-page memo and see if one works better than another as you begin the writing process. Example One: The Impact of Time Approach • • • •

In the past it was like this . . . Then something happened . . . So now we should do this . . . So the future might be like this . . .

Amazon’s Six-Page Memo


Example Two: The Question and Answer Approach • The context or question. • Approaches to answer the question—by whom, by which method, and their conclusion. • How is your attempt at answering the question different or the same from previous approaches? • Now what?—that is, what’s in it for the customer and the company, and how does the answer to the question enable innovation on behalf of the customer? It makes sense that Amazon executives call these six-page memos “narratives.” There’s a conflict to be resolved and a story to convey the solution involved, strategy used, and end result for customers. By taking the time to really think through a six-page narrative, the author makes it exactly clear what needs to be done so there’ll be no questions moving forward.

The Role of Reflection and Self-Awareness By taking the time to really think through a six-page narrative, the author makes it exactly clear what needs to be done so there’ll be no questions moving forward. Legendary CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, takes Bezos’s view on writing up a notch. Grove considers written reports vital because “the author is forced to be more precise than he might be verbally.”1 In fact, he considers the whole exercise of writing “more of a medium of self-discipline than a way to communicate information,” so much so that his ultimate conviction was that “writing the report is important; reading it often is not.”2 Bezos’s and Grove’s imposition of writing as a medium of presentation turns self-discipline and personal reflection into a distributed process. Reflection is a fundamental way to think through and give yourself feedback on your work, where feedback can be otherwise rather scarce in 1

S. J. Oakley. October, 2015. “Jeff Bezos’s Peculiar Management Tool for Self-Discipline,” LinkedIn., (date accessed June 12, 2018). 2 Ibid.



the workplace but integral to improving the quality of your thought and action. Encouraging reports to engage in the reflective process of writing helps each and every individual autonomously work toward becoming a master of their craft. So reflect and write it down, verbs and all. You’ll be better prepared and excited to present, collaborate, and lead at work!

The Power of Narrative The six-page narrative memo idea has been held as an example of a persuasive communication and management technique in today’s hyper-competitive, dynamic, and ever-changing global marketplace. Greater understanding emerges, when a group of people have to think through what something means, instead of having someone present what it means to them. I fear, however, that people will pick up Amazon’s approach and miss the opportunity to make it really meaningful by excluding the narrative structure. Without the narrative, you just get a series of disconnected facts and opinions. Collectively, it won’t make sense. Here are three reasons for the power of narrative. First, our brains are hardwired for narrative. Narrative storytelling might not have been as critical as food for our survival as a species, but it comes close. Anthropologists say that when humans gained control of fire, it marked a major milestone in human development. Our ancestors were able to cook food, which was a big plus. But it also had a second benefit. People sat around campfires swapping stories. Stories served as instruction, warning, and inspiration. Neuroscientists have confirmed what we’ve known for centuries: The human brain is wired for story. We process our world in the narrative mode, we talk in narrative and—most important for leadership—people recall and retain information more effectively when it’s presented in the form of a story, not bullet points. Second, stories are persuasive. And they are far more persuasive than bullet points on a PowerPoint slide! As mentioned elsewhere in this book, Aristotle is the father of persuasion. More than 2,000 years ago he revealed the three elements that all persuasive arguments must have to be effective. He called these elements “appeals” known as ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is character and credibility. Logos is logic—an argument must appeal to reason. However, ethos and logos are irrelevant in the

Amazon’s Six-Page Memo


absence of pathos—emotion. Neuroscientists have found that emotion is the fastest path to the brain. In other words, if you want your ideas to spread, a story is the single best vehicle we have to transfer that idea to another person. “I’m actually a big fan of anecdotes in business,” Bezos said at the leadership forum, as he explained why he reads customer emails and forwards them to the appropriate executive.3 Often, he says, the customer anecdotes are more insightful than data. Amazon uses “a ton of metrics” to measure success, explained Bezos. “I’ve noticed when the anecdotes and the metrics disagree, the anecdotes are usually right,” he noted. “That’s why it’s so important to check that data with your intuition and instincts, and you need to teach that to executives and junior executives.” Bezos clearly understands that logic (data) must be married with pathos (narrative) to be successful.4 Finally, bullet points are the least effective way of sharing ideas. Bullets don’t inspire. Stories do. Simply put, the brain is not built to retain information that’s structured as bullet points on a slide. It’s well known among neuroscientists that we recall things much better when we see pictures of the object or topic than when we read text on a slide. ­Visuals are much, much more powerful than text alone. That’s why, if you choose to use slides, use more pictures than words—and don’t use bullet points. Ever.

Jeff Bezos’ 2018 Letter to Shareholders In his 2018 Letter to Shareholders—the twentieth year in a row he had published such a letter—Bezos highlighted the following four dynamics that provide insight into Amazon’s culture in general and the rationale behind the six-page memo specifically. After congratulating the company for reaching first place in the American Customer Satisfaction Index and


C. Gallo. April, 2018. “Jeff Bezos Banned PowerPoint in Meetings,” Inc. Ibid.




the top prize in the United Kingdom. Customer Satisfaction Index, Bezos went on to discuss specific elements of Amazon’s culture.5 1. Have a Bias Toward Action: “One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static—they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary.’ Have a bias towards action so that you continually strive to create something new. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.”6 2. Set High Standards: Bezos stressed that having high standards widely deployed across all departments, levels, and functional areas remains critical to Amazon’s past, current, and future success. 3. Remain Humble: Bezos understood that it is possible to be a person with high standards in general and still have debilitating blind spots. Understanding this point is important because it keeps you humble. There can be whole arenas of endeavor where you may not even know that your standards are low or nonexistent, and certainly not world class. It’s critical to be open to that likelihood and recognize the level of work required. 4. Work Hard at Hard Work: To achieve high standards it is imperative to know how much work is involved. How much will it cost? What are the internal and external resources required to achieve the high levels? How many people are required to work on the project and for how long? These four dynamics—don’t rest on your laurels, set high standards, remain humble, and work hard at hard work—factor into the six-page memo. The six-page memo demands that executives focus on a topic that will help Amazon transcend the ordinary. The memo requires a high ­standard of research and writing. The memo forces the author/s to remain 5

Excerpts from Jeff Bezos’ 2018 letter to shareholders. For the complete letter visit 6 Ibid.

Amazon’s Six-Page Memo


humble and receive feedback in order to grow both personally and professionally. And the memo is a demonstration of working hard at hard work. As Bezos noted in his 2018 Letter to Shareholders: “We don’t do ­PowerPoint presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of ‘study hall.’ Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.”7 How does Bezos differentiate between a great memo and an average one? While that’s subjective, one thing is clear to Bezos and his management team; “They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable. Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more!”8 You need to understand that a clear, concise, and compelling six-page memo will take you at least a week to write. Ideally you spend two weeks on it if possible. Unlike a college paper that gets graded, often on a curve or the kindness of the professor, a six-page memo for Amazon, or any other organization for that matter, will be reviewed by your colleagues looking for guidance. Writing for the real world is often very different from submitting your work in college. You need to be ready for immediate and perhaps even constructive feedback. Hopefully, your colleagues understand the difference between critiquing and being critical. Strategic thinking and writing are at the forefront of business today, and they are a far cry from being an academic exercise. Be ready. Prepare accordingly.


Ibid. Ibid.



Three Writing Strategies Introduction Aristotle used these three terms, ethos, pathos, and logos, to explain how rhetoric works: “Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”1 • Ethos (sometimes referred to as an appeal to authority), then, is used as a means of convincing an audience via the authority or credibility of the persuader, be it a notable or experienced figure in the field or even a popular celebrity. • Pathos (appeal to emotion) is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response to an impassioned plea or a convincing story. • Logos (appeal to logic) is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts and figures. Ethos, pathos, and logos are tools of persuasion that assist writers in making their argument appeal to readers; this is why they’re known as the argumentative appeals. Ethos refers to the expertise of the writer or the inclusion of expert statements in the writing. Pathos involves the application of emotion as a form of argument. The third type of rhetoric, or writing strategy, 1



concerns the inclusion of facts or logic. Please remember that effective writing often involves some combination of two or more of these forms of ­rhetoric. Make sure to carefully consider your audience and to stress the kind(s) of appeal that will create a clear, concise, and compelling piece of writing.

Ethos (Think EXPERTISE of the Writer) This appeal involves convincing your audience that you are intelligent and can be trusted. Writers cannot simply say to their audience: “I can be trusted because I’m smart and a good person.” This appeal is perhaps the most difficult to establish: You have to prove yourself by demonstrating that you understand what you are arguing for because you are providing personal experience or know someone else who has personal experience; you are using expert support through extensive, up-to-date research, through recognized authorities in the field (this will also help to prevent your appeal from seeming too personal); you are using appropriate writing style by means of professional and strong words that carry appropriate connotations; and you don’t sound overly emotional, by using mostly third-person narrative. Write in first-person narrative. Doing so provides a clear, concise, and compelling format. Find some meeting ground for both sides of the argument by acknowledging that your opinion and the opinion of the opposite side agree on at least one aspect. This is essential in establishing your ethos (or credibility) and your ability to treat the topic fairly. However, be careful not to overdo this; remember which side you are supporting. Brief Examples of Ethos • “As a surgeon, I am qualified to tell you that this surgery will likely generate the best results.” • “My 35 years in this field, my tireless commitment to the people of this community, and my willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition, make me the ideal candidate for your governor.” • “The veterinarian says that a Shetland Sheepdog will be the perfect match for our active lifestyle.”

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• “If my years as a naval officer taught me anything, it’s that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation.” • “You know me—I’ve taught Sunday School at your church for years, babysat your children, and served as a playground director for many summers—so you know I can run your preschool.” • “Our expertise in roofing contracting is evidenced not only by our 50 years in the business and our staff of qualified technicians, but in the decades of satisfied customers who have come to expect nothing but the best.” • “He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government— if anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him.” • “Based on the dozens of archaeological expeditions I’ve made all over the world, I am confident that those potsherds are Mesopotamian in origin.” • “If my age doesn’t convince you that I know what I’m talking about, at least consider that I am your grandfather and I only want the best for you.”2 • Detailed Example of Ethos Example #1: “I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.” Democratic Presidential Candidate Acceptance Speech by Barack Obama. August 28, 2008.

Example #2: “When I am the nominee, I will offer a clear choice. John McCain won’t be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, 2



because I opposed it from the beginning. Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for a hundred years in Iraq, which is reason enough to not give him four years in the White House. If we had chosen a different path, the right path, we could have finished the job in Afghanistan, and put more resources into the fight against bin Laden; and instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Baghdad, we could have put that money into our schools and hospitals, our road and bridges—and that’s what the American people need us to do right now.” Barack Obama Potomac Primary Night Speech. February 12, 2008

----Example #3: “I have pledged myself and my colleagues in the cabinet to a continuous encouragement of initiative, responsibility, and energy in serving the public interest. Let every public servant know, whether his post is high or low, that a man’s rank and reputation in this Administration will be determined by the size of the job he does, and not by the size of his staff, his office, or his budget. Let it be clear that this Administration recognizes the value of dissent and daring—that we greet healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change. Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: ‘I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation’s need.’” John F. Kennedy State of the Union Message, January 30, 1961


Pathos (Think PASSIONATE or Emotional Appeal) This kind of appeal can be very effective if it’s not overdone, especially if your topic is an emotional one. Because your audience has emotions as well as intellect, your argument must seek to engage the audience emotionally. However, using emotional appeal alone is not as effective as when it is used in conjunction with logical and/or ethical appeals. The best way to incorporate pathos (or emotional) appeals is by using words that carry appropriate connotations.

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Brief Examples of Pathos • “If we don’t move soon, we’re all going to die! Can’t you see how dangerous it would be to stay?” • “I’m not just invested in this community—I love every building, every business, every hardworking member of this town.” • “There’s no price that can be placed on peace of mind. Our advanced security systems will protect the well-being of your family so that you can sleep soundly at night.” • “Where would we be without this tradition? Ever since our forefathers landed at Plymouth Rock, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without fail, making more than cherished recipes. We’ve made memories.” • “They’ve worked against everything we’ve worked so hard to build, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Make no mistake, they’re the enemy, and they won’t stop until we’re all destroyed.” • “Don’t be the last person on the block to have your lawn treated— you don’t want to be the laughing stock of your community!” • “You should consider another route if you leave later. I heard that street is far more dangerous and ominous at night than during the daytime.” • “You’ll make the right decision because you have something that not many people do: you have heart.” • “After years of this type of disrespect from your boss, countless hours wasted, birthdays missed. . . it’s time that you took a stand.” • “Better men than us have fought and died to preserve this great nation. Now it’s our turn to return the favor. For God and country, gentlemen!” • “You will never be satisfied in life if you don’t seize this opportunity. Do you want to live the rest of your years yearning to know what would have happened if you had just jumped when you had the chance?” Detailed Example of Pathos Example #1: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your



quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963.

