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.

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