Released on 9th August 2019
This week’s shot of clarity is an excerpt from my Sunday Times bestselling book RESULTS: Think Less, Achieve More (©2016 Jamie Smart, published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd). It holds includes the key to a bright future, and to solving all the challenges you might face along the way. At the end of the article, I include a link to a recording of the keynote speech I referenced in the article. Enjoy!
The strategy equation
I was scheduled to deliver the keynote speech to kick off a strategy workshop for the council of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). The IFoA has over 25,000 members, and its council had been charged with developing strategy for the future of the profession.
Actuaries are renowned for being extremely detail-oriented, data-driven and analytical; they also love playing devil’s advocate. The chief executive wanted me to inspire some fresh thinking, new perspectives and innovative ideas. I reflected to myself…
– How can you meet these people where they are?
– How can you make it easy for them to look in the direction you’re pointing?
– How can you make it a no-brainer for them to come on the journey?
When I arrived at the venue, the council members were chatting casually over coffee, so I introduced myself to several small groups and started asking them questions:
Questions about their profession, themselves and the challenges they faced.
Questions about their hopes for the strategy workshop, and for their future.
I listened as deeply as I could to each person, and I started feeling connected to them.
Early in the talk, I set the context, saying ‘I understand you’ve been given the job of setting the strategy for your profession. This means that if you do a good job, your colleagues 20 years from today will be blessing you, and if the profession goes off a cliff, they’ll be cursing you. Is that correct?’
They nodded, and I started telling them about Airbnb, Hyatt and the exponential impact of digital technology (Airbnb.com was valued at $25 billion in November 2015, making it more valuable than Hyatt Hotels or the InterContinental Hotels Group, owner of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. This despite the fact that Airbnb has a fraction of the number of employees and owns no hotels.)
I told them about Allstate Insurance, which had put up a $10,000 prize for the first team who could beat its insurance algorithm (an algorithm developed over 60 years by some of the world’s finest actuaries and data scientists). More than 100 teams competed for the prize, and after three months Allstate’s algorithm had been optimized by over 270%, saving the company tens of millions of dollars in annual costs. Allstate had the data, but that was only half the formula.
Now I had their attention. I asked them if they’d like to know the formula for strategy, and they nodded eagerly. I wrote…
Strategy = Data + Insight
They assured me that they were already great at gathering and analysing data, but that they weren’t so familiar with the second part of the formula. So I asked them, ‘When do you get your best ideas?’ I’ve asked thousands of people this question, ranging from parents to therapists, from athletes to leadership teams. The answers are always the same…
– In the shower
– In the bath
– Dropping off to sleep
– Waking up in the morning
– Travelling to and from work
– Walking in the woods
– Working out at the gym
– Running or riding
– Relaxing with friends
– Sitting by the ocean
– On holiday
– When the plane leaves the runway
– Connecting with other people
– When I stop thinking about a problem
– When I’m doing something else
We’re built for exponential insight! But it doesn’t come from the shower, the holiday or the walk in the woods. It’s a natural capacity that we all have.
You’ve been having insights and realizations your whole life, but when we attribute them to external factors (walks, woods, workouts) we limit our understanding of just how available insight is.
As you reflect on some of the realizations that have already made a big difference to you in your life, you’ll start to realize just what a powerful source of intelligence you have going for you.
And this source of intelligence is the key to a bright future, and to solving all the challenges you might face along the way.
If you want to listen to the keynote speech that I reference in this article, you can hear the entire keynote speech for yourself, and hear me go into depth about the ‘strategy equation’ used by many of the world’s greatest strategists (including Napoleon, Steve Jobs, Microsoft and Netflix). You can listen to it here, or on your favourite podcast app.
To your increasing clarity!