----Example #2: Kimberly N. had a senior position at a charitable organization when her son was born. She planned for a six-week maternity leave, but her son was born with a life-threatening condition, and she ended up taking 12 weeks with partial pay. Kimberly’s supervisor was unhappy that she took such a long leave and refused to let her work part-time or from home. After going back to work, Kimberly had a terrible performance evaluation that contrasted sharply with her previous positive evaluations. She soon left her job, which significantly impacted family finances. Savings quickly dwindled, debts grew, and Kimberly filed for bankruptcy. A few months later, she found a part-time job at a lower level with no benefits but was laid off when the recession hit. She worries that future employers will question her period of unemployment. An Argument for Parental Leave in the United States, written by: Walsch, Janet. Failing It’s Families New York City, NY: Human Rights Watch, 2011 Online.

----Example #3: “The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers—at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the

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firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms. Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe de Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your ‘lives fought for life...and left the vivid air.’” Ronald Reagan “The Boys of Point Du Hoc” speech at Normandy France. June 6, 1984

----Example #4: This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work. This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for 20 years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news. We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes. Barack Obama Night before the Election Speech Manassas, Prince William County, Virginia. November 3, 2008.

----Example 5: The little crowd of mourners—all men and boys, no women—threaded their way across the market-place between the piles of pomegranates and the taxis and the camels, wailing a short chant over and over again. What really appeals to the flies is that the corpses here are never put into coffins, they are merely wrapped in a piece of rag and carried on a rough wooden bier on the shoulders of four friends. When the friends get to the burying-ground they hack an oblong hole a foot or two deep, dump the body in it and



fling over it a little of the dried-up, lumpy earth, which is like broken brick. No gravestone, no name, no identifying mark of any kind. The burying-ground is merely a huge waste of hummocky earth, like a derelict building-lot. After a month or two no one can even be certain where his own relatives are buried. When you walk through a town like this—two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom at least twenty thousand own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in—when you see how the people live, and still more how easily they die, it is always difficult to believe that you are walking among human beings. All colonial empires are in reality founded upon that fact. The people have brown faces—besides, there are so many of them! Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff, about as individual as bees or coral insects? They rise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyard and nobody notices that they are gone. And even the graves themselves soon fade back into the soil. Sometimes, out for a walk, as you break your way through the prickly pear, you notice that it is rather bumpy underfoot, and only a certain regularity in the bumps tells you that you are walking over skeletons. George Orwell “Marakesh” 1939. -----

Logos (Think LOGICAL Appeal) You appeal to logic when you rely on your audience’s intelligence, and when you offer credible evidence to support your argument. That evidence includes: • FACTS—These are valuable, because they are not debatable; they represent the truth. • EXAMPLES—These include events or circumstances that your audience can relate to in their life. • PRECEDENTS—These are specific examples (historical and personal) from the past.

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• AUTHORITY—The authority must be timely (not outdated), and it must be qualified to judge the topic. • DEDUCTIVE/INDUCTIVE—Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a “top-down” approach. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data—a confirmation (or not) of our original theories. Brief Examples Logos • “The data is perfectly clear: this investment has consistently turned a profit year over year, even in spite of market declines in other areas.” • “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: we have not only the fingerprints, the lack of an alibi, a clear motive, and an expressed desire to commit the robbery. . . We also have video of the suspect breaking in. The case could not be more open and shut.” • “It’s a matter of common sense that people deserve to be treated equally. The Constitution calls it ‘self-evident.’ Why, then, should I have been denied a seat because of my disability?” • “More than 100 peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss.” • “History has shown time and again that absolute power corrupts absolutely.” • “Private demand for the product has tapered off for the past three years, and this year’s sales figures are at an all-time low. It’s time to research other options.” • “The algorithms have been run in a thousand different ways, and the math continues to check out.” • “You won’t find any deer along this road. In 25 years of driving the same route, I haven’t seen a single one.”



• “He has a track record of success with this company, culminating in some of our most acclaimed architecture to date and earning us Firm of the Year nine times in a row.” • “Research compiled by analysts from NASA, as well as organizations from five other nations with space programs, suggests that a moon colony is viable with international support.” Detailed Example of Logos Example #1: “However, although private final demand, output, and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected. Notably, since stabilizing in mid-2009, real household spending in the United States has grown in the range of 1% to 2% at annual rates, a relatively modest pace. Households’ caution is understandable. Importantly, the painfully slow recovery in the labor market has restrained growth in labor income, raised uncertainty about job security and prospects, and damped confidence. Also, although consumer credit shows some signs of thawing, responses to our Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices suggest that lending standards to households generally remain tight.” The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy by Ben Bernanke. ­August 27, 2010.

----Example #2: The price of Apple stock has come down from $363 in February to $316 Monday. Furthermore, that masks the fact that the company is sitting on a ton of net cash. At the end of the last quarter, cash, securities, and other liquid assets exceeded liabilities by $51 billion, or around $55 a share. This may top $60 by the end of this quarter. So the cash-free stock price—the enterprise value of the business—may only be around $260. That’s barely 10 times forecast earnings of $25 for the fiscal year ending in September. It’s just nine

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times next year’s forecast earnings. And it’s only around 2.3 times this year’s sales. Brett Arrends Is Apple Becoming a Value Stock? on Marketwatch. com. June 21, 2011.

----Example #3: Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world. Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an “energy tsunami” that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse. Al Gore “A Generational Challenge to Repower America.” July 17, 2008.

Rhetoric Exercise: Identifying Ethos, Pathos and Logos Understanding the different aspects of rhetoric will make you more aware of what goes into creating a persuasive argument. The preceding examples should also help you construct your own arguments or appeals. Read the following letters and identify the style of writing used in each. THE BIXBY LETTER President Lincoln’s letter of condolence was delivered to Lydia Bixby on November 25, 1864 and was printed in the Boston Evening Transcript and Boston Evening Traveller that afternoon. The following is the text of the letter as first published. -----



Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864. Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln. Did Lincoln use logos, pathos, or ethos? What words or phrase/s support your answer? Sol LeWitt’s Letter to Eva Hesse Artist Sol LeWitt’s (1928–2007) 1965 letter to his friend and trailblazing sculptor Eva Hesse. Hesse, a disciple of Josef Albers and a pioneer of the post-minimalist art movement of the 1960s, began suffering from creative block and self-doubt shortly after moving from New York to Germany with her husband. She reached out to her friend for counsel and consolation. Below is an excerpt of LeWitt’s letter. Please note that the original letter contains language some may consider offensive. The complete letter can be found at -----

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Dear Eva, It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “&^%$* You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO! From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and your ability, the work you are doing sounds very good “Drawing— clean—clear but crazy like machines, larger and bolder. . . real nonsense.” That sounds fine, wonderful—real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, whatever—make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you—draw & paint your fear & anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!” Did LeWitt use logos, pathos, or ethos? What words or phrase/s support your answer?



A Profile in Strategy #5: Ridley Scott In the fall of 2017, 80-year-old English film director and producer Ridley Scott decided to re-film 22 scenes in his movie All the Money in the World; he had only nine days. Scott made the strategic decision following the news regarding disgraced Kevin Spacey who starred in the movie. Christopher Plummer agreed to take Spacey’s role, while lead cast members Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg agreed to work through Thanksgiving to re-film scenes with Mr. Plummer. Scott described his strategy very succinctly when he said, “You can sit there and let something kill you, or you can take action. I took action.” Scott and others “began a race to pull off something never before attempted in Hollywood: revisiting a finished movie, reassembling major members of the cast, re-filming crucial scenes, re-editing many sequences, retooling the marketing campaign—and doing it all at the last possible minute. Mr. Scott and others worked 18-hour days as they rushed to finish in nine days what would typically have taken at least a month.” The rush was mandatory since a trailer with Spacey in it was already on heavy rotation in theaters. As the New York Times reported: “For nine days, Mr. Scott arrived at filming locations by 6:30 a.m. to eat a quick breakfast and finalize planned shooting angles with his longtime cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. Filming usually continued straight through lunch. As sequences were shot—Mr. Scott typically does very few takes—footage was digitally shipped to the film’s editor, Claire Simpson, who would start stitching it together. In the evening, Mr. Scott would make adjustments. ‘I’m kind of like a funny battery that never wears out,’ he said.”

Thinking Exercise #5: Ethos, Pathos and Logos Directions: Identify whether each phrase best represents ethos, pathos , or logos. 1. __________ “60% of the time, it works every time.”—Anonymous. 2. __________By donating only 50 cents a day, you can help give a child clean drinking water.

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3. __________ “Choosy moms choose Jiff.”—Jiff Peanut Butter Commercial. 4. __________The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting a flu vaccine each fall. 5. __________Nearly 25 percent of all car accidents are caused by drivers using cell phones while driving. 6. __________My coach suggested I cross-train on Sundays to work different muscle groups. 7. __________Since my little brother has to start school before me, I should let him shower first. 8. __________Smoking around kids is dangerous because the defenseless children are exposed to dangerous chemicals that can lead to coughing and difficulty breathing and could even lead to deadly asthma attacks. 9. __________Michael Jordan is better than LeBron James because Jordan won six championships and James has won only two. 10. __________Listerine is recommended most by dental professionals.

Answers 1. LOGOS “60% of the time, it works every time.”—Anonymous. 2. PATHOS By donating only 50 cents a day, you can help give a child clean drinking water. 3. ETHOS  “Choosy moms choose Jiff.”—Jiff Peanut Butter Commercial. 4. ETHOS The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting a flu vaccine each fall. 5. LOGOS Nearly 25 percent of all car accidents are caused by drivers using cell phones while driving. 6. ETHOS My coach suggested I cross-train on Sundays to work different muscle groups. 7. LOGOS Since my little brother has to start school before me, I should let him shower first.



8. PATHOS Smoking around kids is dangerous because the defenseless children are exposed to dangerous chemicals that can lead to coughing and difficulty breathing and could even lead to deadly asthma attacks. 9. LOGOS Michael Jordan is better than LeBron James because Jordan won six championships and James has won only two. 10. ETHOS Listerine is recommended most by dental professionals.


Strategic Business Writing Assessment Rubric Enabling an organization to take action remains the goal of any strategic thinker and writer. To do that, however, you need to ensure that your sixpage memo contains the necessary elements of a persuasive memo. To that end, I have included a rubric to serve as a reference guide in your writing process. A rubric is a coherent set of criteria for evaluating work that includes descriptions of levels of performance quality on the criteria. The genius of rubrics is that they are descriptive and not evaluative. Of course, rubrics can be used to evaluate, but the operating principle is that you match the performance to the description rather than simply “judge” it. A rubric consisting of the following six criteria outlines the specifics related to four different classifications of work: exemplary, accomplished, developing, or unsatisfactory. As you draft your memo, take time to review the details of exemplary work in each of the six criteria. Doing so will help you develop the skills required to be an advanced strategic thinker and writer. 1. Paper Focus/Introduction (20 points) 2. Strategic Writing (30 points) 3. Evidence (20 points) 4. Organization (10 points) 5. Writing Style (10 points) 6. Timeline and Length (10 points) -----



Paper Focus/Introduction (20 points) • Exemplary: Identifies a relevant topic and a strategy that provides direction for the entire paper that is engaging and thought provoking. The author persuasively defines the problem, identifies its causes, and explains the extent of the problem. The strategic solution is clear, concise, and compelling and remains the focus point throughout the paper. The author clearly articulates who the memo is written for. (18 or more points) • Accomplished: Identifies a relevant topic and a strategy that provides direction for the paper that is somewhat engaging. The ­author defines the problem, identifies its causes, and explains the extent of the problem. The strategic solution serves as the focus point throughout the paper. (12–17 points) • Developing: Partially identifies a problem and lacks any sophisticated discussion of a strategy. The information provided requires substantial development, research, and revision. Focal point is not consistently maintained throughout the paper. (7–11 points) • Unsatisfactory: The memo fails to identify a problem and/or a strategy, and, therefore, the entire paper lacks focus. (6 or less points) Strategic Writing (30 points) • Exemplary: Demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the issue, goal, strategy, and tactics. Strategic writing involves an original thought or a blue ocean strategy that illustrates a high level of strategic thinking. The work signifies a strong piece of thinking, strategic thinking, and strategic business writing. The author commits few, if any, fallacies, or cognitive biases. (26 or more points) • Accomplished: Demonstrates an understanding and some critical discussion of the goal, strategy selected, and related tactics. Partially discusses the decision-making process involving the goal and strategy. Limited strategic thinking is apparent. (17–25 points) • Developing: Demonstrates general understanding with limited description of the goals, strategy selected, and related tactics. ­ A limited amount of strategic thinking is included. (9–16 points)

