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If originally, strategy was the art of generals planning for battle leveraging strength and cunning, today there are many angles and takes on the topic of strategy. But it is possible its general outline which commonly involves making sense of a situation and available resources, anticipating different outcomes, deciding a way towards success, defining goals and priorities to reach success, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources using tactical principles to execute the actions.

In the age of climate disasters, pandemics and social tensions, I believe some fundamentals of strategy can be outlined. Through my experience with leaders and strategists, these principles are recurrent patterns I have observed among strategists.

  1. A lucid understanding of the environment and available resources. 
  2. The ability to make choices – mostly about what not to do. 
  3. Enable open structures and distributed autonomy to benefit from power asymmetries.
  4. Aim for hybrid remixes and blur traditional categories.
  5. Leverage surprises to learn fast at low cost, using design as a strategic asset
  6. Anticipate, prepare, speculate, be future-oriented.
  7. Use narratives to align teams on principles.

In the 21st Century

Today,  strategy is a process of collective and creative problemsolving that engages the intersectional and situated knowledge of those affected by problems, and uses this knowledge to create an adaptive and transformative approach to addressing these issues.

The practice of strategy in the 21st century has been drastically altered due to the emergence of a permacrisis, many postWestphalian hybrid conflicts, climate disasters, and the collapse of positive future narratives. Leaders must now operate in an environment of perpetual insecurity, where traditional models of conflict resolution between states no longer apply.

This is compounded by the reality of climate change, which has caused immense damage to the environment, and the collapse of traditional structures that provide a sense of direction and hope for the future. Leaders must now take a more proactive approach to strategizing, one that is focused on mitigating damage, protecting citizens, and developing resilience in the face of these challenges.

They must also be prepared to deploy a wide range of interdisciplinary strategies, from diplomatic and economic initiatives, to military and technological interventions. In this new era, leaders must be creative and adaptive in their approach to strategy, and must be prepared to confront the unprecedented issues of the 21st century.

Networked agility

Based on the research from John Robb, strategy in the 21st century is not simply a matter of having a well-crafted plan or a set of defined steps to follow, but rather an adaptive process that requires constant learning, experimentation, and collaboration. It is a dynamic approach to problem-solving that involves an ongoing process of observation, analysis, and response to the rapidly changing and complex conditions of the modern world.

In this view, strategic thinking involves a deep understanding of the complex systems and interdependencies that shape our world, including economic, social, and political systems, as well as the natural environment. It requires an ability to identify and respond to emergent patterns and trends, as well as the ability to anticipate and prepare for unexpected disruptions and discontinuities.

Robb emphasizes the importance of networked approaches to strategic thinking, in which organizations and individuals are connected across multiple channels and can collaborate and share knowledge and resources. This approach recognizes the importance of collective intelligence and the need for diverse perspectives and expertise in addressing complex challenges.

At the heart of this approach is a commitment to ongoing learning and experimentation. This requires a willingness to take risks, try new approaches, and learn from failure. It also requires a willingness to be flexible and adaptive, to adjust plans and strategies in response to changing conditions and new information.

Overall, the key to strategic thinking in the 21st century is a dynamic and adaptive approach that recognizes the complexity and interconnectedness of our world and embraces the need for ongoing learning, experimentation, and collaboration.