10 steps to Embodied Strategy: EPIC 2015 paper summary

Last October we presented a paper at the EPIC conference in Sao Paulo.

The paper is an important landmark for us here at Stripe Partners.

Over the last two years we have co-designed an approach to strategy development with our clients. We call it ‘Embodied Strategy’.

The paper lays out the theoretical foundations of this new methodology. You can now read it in full on EPIC People. (Free registration required)

For those without the time or inclination to read the paper in full, here is a flyby of the central argument:

1. More often than not large organisations stay close to the worlds in which they operate by commissioning research from external research specialists

2. This approach contrasts with that of successful start-ups who often don’t need to conduct research at all. This is because they are solving problems that they have personally experienced

3. The knowledge that is gained through research reports is propositional and abstract. The knowledge that is gained through personal experience is intuitive and embodied.

4. Propositional and abstract knowledge is useful for answering a specific question in a specific context. But once the question and/or context changes, the research often becomes redundant. 

5. Embodied understanding based on personal experience is more adaptable; new situations can be dealt with intuitively, as and when they arise

6. True expertise is based on embodied understanding. Knowing that the rules of driving a car are x, y and z, does not mean you know how to drive a car.

7. Research reports only help clients ‘know that’. Through our Embodied Strategy process we help clients develop intuitive ‘know how’.

8. Developing an Embodied Strategy means engaging the multidisciplinary team who will deliver the strategy directly with the world in which they are operating

9. In practice this means living together for an extended period in the target world, participating in a set of structured ethnographic activities designed to disclose different aspects of it, and then designing solutions collaboratively

10. The rhetoric of agility and speed coupled with the increasing complexity of markets means that the Embodied approach to strategy development is becoming ever more apposite.