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• Unsatisfactory: Demonstrates a lack of understanding and inadequate analysis of the research topic and thesis. Analysis is superficial based on opinions and preferences rather than critical analysis. Strategic thinking is limited or nonexistent. (8 or less points) Evidence (20 points) • Exemplary: Provides compelling and accurate evidence to support a sophisticated level of strategic thinking. Includes more than the required seven different sources. Research sources are highly ­relevant, accurate, and reliable and add to the strength of the argument and are effectively referenced and cited throughout the paper. References are included within the text. For example: “As The New York Times reported, “For nine days, Mr. Scott arrived at filming ­locations by 6:30 a.m. to eat a quick breakfast and finalize planned shooting angles with his longtime cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski.” (18 or more points) • Accomplished: Provides essential, accurate evidence to support the proposed strategy and related tactics. Includes the minimum of seven different sources utilized as supporting evidence throughout the paper. Additional supporting evidence would have presented an even more compelling narrative. (12–17 points) • Developing: Provides some evidence to support the central position with only a few research sources. Some sources may not be relevant, accurate, and reliable and/or appropriately referenced and cited in the paper. (7–11 points) • Unsatisfactory: Lacks sufficient research sources to support the central position and/or, if included, are generally not relevant, accurate, or reliable. Contains numerous factual mistakes, omissions, or oversimplifications. Sources, if included, are not properly referenced and cited in the paper. (6 or less points) Organization (10 points) • Exemplary: Paper is effectively organized and easy for the reader to follow from beginning to end. Ideas are arranged logically, flow smoothly, with a strong progression of thought from paragraph to paragraph connecting to the central strategy. The writer clearly



articulates one or more of the three methods of appeal: ethos (authority), pathos (emotion), or logos (logic) and leverages such approach to compel the reader to take action. (9–10 points) • Accomplished: Paper is adequately organized. Ideas are arranged logically with a progression of thought from paragraph to paragraph connecting to the central position. (6–8 points) • Developing: Paper is somewhat organized, although occasionally ideas from paragraph to paragraph may not flow well and/or connect to the central position or be clear as a whole. May be missing a required component and/or components that make it less than complete. (4–5 points) • Unsatisfactory: Paper lacks logical organization and impedes readers’ comprehension of ideas. Central position is rarely evident from paragraph to paragraph and/or the paper is missing multiple required components. (3 or less points) Writing Style (10 points) • Exemplary: Paper is well written and clear, using standard English characterized by elements of a strong writing style. Basically free from grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, or formatting errors. (9–10 points) • Accomplished: Paper shows above average writing style and clarity in writing using standard English. Minor errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and/or formatting. (6–8 points) • Developing: Paper shows an average and/or casual writing style using standard English. Some errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and/or formatting. (4–5 points) • Unsatisfactory: Paper shows a below average/poor writing style lacking in elements of appropriate standard English. Frequent errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and/or formatting. (3 or less points) Timeline and Length (10 points) • Exemplary: Paper is submitted by the deadline and meets the required length of six pages, single spaced text, size 11 Times New

Strategic Business Writing


Roman font, one-inch border, and is between 2,200 and 2,600 words. No cover page. Name and title go in header, page numbers in middle bottom. (10 points) • Accomplished: Paper is submitted within 1 day (24 hours) after the deadline and meets the required length. (8 points) • Developing: Paper is submitted 1–2 days (25–48 hours) after the deadline and/or is somewhat lacking (or exceeds) the required length. (6 points) • Unsatisfactory: Paper is submitted 2–3 days (49–72 hours) or more after the deadline and/or substantially lacks/exceeds the required length. (2 points)

A Note on Critique v. Criticism A key element of the Amazon six-page memo is that everyone has an opportunity to critique it during the meeting. The operative word ­ being critique. Criticism has no place in the professional environment. ­Critiquing the work of others provides a more professional approach. Criticism does more harm than good. Therefore, practice critiquing the work of others and have people critique your work. As a strategic writer you need to commit to using critique in your writing as opposed to criticism. A critique is a detailed evaluation of something. The formal way to request one is “give me your critique,” though people often say informally “critique this”—meaning “evaluate it thoroughly.” But “critique” as a verb is not synonymous with “criticize” and should not be routinely substituted for it. “Josh critiqued my backhand” means Josh evaluated your tennis technique but not necessarily that he found it lacking. “Josh criticized my backhand” means that he had a low opinion of it. Here is another example of why maintaining a distinction between critique and criticism matters: On the one hand, “The ballet instructor critiqued the dancer’s pirouette” could mean that the ballet dancer performed an excellent pirouette but that the teacher gave the dancer pointers to make it dazzling. On the other hand, “The reviewer criticized the dancer’s pirouette” means that the reviewer regarded the dancer’s performance unfavorably. As you review the work of others, remind yourself to focus on critique. Doing so will demonstrate your professionalism and, in turn, help others. Criticism will most likely alienate you from your colleagues and possibly insult them in the process.



Blank Rubric Use the following blank rubrics to see how closely your memos, or those of your classmates or colleagues, match each category.


Exemplary Accomplished Developing Unsatisfactory

Paper Focus and Intro Strategic Writing Evidence Organization Writing Style Timeline and Length


Exemplary Accomplished Developing Unsatisfactory

Paper Focus and Intro Strategic Writing Evidence Organization Writing Style Timeline and Length

Category Paper Focus and Intro Strategic Writing Evidence Organization Writing Style Timeline and Length

Exemplary Accomplished Developing Unsatisfactory

Strategic Business Writing


The Writing Process The process of writing requires one to understand three things: • Writing takes time and good writing takes even longer. • Strategic business writing demands substantial thought prior to writing. • Remember your three Rs: rough draft, review, and revise. Iterative by nature, strategic business writing demands that you ­respect the process. Give yourself enough time to engage in the level of strategic thinking necessary. Waiting until the night before to write the six-page paper often results in a less than stellar attempt. Respect the writing process and help yourself present a clear, concise, and compelling paper. Find out when the assignment is due and devise a plan of action. This may seem obvious and irrelevant to the writing process, but it’s not. Writing is a process, not merely a product. Even the best professional writers don’t just sit down at a computer, write, and call it a day. The quality of your writing will reflect the time and forethought you put into the assignment. Time: Success writers work backwards from their deadline. The example that follows works backwards from the deadline of May 2. Each stage is then described in greater detail. The most important thing to remember during the process is to focus on the objective for each stage, one at a time. Do not look ahead in the process. For example, in the draft phase your only objective is to create a draft. Therefore, you do not worry about grammar, word choice or sentence structure. There will be plenty of time for editing in the next phase. May 2: due date May 1: submit paper April 28–30: continue to rewrite, edit, and revise April 25–27: create first draft and revise April 22–24: pre-writing and additional research and strategic thinking April 19–21: research and strategic thinking April 18: assignment given



Working on the premise that you have two weeks to prepare a piece of strategic business writing, here is a recommended timeline to prepare accordingly. While everyone uses a slightly different writing process, most include these steps somewhere along the way. The stages are created in blocks of time, usually three days. Doing so allows you to be productive, take a break for a while, and then come back later to make changes and revisions with a fresh mind. Assignment date: April 18: Make sure you clearly understand the assignment. Making assumptions will only jeopardize your final product. The last thing you want to do is to submit a paper off-topic and irrelevant. It is your responsibility to understand the assignment. Ask questions. Are you trying to answer a question, resolve a problem, or address an issue? Be clear on your intentions. Only then can you begin the next stage of research and strategic thinking. Research and Strategic Thinking: April 19–21: The foundation of any strong piece of strategic business writing stems from this stage of the process. You must spend a substantial amount of time conducting research during this three-day period. As you conduct research, take notes and organize them in some fashion that makes sense to you. Note taking is personal, so what works best for one person may not necessarily be the right approach for you. Take the time necessary to come up with a new idea, answer, or solution. Do not rush the process but recognize that you do have a deadline. Time management is absolutely critical for anyone engaged in strategic business writing. Critical questions to ask during this phase include: • • • • • • •

Who are the current competitors? What factors drive the market currently? Who are the key players? How have issues been addressed in the past? Where are the catalysts driving change? What new ideas will you present? Are you relying on ethos (authority), pathos (emotion), or logos (logic)?

Strategic Business Writing


Pre-writing: April 22–24: Since this book provides an outline on the strategic business writing process, use it to your advantage. • The problem: Did you define the problem? Does the reader understand the causes of the problem? Did you explain the extent of the problem? • The strategy/ies: What strategy are you recommending? Is this a blue ocean strategy? Why did you select this strategy? • The tactics: What tactics are involved in implementing this strategy? How much will it cost in time, money, and resources? • The conclusion: Does your conclusion succinctly summarize your strategy and approach? Draft completed: April 25–27: Take your pre-writing notes and spend three days organizing them into a six-page paper. At this stage of the writing process, do not worry about grammar or sentence structure. Remember, you have three days after this to work on revising and editing, so focus on the immediate task at hand which is to complete your draft. Nothing more. You are not looking for a perfect paper here. Revisions: April 28–30: Make sure that you leave plenty of time after you have finished your paper to walk away for a brief period of time (e.g., a few hours). This will allow you to approach proofreading with fresh eyes. Reading from a computer screen is not the most effective way to proofread. Print out a hard copy and have your pen handy. Use the rubric included in this publication as a reference point. This will help you manage your time and not feel overwhelmed by proofreading. Don’t rush. Many mistakes in writing occur because we rush. Read slowly and carefully to give your eyes enough time to spot errors. Read aloud. Reading aloud helps you notice run-on sentences, awkward transitions, and other grammatical and organization issues that you may not notice when reading silently. Reading a paper aloud encourages you to read each word and can help you notice small mistakes. Read from the end. Read individual sentences one at a time, starting from the end of the paper rather than the beginning. This forces you to pay attention to the sentence itself rather than to the ideas of the paper as a whole. Have a friend look at your paper after you have made all the



corrections you identified. A new reader will be able to help you catch mistakes that you might have overlooked. Submission: May 1: Even though the due date is May 2, your goal is to submit it one day early on May 1. Doing so gives your boss an extra day to review your paper. It also demonstrates your ability to complete an assignment on time and even early. Never ask for an extension. The business world is very different from college. Managers may ask for a report a day early. Be prepared. Have your report ready to go as least one day early if this happens. Be sure to use a watermark and write “DRAFT” on each page of your report. Doing so will help readers understand that the paper remains a work in progress. If the reader encounters a typo, error, or some other mistake, the watermark will remind them that the paper is in draft form. A draft is still a polished work that others will judge you on. Again, college and the business world are very different. Manage your expectations and be ready to submit your work at a moment’s notice.

Timeline Templates Below are two blank templates for you to use as you work on future six-page memos. Timeline #1 Due date __________________ Submit paper (one day prior to due date) __________________ Continue to rewrite, edit, and revise (3 days) __________________ Create first draft and revise (3 days) __________________ Pre-writing/add. Research/strategic thinking (3 days) __________________ Research and strategic thinking (3 days) __________________ Assignment given __________________

Strategic Business Writing


Timeline #2 Due date __________________ Submit paper (one day prior to due date) __________________ Continue to rewrite, edit, and revise (3 days) __________________ Create first draft and revise (3 days) __________________ Pre-writing/add. Research/strategic thinking (3 days) __________________ Research and strategic thinking (3 days) __________________ Assignment given __________________

Grammar Tips Strategic business writing is precise. For our purposes you have only six pages to express your message. Therefore, if you like to write using a lot of words, when completing your assignments, you will need to learn how to think and write differently. (26 words) Let’s rewrite the previous sentence as an example. Therefore, if you use too many words, you will need to think differently. (13 words) The Elements of Style is a prescriptive American English writing style guide in numerous editions. The original was composed by William Strunk Jr., in 1918, and published by Harcourt, in 1920, comprising eight “elementary rules of usage,” ten “elementary principles of composition”, “a few matters of form,” a list of 49 “words and expressions commonly misused,” and a list of 57 “words often misspelled.” E. B. White greatly enlarged and revised the book for publication by Macmillan in 1959. That was the first edition of the so-called Strunk & White, which Time named in 2011 as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923. Here are just a few of the many tips to improve your strategic business writing, courtesy of Strunk and White. 1. Use the Active Voice: Active voice is used in a clause whose subject expresses the main verb’s agent. That is, the subject does the verb’s designated action. Many languages have both an active and a passive voice; this allows for greater flexibility in sentence construction, as either the semantic agent or patient may take the subject syntactic



role. For example: Active voice “The dog bit the postal carrier.” Passive voice “The postal carrier was bitten by the dog.” Using the active voice often helps the writer subscribe to Strunk and White’s other theme of omitting unnecessary words. In this example of the dog biting the postal carrier, the passive voice sentence contains eight words while the active voice sentence contains only six. 1 2. Limit the Hyperbole: Hyperbole is defined as “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.” Unfortunately hyperbole has become a mainstay of modern writing. Excessive overstating, however, benefits no one. Hyperbole is the simplest way to lose the confidence of your readers. Think about the headlines enticing us in emails and news feeds, guaranteeing “instant weight loss” or “the funniest cat in the universe.” We’re almost always disappointed when we click through to find content that’s far from the promised superlative. While clickbait might be a popular marketing ploy, it’s the quickest way to lose your reader’s trust and annoy them immensely. 3. Focus on the Positive!: This is much more than a daily affirmation. One of Strunk and White’s most concrete rules is to avoid hesitant language by opting for positive statements. Start by searching for the word “not” in your sentences—it’s good when it’s denying something, but bad when it’s hiding from something. If you need to depict negative feelings, you can do so with confidence and clarity. Take, for example, this line: “She does not think vintage shopping will be fun.” In this sentence, the speaker is hiding the truth—that this girl hates vintage shopping. No one will benefit from vagueness, so it’s best to shout from the rooftops! Or, better yet, try this: “She thinks vintage shopping is boring.” Three fewer words and it’s 100 percent more assertive. 4. Simplify Language: Fluff remains unnecessary. Many of us like to pad our language with fluff to sound smarter or even more politically correct. Fluff does none of these things; it clogs up your writing with evasive and cluttered language, and in the end it makes you sound guiltier, less knowledgeable, and way more dull. Be concise. Why 1

