Mapping a strategist

I was having a chat with a strategy director recently and the topic of what made an ‘ideal strategist’ came up. They started listing things, prefaced by “It's a rare combo but…”

Wildly creative but also ruthlessly logical

An amazing empath but also able to crunch the numbers

Great attention to detail but also expansive in their thinking

Inspiring with creatives but also never one of them

Smart but also not overly academic

Blue sky thinker but also an intense pragmatist


This is not a rare combo. It's an impossible one.

The reality is that even those who would consider themselves generalists (myself included) will still swing one way more than the other when it comes to core strengths and aptitudes.

I think we’ve put strategists on a pedestal, and it has some unhealthy implications:

In personal terms, it can lead to disappointment (particularly with people at the start of their career that probably don’t need any help kick starting their imposter syndrome.)

And in terms of professional development, it could mean we spend too much time trying to prop up our weaknesses vs developing our strengths. Something a good manager would never advocate.

So I thought it would be useful to develop a simple way to help people map themselves as strategists [download here]. (Yes, I had a go, keep reading…)

It’s also cool to see how your map differs to other members of your team.

Note: There’s 5 concentric rings, so think on a scale of 1-5

Note: There’s 5 concentric rings, so think on a scale of 1-5

I found that it’s more fun than the average buzzfeed personality quiz (Slytherin - you probably guessed).

Having gotten a few people to fill this out, it not only debunks the whole ‘ideal(ised) strategist’ thing (not even the boss is perfect…) but it visualises the limitations of the ‘lone wolf strategist’ approach to answering briefs - something we actively avoid here in favour of swarming problems.

If you’re still reading this, it can only be for one reason… So here’s me putting my money where my mouth is (if anyone wants to compare maps - DM me!)

James 2019

James 2019