Strategic Business Writing


use five words when three will do? For example, instead of writing “owing to the fact that” use “because.” Simplicity wins the day. 2 5. Nouns and Verbs Are the Fuel: Adjectives and adverbs have a place in writing as they add detail and flair to language. The air freshener in your car resembles an adverb. Without gas in your tank, however, your air freshener has no purpose. Nouns and verbs should do the heavy lifting in your sentences, creating most of the meaning. This rule coincides with the common “Show, Don’t Tell” rule. Nouns and verbs show the doers, the actions, and the objects—the verb “talk” and the noun “flower” paint very distinct images in our minds, for example. Instead of elaborating on these with adjectives and adverbs (“talked loudly” or “white flower”) you should exhaust your noun and verb options. Show us “talked loudly” with the much more specific “yelled,” “scolded,” or “harangued.” And describe your white flower with a specific noun—is it a daisy, a lily, or a rose? 6. Eliminate Qualifiers: Avoid qualifiers such as little, rather, somewhat, really, and very. They do nothing for your writing and are so overused that they have lost their significance. Think of your sentence as a thick beef fillet; every qualifier is another minute of overcooking your meat on the grill, sucking it dry of its tasty, juicy meaning. Qualifiers can be replaced with more concrete and assertive language to amplify your descriptions. Instead of “I’m really rather fond of steak,” try, “I love steak.”3 Strategic Writing Outline Before writing your draft, create an outline using the following template. Issue: What is the larger issue? If you are trying to end hunger in your town, then world hunger is the larger issue. Goal: Be specific. Review the section on goals in this book.

2 3



Strategy: Select one. You only have six pages, so one strategy is all that space will allow. Review the section on strategy canvas. Tactics: With six pages you will have space for no more than three tactics. If you have two tactics, that’s fine as well. Your six-page memo would then detail the reasons behind the issue, an explanation of the strategy, and a thorough accounting of how you would implement each of the three tactics involved. A sample structural outline of your six pages might look like the following BUT IT DOES NOT NEED TO FOLLOW THIS EXACT FORMAT. Page 1: Introduction Page 2: Explanation of Strategy Page 3: Tactic 1 Page 4: Tactic 2 Page 5: Tactic 3 Page 6: Conclusion


Strategic Writing Topics Introduction This final chapter provides you with an opportunity to write three separate six-page memos on very different topics. The first topic examines the ­Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as identified by the United Nations (UN) in 2015. The second topic considers the top 10 issues confronting businesses today due to constant technological advancements. And the third topic highlights 10 dynamics, other than your college major, that factor into your ability to achieve and sustain income growth throughout your career. Each of the three topics provides you with a variety of ideas from which you can choose. Follow the outline as provided in this book, keeping track of your two-week timeline and utilizing the grading rubric to ensure that you write a six-page memo that is clear, concise, and compelling. Here are three examples of potential topics—one from each section. Topic #1: Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger—you write a six-page memo to the mayor of Philadelphia on the goal of ending hunger in the three poorest zip codes in the city. You clearly articulate the one strategy you want to implement and detail the various tactics involved with achieving your goal within your timeline. Topic #2: Top 10 Business Issues: Recruiting the Right Talent—your six-page memo to the CEO of the company of your choice. You outline a new strategy and related tactics for the company to recruit, retain, and develop individuals who have a history, English, or other liberal arts degree. Topic #3: Focusing Illusion and Your College Major—your six-page memo is written for the membership of a group of professionals under 30 years of age. Your goal is to have people engage in subtle maneuvers. Doing so allows them to have multiple revenue streams. You provide one clear strategy and a series of tactics the members can employ to achieve the goal.



Review the strategic writing outlines associated with each topic for an example of a goal-strategy-tactic to use for a six-page memo.

Topic #1: The Sustainable Development Goals The UN created the 17 SDGs in 2015. Write a six-page memo identifying a solution to one of the following SDGs as identified by the UN. The goals are broad and somewhat interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve.1 Goal 1: No Poverty: Extreme poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990. Still, more than one in five people live on less than the target figure of US$1.25 per day. That target may not be adequate for human subsistence, however. It may be necessary to raise the poverty line figure to as high as $5 per day. Goal 2: Zero Hunger: States that by 2030 we should end hunger and all forms of malnutrition. This would be accomplished by doubling agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers (especially women and indigenous peoples) by ensuring sustainable food production systems, and by progressively improving land and soil quality. Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being for People: Reduce the worldwide under-five mortality rate. Between 2000 and 2016, the worldwide under-five mortality rate decreased by 47 percent (from 78 deaths per 1,000 live births to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births). Still, the number of children dying under age five is extremely high: 5.6 million in 2016 alone. Goal 4: Quality Education: Major progress has been made in access to education, specifically at the primary school level, for both boys and girls. Still, at least 22 million children in 43 countries will miss out on pre-primary education unless the rate of progress doubles. Goal 5: Gender Equality: Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will nurture sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. 1

Visit =1300 for more information.

Strategic Writing Topics


Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation: Worldwide, six out of ten people lack safely managed sanitation services, and three out of ten lack safely managed water services. Safe drinking water and hygienic toilets protect people from disease and enable societies to be more productive economically. Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy: As of 2017, only 57 percent of the global population relies primarily on clean fuels and technology, falling short of the 95 percent target. Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Achieving higher productivity will require diversification and upgraded technology along with innovation, entrepreneurship, and the growth of smalland medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Some targets are for 2030; others are for 2020. Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Manufacturing is a major source of employment. In 2016, the least developed countries had less “manufacturing value added per capita.” The figure for Europe and North America amounted to US $4,621, compared to about $100 in the least developed countries. The manufacturing of high products contributes 80 percent to the total manufacturing output in industrialized economies but barely 10 percent in the least developed countries. Goal 10: Reducing Inequalities: One target is to reduce the cost of exporting goods from least developed countries. “Duty-free treatment” has expanded. As of 2015, 65 percent of products coming from the least developed countries were duty-free, as compared to 41 percent in 2005. Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: The number of people living in slums went from 792 million in 2000 to an estimated 880 million in 2014. Movement from rural to urban areas has ­accelerated as the population has grown and better housing alternatives are available. Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: By 2030, national recycling rates should increase, as measured in tons of material recycled. Further, companies should adopt sustainable practices and publish sustainability reports.



Goal 13: Climate Action: In May 2015, a report concluded that only a very ambitious climate deal in Paris in 2015 could enable countries to reach the sustainable development goals and targets. The report also states that tackling climate change will only be possible if the SDGs are met. Further, economic development and climate change are inextricably linked, particularly around poverty, gender equality, and energy. Goal 14: Life below Water: Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. A scary 30 percent of marine habitats have been completely destroyed, and 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited. Marine pollution has reached shocking levels; 15 tons of plastic are released into the oceans each minute, and 20 percent of all coral reefs have been destroyed irreversibly, with another 24 ­percent in immediate risk of collapse. Goal 15: Life on Land: Articulates targets for preserving biodiversity of forest, desert, and mountain eco-systems, as a percentage of total land mass. Achieving a “land degradation-neutral world” can be reached by restoring degraded forests and land lost to drought and flood. This goal calls for more attention to preventing invasion of alien species and more protection of endangered wildlife. Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Reducing violent crime, sex trafficking, forced labor, and child abuse are clear global goals. The international community values peace and justice and calls for stronger judicial systems that will enforce laws and work toward a more peaceful and just society. Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals: This goal is included to assure that countries and organizations cooperate instead of only competing with each other. Developing multi-stakeholder partnerships to share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial support is seen as critical to overall success of the SDGs. ­Public-private partnerships that involve civil societies are specifically prioritized.2


For more information visit

Strategic Writing Topics


Strategic Writing Outline—UN Sustainable Development Goals What follows is one potential example of the many you can create using the SDGs identified by the UN. Issue: Zero Hunger: Goal 2 states that by 2030 we should end hunger and all forms of malnutrition. This would be accomplished by doubling agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers (especially women and indigenous peoples), by ensuring sustainable food production systems, and by progressively improving land and soil quality. Goal: Set up a food pantry at a local university. (NOTE: your goal of ending hunger on a campus is also a tactic for the strategy of ending hunger in the United States that supports ending hunger across the globe—UN goal). Strategy: Get the support of the university president. Tactics: (1) Contact the president directly; (2) Have students sign a petition and send that to the president; (3) Get a local food distributor to cosponsor the petition. Your six-page memo would then detail the reasons behind the issue, an explanation of the strategy, and a thorough accounting of how you would implement each of the three tactics involved. Page 1: Introduction Page 2: Explanation of Strategy Page 3: Tactic 1 Page 4: Tactic 2 Page 5: Tactic 3 Page 6: Conclusion

Topic #2: Top 10 Business Issues Issue #1: Uncertainty about the future: Get comfortable with uncertainty as it will be a constant in your future regardless of what industry, market, or region your business operates. As John Boitnott said in his Inc. Magazine article, “There’s just no way to completely prepare for the future of your



business. All you can do is stay up to date on current trends, forge quality relationships and above all, never assume.”3 Issue #2: Financial management: The uncertainty about the future impacts all aspects of a business, especially financial managers. Researcher Livia Ilie noted in Challenges for Financial Managers in a Changing Economic Environment: “Changes in the macroeconomic environment have an impact on how businesses operate and in consequence there are changes in strategies and priorities and in the way departments have to adapt. The more complex the economic system, the more complex the businesses, the more complex the interaction between economic players in a global economy, and the more uncertainties one has to face in this turbulent times, the more complex the role of financial managers.”4 Issue #3: Monitoring performance: Using a meaningful set of rounded performance indicators that provide the business with insights about how well each employee is performing is key. What is often missing from this evaluation, however, is the part about making sure that the employee is doing the right thing. After all, you may have a very hardworking and dedicated team member, but if he or she is not working on things that advance the organization’s purpose, what is the point? This is where key performance indicators come into play, and they apply both at the organizational and individual levels. At an organizational level, a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a quantifiable metric that reflects how well an organization is achieving its stated goals and objectives. Issue #4: Regulation and compliance: Businesses face more compliance regulations with each passing day. Technological advancements in various industries will continue to play a pivotal role in businesses’ operations and their customers’ behavior. With that in mind, businesses would do well to stay abreast of compliance regulations pertinent to technology issues, as these regulations will inevitably impact their day-to-day operations and their overall strategy. Financial institutions and health-care providers, in particular, 3

J. Boitnott. no date. “4 Ways to Prepare for Uncertainty in Business,” Inc. https:// ­accessed September 16, 2018. 4 L. Blaga. “Challenges for Financial Managers in a Changing Economic Environment.” ­accessed September 20, 2018.

Strategic Writing Topics


have to deal with various regulations, and it goes without saying that complying with these regulations requires an expenditure of time and resources. Issue #5: Competencies and recruiting the right talent: According to McKinsey, “one-third of senior leaders cite finding talent as their most significant managerial challenge.”5 A McKinsey Global Institute study suggests that employers in Europe and North America will require 16 million to 18 million more college-educated workers in 2020 than are going to be available. Companies may not be able to fill one in ten of roles they need, much less fill them with top talent. Yet, in advanced economies, up to 95 million workers could lack the skills required for employment. Developing economies will face a shortfall of 45 million workers with secondary-school educations and vocational training.6 Issue #6: Technology: Prior to the 1990s, and before the Internet, firms understood at least the basics of their competitors’ business models, because most companies operated in a similar way. With disruptive technological innovations being introduced on a frequent basis during the last two decades, firms are introducing new business models all the time. What’s more, technology seems to be changing every minute. That’s why it’s crucial for managers and leaders to stay on top of industry trends and remain open and adaptable to change. Issue #7: Exploding data: While many business leaders suggest that answers to their most important questions can be found in data, the reality is data kills. As Nader Mikhail wrote in Fortune: “It kills projects, it kills money, and it kills time. Twenty-five years ago, data was growing at a rate of 100 GB a day. Now, data grows at a rate of almost 50,000 GB a second. And as the volume of data grows, the ability of companies to make sense of it diminishes, confounding rather than ­illuminating strategic decisions.”7 The hyper-connectivity of the world in which we find ourselves strains our most valuable resource—time. The thousands of


S. Keller and M. Meaney. November, 2017. “Attracting and Retaining the Right ­Talent,” McKinsey Report. accessed September 20, 2018. 6 Ibid. 7 N. Mikhail. February, 2017. “Why Big Data Kills Businesses,” Forbes. http://fortune .com/2017/02/28/why-big-data-kills-businesses/ accessed A ­ ugust 2, 2018.



messages we receive via text, social media, or e-mail each day distract us, decrease productivity, and create barriers to productive d ­ ecision making. Issue #8: Customer service: Customer service is critical in every industry. Take banking for example. More than three-fourths of executives say that the customer experience has improved at banks, while two-thirds of consumers say that they have seen no change. It will take a fundamental change in culture and language to bridge this gap. Ritz-Carlton’s motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” is legendary, but what’s even more admirable is how the Ritz-Carlton experience fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of guests. As Deloitte put it in the latest Banking Industry Outlook, “Long-term sustainable growth in the banking industry seems only possible with a radical departure from a sales-and product-obsessed mind-set to one of genuine customer centricity.”8 Issue #9: Maintaining reputation: According to a study published in the European Journal of Marketing, “Consumer-to-consumer opinions tend to be perceived as more credible, influential and objective than company-sponsored messages, which means they are playing a critical role in marketing practice.” With that in mind, one strategic imperative for organizations today is to monitor their online reputation every day. Doing so can also help the organization engage with customers to immediately address any issues published online. Such attention to customer concerns can often help maintain the desired reputation. Issue #10: Knowing when to embrace change: Change is inevitable and adapting to change remains a strategic imperative for any individual or organization that wants to remain relevant. Far too often, companies wait too long to adapt, letting their brand go stale. To prevent that from happening, CoverGirl changed its “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful” slogan by introducing “I am what I make up” as its new, more inclusive tagline. It was the company’s biggest reinvention in decades. As Katie Jansen 8

Deloitte. 2018 Banking Industry Outlook. For more information visit https://www2 html accessed September 11, 2018.

Strategic Writing Topics


noted in Forbes, “CoverGirl realized that makeup has grown into a tool of self-expression, so it recently repositioned” itself as it adapts to the changing marketplace to remain relevant. Strategic Writing Outline—Business Issues The following is one potential example of the many you can create using the Top 10 Business Issues: Issue: Maintaining reputation: One strategic imperative for organizations today is to monitor their online reputation. Doing so can also help the organization engage with customers to immediately address any issues. Such attention to customer concerns can maintain the desired reputation. Goal: Help colleges improve their online reputations. Strategy: Create the #student2student campaign that allows students from the university to answer questions, resolve issues, or find solutions before they escalate online. Tactics: (1) Get the university to accept participation in the #student2student campaign as internship credit; (2) recruit, train, and monitor students who are interacting with others to resolve disputes online; and (3) identify a faculty or staff mentor to provide oversight. Your six-page memo would then detail the reasons behind the issue, an explanation of the strategy, and a thorough accounting of how you would implement each of the three tactics involved. Page 1: Introduction Page 2: Explanation of Strategy Page 3: Tactic 1 Page 4: Tactic 2 Page 5: Tactic 3 Page 6: Conclusion



Topic #3: The Focusing Illusion and Your College Major The focusing illusion is also known as the focusing effect and is a cognitive bias that occurs when people place too much importance on one aspect of an event, causing an error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome. In his 2011 book, Thinking Fast and Slow, the 2002 Nobel Prize recipient in Economics, Daniel Kahneman, discussed his concept of the focusing illusion and defined it as meaning “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.” To identify the focusing illusion you have to think hard. Since people “are not accustomed to thinking hard, they are often content to trust a plausible judgment that quickly comes to mind.”9 He applied the focusing illusion to education and wrote, “Education is an important determinant of income—one of the most important—but it is less important than most people think.” Perhaps, nowhere is the focusing illusion more apparent than in the discussion between one’s college major and future earnings income potential. Evidence suggests that there is little correlation between one’s level of education or academic major and long-term income potential. “In one recent survey over 90 percent of employers agree that a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.” Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas concluded that, “Perceptions of the variations in economic success among graduates in different majors are exaggerated. Our results imply that given a student’s ability, achievement and effort, his or her earnings do not vary all that greatly with the choice of undergraduate major.” Focusing solely on education prevents the consideration of the myriad of other factors that determine income. When you fall into the focusing illusion trap, you believe that one degree is better to have than another. When you realize “that nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it,” you then have a powerful tool in your arsenal of strategic thinking tools. 9

D. Brooks. 2011. “Tools for Thinking.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes. com/2011/03/29/opinion/29brooks.html (date accessed January 10, 2018).

Strategic Writing Topics


1. Understand the impact of geography: Where you live plays an important role in your ability to have a sustained career. For example, current research strongly suggests that looking for work in large urban areas can give workers a better chance to find a job that fits their skills. Additionally, in terms of salary and long-term career earnings, where you live often matters more than what you have on your résumé. Upon analyzing two decades of data from more than 200 cities, Rebecca Diamond, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, found that college graduates are increasingly clustering in more expensive cities that offer more amenities such as restaurants and cultural attractions, better parks, less crime, and less pollution. To help recent college graduates identify key geographical locations, top 10 lists of cities to launch a career are now commonplace.10 2. Realize the power of grit: It would be extremely difficult to have a long and successful career without the ability to persevere through difficult situations. Numerous researchers have concluded that getting to the corner office, having long-term earnings potential, and climbing up the corporate ladder all have more to do with grit than graduating with a specific degree. Living a life of leadership, purpose, and service also requires grit. Grit is by far the most important characteristic one needs to demonstrate time and again in order to translate the vision they have for their life into reality. MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, defines grit as the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals and what equips individuals to pursue especially challenging aims over years and even decades. Duckworth noted that people who “accomplished great things often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.”11 10

“Top 10 Best Cities for Post Grads,” April 3, 2015,, accessed ­September 11, 2018. 11 P. Tough. September, 2011. “What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?” The New York Times Magazine.



3. Market your value: In my book Marketing Your Value: 9 Steps to Navigate Your Career, I explain that college students and more experienced professionals as well need to work hard at helping employers understand their value. Doing so requires substantial work, if you want to stand out among other job candidates. It is also important to understand that “being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation, and cheap genius.”12 You need to define yourself and what you are looking for in terms of employment. Give people a reason to pay attention to you. This is important to do in person as well as online. The only people who stand out are those who want to. 4. Demonstrate your level of preparedness: All too often, recent college graduates make the mistake of assuming that their degree is synonymous with career preparedness. The research suggests otherwise. In one study, nearly 70 percent of corporate recruiters said that their company has a hard time managing its younger generation of workers who were perceived as lacking in a work ethic, unwilling to pay their dues, and simply harder to retain.13 Over one-third of business leaders and recruiters give recent graduates a “C” or lower for job preparedness.14 A recent survey of U.K. companies found that only 1 in 3 employers (23%) believe that academic institutions are adequately preparing students for vacancies in their organizations. 5. Recognize the dynamics of compensation: Focusing solely on your salary in and of itself demonstrates a severe lack of professional ­maturity. In his 1967 publication The Motivation to Work, Frederick Herzberg identified two different categories of factors affecting the 12

T. L. Friedman. January, 2012. “Average Is Over,” The New York Times. accessed August 4, 2018. 13 L. Cunningham. January, 2014. “Wont’ Work Hard? Won’t Pay Their Dues? How Business Leaders See Young Workers,” The Washington Post. 14 S. Snider. November, 2011, “Get the Best Return on Investment for Your Liberal Arts Degree,” U.S. News and World Report. accessed September 16, 2018.

Strategic Writing Topics


motivation to work: hygiene and motivation. Hygiene factors include extrinsic factors such as technical supervision, interpersonal relations, physical working conditions, salary, company policies and administrative practices, benefits, and job security. In comparison, motivation factors include intrinsic factors such as achievement, recognition and status, responsibility, challenging work, and advancement in the organization. Herzberg’s theory postulates that only motivation factors have the potential for increasing job satisfaction. The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. When employees are focused on external rewards, the effects of intrinsic motives on engagement are significantly diminished. This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated by money. 6. Appreciate the journey: Demanding that college students figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives is a flawed mental trap that contributes to anxiety, loneliness, and depression. It is also completely unnecessary and a fool’s errand. Such thinking exposes logic that believes a successful career can be determined by an exact formula and be neatly quantifiable. This is simply untrue. Achievement on either the personal or professional levels seldom follows a simple formula: “Life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”15 As John Gardner said in his famous “Personal Renewal” speech delivered to McKinsey & Company in Phoenix, Arizona on November 10, 1990: “Life is. . .an endless process of self-discovery, an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our own capacities for learning and the life situations in which we find ourselves.”16 Your dream job today may not exist tomorrow, let alone 5, 10, or 20 years from now. You’ve got to be open to whatever industry change comes your way. 7. Grow personally to develop professionally: In today’s challenging global economy, “individuals are under unprecedented pressure to 15

C. R. Rogers. 1953. “The Good Life and the Fully Functioning Person,” Panarchy. accessed September 11, 2018. 16



develop their own abilities more highly than ever before, quite apart anything their employers may or may not do to develop them.”17 Personal discipline, growth, and a commitment to lifelong development are critical elements that factor into one’s ability to achieve and sustain growth over a long career. In The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, authors Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha realize that great people, like great organizations, are in a state of perpetual growth. “They’re never finished and never fully developed.” Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, and grow more. This state of “permanent beta as a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth” is a necessity for everyone regardless of what you have majored in. 8. Continue to evolve in your 20s: In Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21st Century, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and ­Jennifer Lynn Tanner declare that the decade after college graduation is a time for self-discovery. Many parents fail to realize that it takes time for their son or daughter to discover the right career path, get married, or become financially independent. New research suggests that people are better equipped to make major life decisions in their late twenties than earlier in the decade. The brain, once thought to be fully grown after puberty, is still evolving into its adult shape well into a person’s third decade, pruning away unused connections and strengthening those that remain. Postponing major decisions makes sense biologically. “It’s a good thing that the 20s are becoming a time for self-discovery.” “It should be reassuring for parents to know that it’s very typical in the 20s not to know what you’re going to do and change your mind and seem very unstable in your life.”18 9. Know that the reality is that people change jobs: Your first job following graduation will very likely not be your last. Layoffs, quitting, 17

G. Colvin. 2008. Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (New York, NY: Penguin Books). 18 M. Beck. August, 2012 “Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain,” The Wall Street Journal. 4577601532208760746a accessed July 24, 2018.

Strategic Writing Topics


and a host of other reasons explain why people move from one job to another. In 2011, 48,242,000 people changed jobs in the United States. Of those who changed jobs, 20 million were from layoffs and discharges, 23 million workers quit, and 4 million were classified as other separations.19 With 131 million total workers, the 48 million people who changed jobs represented 36.7 percent of the total working population. Also, it is impossible to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at 22, when you have no idea what new jobs will exist in a decade or two. When today’s youth graduate, they will have jobs that have not yet been created using technology, jobs that have not yet been invented to solve a problem that has not yet been identified. 10. Engage in subtle maneuvers: Graduates need to engage in subtle maneuvers so they can purpose interests other than their day job. For those who cry they have limited time, recall the words of Franz Kafka: “Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible, then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”20 During the day Kafka worked his brotberuf, literally “bread job,” a job done only to pay the bills, at an insurance company and then he would pursue his passion of writing at night and during the weekend. This subtle maneuver approach has been utilized by many successful people. An aspiring author once wrote to Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, asking for advice on how to have a successful career as a writer. In his response, Wilde told him not to rely on earning a living from writing and declared “the best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread.”21 19

“Quick stat: 48 million People (37% of the Workforce) Changed Jobs in 2011,” Net Perspectives, March 20, 2012. 20 M. Currey. 2013. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf ), p. 83. 21 N. Khomami. March, 2013. “Literary Success? Don’t Give up the Day Job, Advised Oscar Wilde,” The Telegraph.­ Literary-success-Dont-give-up-the-day-job-advised-Oscar-Wilde.html accessed September 14, 2018.



This view on college majors requires one to think differently and outside the normal thought process. To think differently, one will need to challenge the status quo and be ready to confront mental models that are so ingrained in people that any new idea may seem outrageous at first. A good strategic thinker and writer, however, will be able to persuade people to accept the new idea over time. Strategic Writing Outline—The Focusing Illusion and Your College Major The following is one potential example of the many you can create using the issues listed in The Focusing Illusion and Your College Major: Issue: Engage in Subtle Maneuvers: Graduates need to engage in subtle maneuvers so they can purpose interests other than their day job. Goal: Empower graduate students to understand the value of having more than one job. Strategy: Work with my university’s alumni and career development offices and create an online directory of graduates who engaged in subtle maneuvers and had more than one job. Tactics: (1) Create a survey for alumni to complete about their subtle maneuvers; (2) organize the data by academic major so graduates across each discipline can better understand how alumni from their department had more than one job; and (3) publish the results online in a user friendly format. Your six-page memo would then detail the reasons behind the issue, an explanation of the strategy, and a thorough accounting of how you would implement each of the three tactics involved. Page 1: Introduction Page 2: Explanation of Strategy Page 3: Tactic 1 Page 4: Tactic 2 Page 5: Tactic 3 Page 6: Conclusion


List of 300 Words and Definitions Word


Example Sentence


v. to become less active, less intense, or less in amount

As I began my speech, my feelings of nervousness quickly abated.


adj. existing purely in the mind; not representing actual reality

Julie had trouble understanding the appeal of the abstract painting.


adj. extremely bad

I got an abysmal grade on my research paper!


adv. in accordance with

All students must behave accordingly.


n. the act of gaining a skill or possession of something

Language acquisition is easier for kids than it is for adults.


v. to make suit a new purpose

The United States has adapted many foreign foods to better suit the tastes of Americans.

v. to accommodate oneself to a new condition, setting, or situation

Dogs are known for their ability to quickly adapt to their environments.


adj. having knowledge or skill (usu. in a particular area)

Beth loves playing the piano, but she’s especially adept at the violin.


adj. having sufficient qualifications to meet a specific task or purpose

Though his resume was adequate, the company doubted whether he’d be a good fit.


n. the arrival or creation of something (usu. historic)

The world has never been the same since the advent of the light bulb. (continued )





Example Sentence


adj. relating to hostile opposition

An adversarial attitude will make you many enemies in life.


n. someone who promotes or defends something

I am an advocate for free higher education.

v. to defend or promote something (usually a belief, theory, opinion, etc.)

Environmental protesters often advocate for cleaner energy practices.


adj. relating to beauty or refined taste

The aesthetic decorations at the wedding reception made you feel as if you were a character in a fairy tale.


v. to be able to buy

He’s saving money so he can afford to buy a new car.

v. to be able to spare

I can’t afford to lose any more pencils!


v. to promote something (usually a cause)

They’re agitating for better health care.


v. to permit or consent to

U.S. law allows citizens to speak freely.


v. to make a secretive mention of something

She alluded to the problem at hand but didn’t say anything more about it.


n. a noisy argument or confrontation

Greg got into an altercation with a stranger at the bar.


adj. unclear or vague in meaning

Her ambiguous statement made me question whether she could be trusted.


adj. having a powerful desire for success or achievement

Penny is so ambitious, she wants to be president someday.


n. the state of being uncertain or stuck between two or more options

His ambivalence prevented him from immediately signing the contract.


adj. similar but not identical

Green onions are considered analogous to spring onions.


v. to destroy or cause devastating destruction

The dictator sent orders to annihilate the group of rebels.





Example Sentence


n. something different from the norm

This result is an anomaly and very rarely happens.


v. assume to be likely to happen

The party was just as fun as I had anticipated it would be.


n. a strong feeling of dislike

Her antipathy toward the professor was obvious; she rolled her eyes whenever he entered the classroom.


n. the highest point of something

The spring play was the apex of our school year.


n. fearful expectation of something

Her apprehension to leave her house resulted in her missing the train.


v. to clearly express in words

She articulated her opinion on the price of the house.


adj. something made; not occurring naturally

Many candies use artificial flavors to make them taste fruity.


n. a strong declaration

His assertion that sharks are mammals made everyone laugh.


adj. extremely plain

He lived in a small, austere cabin in the middle of the woods.

adj. stern and forbidding

My boss had an austere expression on her face.

adj. relating to self-denial

An austere lifestyle, like that of monks, isn’t for everybody.


n. the quality of being real and true instead of fake and contrived

The police officer doubted the authenticity of the suspect’s story.


n. an intangible path or approach to something

The company has decided to pursue other avenues.


adj. actively interested in or enthusiastic about something

Gerald is an avid soccer fan.


adj. relating to the foundation or basis of something

You have to start with basic Russian before you can move on to the advanced level. (continued )





Example Sentence


v. to have as a characteristic

She bears a strong resemblance to your mother.

v. to have (a child)

Judy will bear her first child last year.

v. to bring forth

My garden is going to bear pumpkins this year.

v. to put up with

I can’t bear her complaining any longer!


adj. kind, generous

Many cultures believe in benevolent spirits.


n. a preconception that prevents objectivity

It’s important to avoid bias when investigating a crime.


adj. tinged with a feeling of sadness

The ending of the romance movie was bittersweet.


v. to support, strengthen, or fortify

If we work together, we should be able to lift and then bolster the couch.


n. an increase or growth

The boost in profits was a welcome change.

v. to increase or make grow

In order to boost profits, you need to cater to your customers.

n. an intense, loud fight

A brawl broke out at school today after one student accused another of cheating.

v. to fight loudly and disruptively

The two students brawled for an hour.


n. the quality of being brief or terse

The brevity of their time together made it all the more romantic.


adj. direct, blunt

Josh is candid about his desire to become an actor.


n. the trait of being honest and frank

I admire her candor, especially when nobody else bothers to speak up.


v. to use to your advantage

I’d like to capitalize on your math skills by having your work the cash register.






Example Sentence


v. to trap or take possession of

The spy was captured by the enemy.

v. to successfully represent or imitate

Your painting beautifully captures the ephemerality of life.

v. to captivate, mesmerize

I was captured by her beauty.

v. to catch or seize

The cops captured the criminal three days after the incident.


adj. relating to the city or citizens

Voting is a civic duty.


adj. emotionally unattached (usually used in medical or scientific setting)

Her clinical approach to situations allows her to handle them more effectively.


n. special advantage or power

Children of rich and famous people often believe they have a lot of clout.


adj. indicating a rough texture

The horse’s mane was coarse, as if it had never been washed.

adj. lacking refinement or sophistication

The queen’s coarse way of speaking surprised the other members of royalty.


v. to happen at the same time

It wasn’t until after I booked my ticket that I realized the concert coincided with my finals.


n. the use of payment to request something (e.g., a service or product)

This painting was commissioned by a rich merchant in 1589.


adj. able to be compared

This novel is comparable to Huckleberry Finn.


adj. sufficiently qualified

We need to hire a competent web developer to create a good website for our company. (continued )





Example Sentence


adj. satisfied, with no desire to change or improve

Though he had never won any awards or even been published, he was complacent with his life as a poet.


v. to make perfect or complete

This wine perfectly complements the platter of gourmet cheese.


v. to be forced to agree or surrender

With no chance of winning the battle, the army at last conceded.

v. to admit to a transgression

Dan conceded that he pranked his sister.


v. to imagine or come up with

The plan to build the city was originally conceived in the early 1900s.


v. to overlook, approve, or allow

She couldn’t condone her daughter’s rebellious behavior.


adj. able to bring about or be suitable for

The noisy students hardly made the campus library conducive to studying.


v. to control or manage

The group conducted their research abroad last year.

v. to behave a certain way

Be sure to conduct yourself accordingly.


v. to share something secretive with someone

She confided all of her biggest secrets to her best friend.


v. to put limits on; to restrict

We are planning to confine the use of this drinking fountain.


n. overall agreement

After weeks of debating, the panel finally came to a consensus.


v. to form or compose (part of) something

The desire for equality constituted the civil rights movement.


v. to think deeply about

She contemplated telling her teacher about the cheating student.


v. to maintain or assert (an opinion)

The president contends that the U.S. government will not negotiate with terrorists.





Example Sentence


v. to be in contrast with

The camera footage contradicts his alibi.


adj. highly debatable and causing contention

Millions of viewers watched the controversial debate take place.


adj. abiding by accepted standards

She lives a conventional life in the suburbs.


v. to pass on or transfer (information)

I have trouble conveying my thoughts in French.


n. a firm belief in something

Her religious convictions prevent her from eating meat.


v. to provide evidence for; to back up (a claim)

The note signed by her father corroborates her claim that she was absent from class that day.


v. to work in opposition to

This ingredient seems to counteract the other ones.


n. an argument used to criticize or dismantle another argument

Make sure to include a counterargument in your essay so that you can show you’ve considered the topic from all perspectives.


adj. hindering the achievement of a goal

Bill’s idea to take a shortcut was ultimately counterproductive: it took us twice as long to get to the train station.


n. the final act or climax

The culmination of the performance was unforgettable.


v. to foster the growth of

Teachers don’t just pass on new information to students—they cultivate their academic potential.


v. to declare formally and with authority

The president decreed that Halloween would henceforth be a national holiday.


n. respect; regard

Her deference to the elderly makes her the perfect candidate for an internship at the retirement center.


adj. not enough in degree or amount

I feel as though the sources for my paper are deficient. (continued )





Example Sentence


v. to do as an example

Could you demonstrate the dance move for me?

v. gives evidence for

This book’s use of words such as “grim” and “bleak” demonstrates the author’s mournful tone.


v. to object to or hesitate over

She demurred at my request to transfer to a different department.


v. to use up over time (usually resources)

The lost campers quickly depleted their supply of food.


adj. bare, barren, empty

The moon is one giant, desolate landscape.


v. to come up with (a plan)

Lana devised a plan to make herself famous.


n. a problem, usually requiring a choice between two options

The main dilemma is whether to pay for a commercial or not.


n. conscientiousness; the quality of being committed to a task

Diligence and confidence will get you far in life.


v. to become smaller in scope or degree

The itchiness of mosquito bites usually starts to diminish after a few days.


adj. hopeless and dangerous or fearful

When the police didn’t explain what was happening right away, Jane knew that the situation must be dire.


n. disagreement

Disputes over money caused intense discord in the family.


n. a lack of respect and strong dislike (toward something or someone)

He looked at me with such disdain that I immediately knew the job wouldn’t work out.


n. hopelessness, stress, or consternation

To Nick’s dismay, he got an F on the test.

v. to fill with woe or apprehension

Many were dismayed by the town’s implementation of metered parking.

v. to belittle or speak down to

A good boss may be stern but never disparages his or her employees.






Example Sentence


v. to send off a message or messenger

The mother dispatched her daughter to their neighbor’s house.


n. the act of becoming diverse

Lately, there’s been noticeable diversification of students at higher education institutions.


n. a principle, theory, or position, usually advocated by a religion or government

Devoutly religious people often live their lives according to their doctrines.


n. power and authority (usually over a territory)

The country claimed to have dominion over parts of Russia.

n. a legal territory

Puerto Rico is a dominion of the U.S.


adj. sad, gloomy, dull

The gray clouds in the sky made the day feel dreary.


adj. doubtful, questionable

The man’s claims to the throne were dubious since nobody knew where he’d come from.


adj. peculiar or odd; deviating from the norm

She’s a little eccentric but still fun to be around.


adj. extremely bad

After cheating on the exam, Emily began to feel as though she’d made an egregious mistake.


adj. having refined or expressive communication skills (in speaking or writing)

His speech was not only eloquent but also extremely compelling.


adj. superior or distinguished; high in position or status

Our town made news when the eminent magician came to perform at our local theater.


v. to discharge, give forth, or release

Plants consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.


adj. very expressive; using emphasis

Her emphatic acceptance told me she was excited to join the company.


adj. derived from experience, observation, or an experiment

You need empirical evidence to support your claim. (continued )





Example Sentence


v. to equip or bestow (usually a quality or ability)

According to the myth, the gods endowed him with the gift of healing.


v. to withstand, sustain, or hold out against

I can’t endure this wait any longer. Will Stanford accept or reject me?


v. to involve or include

A doctoral program entails long nights and a heavy workload.


adj. firmly established

Her face will forever be entrenched in my memory.


v. to specify or count

I can’t enumerate how many times I’ve had to remind my students when their papers are due.


n. excessive jealousy

His envy of her is quite obvious.

v. to admire and be jealous of

She envies her coworker’s social skills.


adj. having no fixed course; deviating from the norm

The car’s motion became erratic after slipping on ice.


v. to enact

They established a law that made it illegal to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol.

v. to found (a business, group, school, etc.)

Our group established a new branch in Chicago.


v. to draw forth or call up

Horror movies are great at evoking fear.


v. to make worse or increase the severity of

The doctor told me not to run as it can exacerbate my knee injury.


v. to do something extremely well or to be superior in

She was a well-rounded student but excelled especially in science.


v. to put into use (usually as effort)

Don’t exert all of your energy at once.


adj. invigorating, stimulating, or exciting

The music playing at the club was catchy and exhilarating.


v. to use up (as in energy or money)

Be careful not to expend all your energy in the first half of a marathon.





Example Sentence


v. to use selfishly or for profit

The shoddy company exploited its workers by paying them extremely low wages.


v. to aid the progress of

In grad school, advisors facilitate students’ research and offer constructive criticism.


n. the practicality or possibility of something

The feasibility of her project was doubtful; she’d have to go all the way to Antarctica and back before the school year ended.


n. viciousness, violence

The lion is just one wild animal known for its ferocity.


adj. related to (government) money

Fiscal policy is how the government uses money to influence the economy.


v. to prosper, grow, or make fast progress

After one year, the tiny plants had flourished into a breathtaking garden.


v. to be unstable; to rise and fall

Th e price of stocks can fluctuate on a daily basis, making it difficult to determine when to buy or sell.


v. to stir up

The civilians accused their leader of fomenting political unrest.


adj. capable of being predicted or anticipated

I can’t imagine aliens visiting us in the foreseeable future.


adv. directly, clearly

I frankly don’t see the point in learning to drive.


adj. carefree

His freewheeling attitude often got him in trouble at work.


adj. the most essential or most basic part

A thesis is arguably the most fundamental part of an essay.


adj. thrilling, exciting, stimulating

The galvanizing performance left everyone spellbound. (continued )





Example Sentence


adj. relating to old age

I became interested in geriatric medicine shortly after my grandfather passed away from cancer.


adj. harmful, dangerous

The voices from around the corner sounded angry, hostile even.


adj. supposed; related to a hypothesis

For my physics homework, I must come up with a hypothetical situation.


adj. publicly shameful or humiliating

The politician’s expensive campaign ultimately ended in ignominious defeat.


v. to transmit, bestow, or disclose

Parents must impart common sense to their children.


n. the equal and objective treatment of opposing views

To ensure impartiality, we require everyone to follow these general guidelines.


adj. impressive (esp. in size or appearance)

The old mansion was imposing in its huge size and gothic architecture.


n. an unnecessary burden

If it’s not too much of an imposition, could you proofread my paper?


adj. not cautious or prudent; rash

Backpacking abroad can be fun, but don’t be imprudent about money.


v. to encourage or stir up

Her hateful words incited anger in the crowd.


n. apathy, emotional detachment

The girl’s indifference toward her brother upset their parents.


adv. randomly; with little or no distinction

Lottery winners are chosen indiscriminately.


v. to give into; to satisfy or gratify

My friend loves to indulge in cheesy romance movies.


v. to guess, conclude, or derive by reasoning

You can infer from this quotation that the writer didn’t care for “pretty” language.


adj. novel or new (esp. as an idea or invention)

Her invention was incredibly innovative and won her multiple awards.





Example Sentence


adj. can’t be satisfied

A vampire’s thirst for blood is said to be insatiable.


n. a reversal

The culture’s norms were an inversion of our own.


v. to call on; to appeal to (e.g., a higher power)

The shaman attempted to invoke a demon.


adj. incapable of being in harmony or agreement

The couple’s differences were ultimately irreconcilable, giving them no choice but to break up.


v. to feel sorrow for; to mourn

Susan lamented her missed chance of going to Europe with her high school class.


n. movement

Physics involves the study of locomotion.


adj. capable of making a lot of money; profitable

Writing books isn’t a particularly lucrative career, unless you’re J. K. Rowling.


adj. harmful, spiteful

The malicious spirit drove out the inhabitants from their home.


adj. capable of being molded or changed

Children’s minds are malleable, but only for so long.


adj. superficial; focused on material possessions

Many people accuse Americans of being materialistic.


adj. extravagant or exaggerated (as of a melodrama)

The melodramatic play was enjoyed by the audience.


adj. simple and humble

They moved into a modest house in the countryside.

adj. small in size or amount

I received a modest sum of money for my help at the company event.


v. to change, alter, or tweak

Dr. Nguyen modified the gene so that it wouldn’t carry the disease.


adj. historically significant

Her win in the election was momentous.


adj. new, innovative

We are looking for novel ways to approach the project.


n. a subtle difference in meaning

Body-language experts understand even the nuances of facial expressions. (continued )





Example Sentence


adj. legally void and ineffective

The government declared their marriage null.


n. judgment based on observations instead of emotions or opinions

In scientific research, objectivity is of utmost importance.


adj. no longer used; rare or uncommon

Historians assumed record players would be obsolete by now, but in fact they’re making a huge comeback.


adj. almighty and all powerful

Gods are omnipotent beings who can control human destiny.


n. the beginning or early stages

At the onset of her career as a lawyer, things were looking up.


v. to openly express an opinion

The new employee opined at the company meeting.


adj. highly detailed and decorated

That ornate silverware must be worth thousands of dollars!


v. to remove or force out of (usually a position or office)

Sick and tired of putting up with his bad moods, the pirates ousted their captain.


adj. predominant, superior, most important

Our paramount concern is the safety of our employees.


adj. strange, bizarre

Upon entering the abandoned house, Kate experienced a peculiar feeling, as if someone was watching her.


v. to die; to pass away

According to the news, nobody perished in the fire.


v. to cause suffering to

They will persecute anyone who doesn’t agree with their views of the world.


adj. cranky, pouty, irritable

Petulant children are especially difficult to care for.


n. highest level or degree

Many believe that composers such as Beethoven and Mozart represent the pinnacle of classical music.


adj. deserving pity

The frail-looking dog was pitiable, so I gave it some food and took it inside to care for it.





Example Sentence


adj. reasonable and possibly true

Her story is plausible, but that doesn’t mean she’s telling the truth.


v. to assert

The literary critic postulates that romanticism and naturalism are actually interconnected.


adj. having great influence

The bald eagle is a potent symbol of the U.S.

adj. having a strong, chemical effect

The potion was definitely potent—it healed my wounds immediately!


adj. practical, useful

It’s not necessarily more pragmatic to study engineering than it is to study philosophy.


n. an example or subject from earlier in time

This change in law is without historical precedent.


n.  someone who comes before you (usually in position or office)

My predecessor gave me many tips for running the office.


v. to command orders

The directions for our essay prescribe a length of at least 10 pages.

v. to issue authorization for medications

A doctor must prescribe you this medication before you can begin taking it.


n. basic truth, assumption, or rule

Remember the universal principle: treat others as you want them to treat you.


v. to command against, to outlaw

Alcohol was prohibited in the United States in the 1920s.


adj. punctual, on time

She is always prompt when it comes to turning in her homework.

n. a cue to begin something; instructions

I had to write an essay based on a prompt.

v. to incite, propel, or cause to act

The possibility of a scholarship prompted him to apply to Harvard.

v. to put into law or formally declare

The ruler will at last promulgate an amnesty with the neighboring countries.


(continued )





Example Sentence


v. to bring criminal action against someone (in a trial)

The suspect was prosecuted yesterday.


adj. intending to provoke, inspire, or arouse

Her nude paintings are considered quite provocative.


adj. involving qualities of something (features and content)

I noticed a qualitative change in her paintings.


adj. involving quantities (numbers and amounts)

We must conduct a quantitative analysis.


n. a strange habit or behavior

His biggest quirk is his love of old marbles.


v. to spread or branch out

The availability of automobiles ramified throughout the world in the twentieth century.


adj. without attention to danger or risk

Her rash decision to pass the other car nearly resulted in a crash.


adj. unrefined

He’s got raw talent as a singer, but he needs to work on his performance skills.

adj. not processed; uncooked (as in food)

In some countries, such as Japan, it is normal to eat raw fish.


adv. right away and without difficulty

Water was readily available at different points in the race.


n. thinking again about a previously made choice

The judges’ reconsideration of her performance resulted in her victory.


n. a change for the better; improvement

The reform allows that only those 18 and older can legally drive.

v. to improve via change

The government reformed its vague policies on marijuana use.


v. to prove to be untrue, unfounded, or incorrect

The student refuted the professor’s claim in class.


v. to strengthen or add support to

We can use these pipes to reinforce the structure.


adv. somewhat unwillingly

Max reluctantly agreed to see the horror movie with his friends.





Example Sentence


v. to give up (usually power or a position)

Our CEO renounced her position yesterday.

v. to cast off

He renounced his friend after he caught her stealing money from him.


v. to criticize

The mother reproached her daughter’s school for making students come in during a blizzard.


v. to refuse to recognize as true

The father repudiated his son’s marriage.

v. to cast off

She repudiated the charges that were leveled against her by her critiques.


n. the act of keeping something

Water retention can make you weigh more on certain days.


adj. satisfied (usually in hunger)

I felt satiated after eating a snack.


adj. having practical intelligence or knowledge

My brother is not very savvy when it comes to using public transportation.


adj. morally offensive, often causing damage to one’s reputation

The scandalous charges caused the politician to resign from office.


v. to look down on with disdain

It’s difficult for me not to scorn those who use improper grammar.


adj. paying great attention to detail

I am a scrupulous proofreader and never miss an error.


v. to examine carefully and critically

The teacher scrutinized her students’ essays.


v. to produce or release (a substance)

Trees secrete a sticky substance called sap.


n. opinion

I am of the sentiment that you should never give out your passwords to anyone.

n. a tender or moving gesture

Even though I’m not a big fan of porcelain dolls, I appreciated the sentiment.

adj. so thin that light can shine through

The curtains on the window were so sheer you could clearly see inside the house.


(continued )





Example Sentence


adj. easy; not complex

This math problem is so simple even a first grader can solve it.

adj. undecorated

The simple beauty of the ocean is what makes it memorable.


adj. ominous, evil

Medieval peasants believed sinister demons could harm humans.


n. the joining of commonalities or common purposes among a group

I stood in solidarity with other female students by refusing to wear the school’s sexist uniform.


adv. insufficiently, meagerly, or in a restricted manner

Due to my condition, I must eat salt sparingly.


v. to release eggs

Frogs typically spawn in ponds.

v. to call forth or generate

The topic spawned an ongoing debate among his family members.


v. to stimulate or incite

Her bravery spurred others to act.


adj. run-down, sordid, or sleazy

The squalid cabin needed a new roof and an exterminator.


adj. very plain; devoid of any details or features

Looking out at the stark landscape, I felt a keen sense of isolation.


adj. motionless

Profits are static.

adj. changeless

Her life has been static for the past 3 years.

adj. lower in rank

The subordinate officers work every day.

n. someone lower in rank

My subordinate will check you in.

v. to make dependent on or put at a lower rank

You aren’t my boss—you can’t subordinate me to the role of receptionist!


adv. happening later or after something

I subsequently went home.


adj. very large in amount or degree

I was shocked to find a substantial amount of money beneath the park bench.






Example Sentence


v. to strengthen with new evidence or facts

It is important for scientists to substantiate their theories with further research.


adj. hard to detect or analyze

I detected in her expression a subtle hint of irritation.


adj. enough; just meeting a requirement

These boxes should be sufficient for our move.


adj. unfriendly; inclined to anger

The bartender was a surly fellow who wasn’t afraid to start a fight.


v. to get on top of or overcome

They managed to surmount the language barrier by using a translation app.


adj. to be vulnerable (to something)

Children are more susceptible to certain illnesses than are adults.


adj. skilled at dealing with people

Her tactful attitude toward our class made her one of my favorite teachers.


adj. pulled tight

The rubber band was taut and ready to be fired.


adj. abundantly filled (usually with living organisms)

Doorknobs are not as clean as they look and are often teeming with germs.


n. usual mood or feelings

She had a hostile temperament, making her intimidating to most people.


adj. not yet finalized

We haven’t made any official arrangements yet, but the tentative location for our wedding is Hawaii.


adj. see-through; so thin that light can shine through

Stained window glass isn’t as transparent as regular window glass.

adj. truthful or easy to perceive

She was transparent about her plans to end her marriage.


adj. dangerous and unstable

The journey was becoming treacherous, but they continued on regardless.


adj. very large, good, or bad in degree or size

Tremendous news! You don’t have to repay your loans! (continued )





Example Sentence


adj. being everywhere at once

Cell phones are ubiquitous these days.


adj. undecorated, plain

Though the dress was cheap and unadorned, it was by far her favorite one on the rack.


v. to weaken or subvert (usually gradually or secretly)

Parents should take care not to constantly undermine their children.


v. to emphasize or give additional weight to

This sentence seems to underscore the overall meaning of the passage.


v. to move as ripples or in a wavy pattern

The displayed flag undulated in the breeze.


adj. one-sided

The unilateral decision was deemed unfair by the other party involved.


adj. unfair; not justified

The court’s decision is unjust—he should not go free.


adj. downright, utter, total

My speech was an unmitigated disaster!


adj. completely new and never having happened before; historic

The number of protestors was unprecedented.


v. to make visible; to reveal

We plan to unveil our plans for the new company project on Sunday.


n. desire or impulse

He had the urge to tell his parents about his acceptance to Columbia but decided against it.

v. to encourage or persuade

She urged her sister to apply to Stanford.


v. to prove or declare valid

Your selfish actions do not validate your feelings for me.


n. ability to be done in a practical or useful way

The viability of the solution is questionable.


adj. urgently necessary

It is vital that you respond by the deadline.


v. to promise

My brother quickly broke his vow to never eat chocolate again.





Example Sentence


v. to prove to be reasonable

Wanting to look cool in front of your friends doesn’t warrant breaking the law.


n. production of an amount

The farmer’s annual pumpkin yield exceeded 10,000.

v. to give way to or surrender to

Cars turning right on red must yield to oncoming traffic.

v. to produce or supply

Our experiment yielded many unique-looking vegetables.

Solution to the Nine-Dot Puzzle The picture below will show you a solution to this problem. The key is to think outside the box. Seeing what others do not see is a vital part of critical thinking.


Definitions can be found in

About the Author Michael Edmondson is Dean of Professional Education and Lifelong ­Learning at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is the ­author of Success: Theory and Practice (Business Experts press, 2016), Major in Happiness: Debunking the College Major Fallacies (Business ­Experts Press, 2015), and Marketing Your Value: 9 Steps to Navigate Your Career (Business Experts Press, 2015). He has over 25 years of experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. He has a PhD in history from Temple University, an MA in history from Villanova University, and a BA in history from Cabrini University.

Index Abstract thinking, 6 Active voice, 107–108 Ad hominem, 23 Adjective (thinking), 4 Allais, Émile, 47 Amazon, 39 six-page memo. See Six-page memo specific elements of, 78–79 American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, 33 American Customer Satisfaction Index, 77 Amundsen, Roald, 30–31 Analytical thinking, 6 Anchoring bias, 18 Anderson, Steven, 43 Appeal to authority. See Ethos Appeal to emotion. See Pathos Appeal to logic. See Logos Arden, Paul, 45 Argumentative appeals, 81 Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen, 124 Arrends, Brett, 91 Arum, Richard, 8 Availability heuristic, 18 Bandwagon effect, 18 Beaufre, Andre, 37 Begging the claim, 23 Bernanke, Ben economic outlook and monetary policy by, 90–91 Bezos, Jeff, 39–40 2018 letter to shareholders, 77–79 six-page memo, 73 BHAG. See Big Hairy Audacious Goal Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), 57–58 Bixby letter, 91–92

Blank rubrics, 102 Blind-spot bias, 18 Bloomberg, Michael, 41 Blue Ocean Strategy versus Red Ocean Strategies, 64–65 Boitnott, John, 115–116 Botelho, Elena Lytkina, 44 Brainstorming, 58–59 prioritize results of, 59 Carson, Shelley H., 45 Choice-support bias, 18 Circular argument, 23 Clustering illusion, 19 Cognitive biases, 17–26 versus fallacy, mental models and, 26–28 Collins, James, 57 Concrete thinking, 6 Confirmation bias, 19 Conservatism bias, 19 Consumer-to-consumer opinions, 118 Convergent thinking, 6–7 Creative thinking, 7 Creativity, 45 implemented in brain, 46 Critical thinking, 7 note on, 8–10 Critique versus criticism, note on, 101–102 Customer Satisfaction Index, 78 Customer service, 118 Deductive reasoning, 89 Desmarais, Michael, 9 Divergent thinking, 7 Duckworth, Angela, 121 Dyer, Jeff, 43 The Economist, 1 Edison, Thomas, 2–3


80/20 rule, 42 Either/or conclusion, 24 Elder, Linda, 9 The Elements of Style, 107 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 42 Ethos, 76 writing strategies, 82–84 Exercise 360 Degrees, 31–35 connecting nine dots, 13–15 ethos, pathos and logos, 94–96 How Good Do You Want to Be?, 69 milkshake, 51–52 Fallacies, 23–25 versus bias, mental models and, 26–28 First-rate intelligence, 31 Fluff, 108–109 Focusing illusion, 120–126 Fosbury, Dick, 47 Fosbury Flop, 47 French Skiing Federation, 47 Gardner, John, 123 Goals, 55 Big Hairy Audacious Goal, 57–58 long-term and short-term, 56 SMART goals, 57 stretch goals, 57 Goldman, Ellen F., 37 Grammar tips, 107–110 Greek-style yogurt, 29 Gregersen, Hal, 43 Grit, power of, 121 Grove, Andy, 75 Hamdi Ulukaya, 28–29 Hamermesh, Daniel, 120 Hasty generalization conclusion, 24 High jump, 46–47 Hill, Napoleon, 43 Holistic (nonlinear) thinking, 7 Human race, 41 Hygiene factors, 123 Hyperbole, 108 Ilie, Livia, 116 The Impact of Time Approach, 74 Information bias, 19

Inherit the Wind, 17 INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, 64 Intel, 75 The Journal of Strategy and Management, 37 Kahneman, Daniel, 18, 27 Kapler, Brian, 45 Key Performance Indicator (KPI), 116 Killy, Jean-Claude, 47–48 Kim, W. Chan, 27, 64 King, Martin Luther, 86 Knowledge, categories of, 11 Knowledge check cognitive biases, 22–23 critical thinking, 10 fallacies, 25–26 thinking, 5–6 KPI. See Key Performance Indicator Krishnamurti, Jiddu, 48–50 Land degradation-neutral world, 114 Law of the instrument, mental model, 27 LeWitt, Sol, 92–93 Logos, 76 writing strategies, 88–93 Long-term goals, 56 Manufacturing, 113 Marine pollution, 114 Maslow, Abraham, 27 Mauborgne, Renée, 27, 64 McKinsey Global Institute, 117 Mencken, H. L., 41 Mental models, 27 Mikhail, Nader, 117 Minnesota Department of Health, 55 Moral equivalence, 24 Motivation, 123 Nagengast, Judy, 9 Narrative, power of, 76–77 National Football League (NFL), 50 Needleman, Sarah E., 9 Nouns (thinking), 4 and verbs, 109


Obama, Barack democratic presidential candidate acceptance speech by, 83–84 night before the election speech Manassas, 86–88 Potomac primary night speech, 84 Ostrich effect, 19 Outcome bias, 19 Overconfidence, 19 Pareto, Vilfredo, 42 Passive voice, 107–108 Pathos, 77 writing strategies, 84–88 Pederson, Doug, 50 Picasso, Pablo Ruiz, 44 Placebo effect, 20 Porras, Jerry, 57 Post hoc ergo propter hoc conclusion, 24 Powell, Colin, 42–43 Pro-innovation bias, 20 Profile in strategy 20 miles a day, 30–31 Blue Ocean Strategy of Starbucks, 68 Chobani, 28–29 Doug Pederson, 50 Ridley Scott, 94 THe Psychology of Science, 27 Qualifiers, 109 Question and Answer Approach, 75 Reagan, Ronald, 87 Recency, 20 Red herring, 24–25 Red Ocean Strategies versus Blue Ocean Strategy, 64–65 Red Ocean Traps, 27 Reflection, role of, 75–76 Robinson, Ken, 45 Rubric, assessment, 97 evidence (20 points), 99 organization (10 points), 99–100 paper focus/introduction (20 points), 98 strategic writing (30 points), 98–99 timeline and length (10 points), 100–101 writing style (10 points), 100

Salience, 20 Scissor kick technique, 47 Scott, Robert Falcon, 30–31 SDGs. See Sustainable Development Goals Selective perception, 20 Self-awareness role of, 75–76 Self-awareness check cognitive biases, 21–22 critical thinking, 10 mental models, 28 thinking, 5 Sequential (linear) thinking, 7 Short-term goals, 56 Six-page memo Jeff Bezos’ 2018 letter to shareholders, 77–79 power of narrative, 76–77 reason for, 73–74 reflection and self-awareness, role of, 75–76 structure of, 74–75 Slippery slope conclusion, 25 Small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 113 SMART goals, 57 SMEs. See Small-and medium-sized enterprises Smithson, Michael, 39 Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. See SMART goals SPOT. See Strategic Planning Outline Template Starbucks, 65 Blue Ocean Strategy of, 68 Stereotyping, 20 Strategic business writing, 17–18 assessment rubric, 97 evidence (20 points), 99 organization (10 points), 99–100 paper focus/introduction (20 points), 98 strategic writing (30 points), 98–99 timeline and length (10 points), 100–101 writing style (10 points), 100


critique versus criticism, note on, 101–102 grammar tips, 107–110 process, 103–106 timeline templates, 106–107 Strategic Planning Outline Template (SPOT), 63 Strategic thinkers canvas, 66–67 traits of, 38–44 Strategic thinking ending thought, 48–50 introduction, 37–38 need to think differently, 44–48 process of business, strategies and tactics in, 61–62 canvas, 66–67 goals, 55–58 profile in strategy, 68 starting point, 53–55 Strategic Planning Outline Template, 63 strategies, 58–60 tactics, 60–61 thinking exercise, 69 understanding blue versus red ocean strategies, 64–65 profile in strategy, 50 thinking exercise, 51–52 top 15 traits of strategic thinkers, 38–44 Strategic writing topics focusing illusion and your college major, 120–126 introduction, 111–112 Sustainable Development Goals, 112–115 top 10 business issues, 115–119 Strategies in business, 61–62 three-step process, 58–60 Straw man, 25 Stretch goals, 57 Strunk, William, 107 Survivorship bias, 20 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 112–115 Tactics, 60–61 in business, 61–62

Tanner, Jennifer Lynn, 124 Thinking components of mental models and difference between bias and fallacy, 26–28 profile in strategy, 28–31 thinking exercise, 31–35 top 20 cognitive biases, 17–26 critical, 8–10 definition of, 1–6 exercise, 12–15 types of, 6–8 understanding how you, 11–12 Thinking, Fast and Slow, 27–28 Thought, definition of, 49 Time, 107 Timeline templates, 106–107 20-miles-a-day strategy, 30 components, 30–31 Tversky, Amos, 18 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 55 Verb (think), 4 Wall Street Journal, 8 Walsch, Janet, 86–87 Watermark, 106 Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite, 45 Woodward, Colin, 33 Writing strategic business, process of. See Strategic business writing, process strategies ethos, 82–84 introduction, 81–82 logos, 88–93 pathos, 84–88 profile in strategy, 94 thinking exercise, 94–96 Yoga, 11 Zero hunger, 112 Zero-risk bias, 20–21

OTHER TITLES IN OUR CORPORATE COMMUNICATION COLLECTION Debbie DuFrene, Stephen F. Austin State University, Editor • Producing Written and Oral Business Reports: Formatting, Illustrating, and Presenting by Dorinda Clippinger • How to Write Brilliant Business Blogs, Volume I: The Skills and Techniques You Need by Suzan St. Maur • How to Write Brilliant Business Blogs, Volume II: What to Write About by Suzan St. Maur • Public Speaking Kaleidoscope by Rakesh Godhwani • The Presentation Book for Senior Managers: An Essential Step by Step Guide to Structuring and Delivering Effective Speeches by Jay Surti • Managerial Communication and the Brain: Applying Neuroscience to Leadership Practices by Dirk Remley • Communicating to Lead and Motivate by William C. Sharbrough • 64 Surefire Strategies for Being Understood When Communicating with Co-Workers by Walter St. John • Business Research Reporting by Dorinda Clippinger • English Business Jargon and Slang: How to Use It and What It Really Means by Suzan St. Maur • Conducting Business Across Borders: Effective Communication in English with Non-Native Speakers by Adrian Wallwork

Announcing the Business Expert Press Digital Library Concise e-books business students need for classroom and research This book can also be purchased in an e-book collection by your library as • • • • •

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Strategic Thinking and Writing Michael Edmondson “In an era when more time is spent on constant tweeting than on critical thinking, Michael Edmondson provides an important reminder that the path to success won’t be found by staying glued to a device. Strategic Thinking and Writing is a guide for effectively using the one key element needed to gain the upper hand in any challenging situation: your own thought process.”—Ronald Panarotti, Rider University “Dr. Edmondson’s Strategic Thinking and Writing is a fascinating piece of literature that will help you remain focused, motivated, and engaged in the art of critical thinking. This book captures real life success stories and provides magnificent exercises, each designed to help people improve their strategic thinking and writing skills. This book has encouraged me to open up my mind, increase my self-awareness, and continuously strive for clear and efficient thinking.”—Martha Redondo, Princeton Theological Seminary In today’s hyper-connected, dynamic, and ever-changing global

• Unlimited simultaneous usage • Unrestricted downloading and printing • Perpetual access for a one-time fee • No platform or maintenance fees • Free MARC records • No license to execute

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nizations and individuals that want to achieve and sustain growth. As technology has democratized the power to share stories with the world, succeeding in today’s age of collaborative commerce demands that leaders on all levels develop and enhance the business competency of storytelling built on strategic thinking and writing in order to drive customer engagement, enhance business performance, and remain relevant. Michael Edmondson is dean of Professional Education and LifeJersey. He is the author of Success: Theory and Practice (Business Experts Press, 2016), Major in Happiness: Debunking the College Major Fallacies (Business Experts Press, 2015), and Marketing Your Value: 9 Steps to Navigate Your Career (Business Experts Press, 2015). He has over 25 years of experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. He has a PhD in history from Temple University, an MA in history from Villanova University, and a BA in history from Cabrini

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