by Ben Perreira

People often ask me what makes me a good strategist. It’s a really hard question to answer. Unlike designers or engineers, who have portfolios to show, my profession depends on finding abstract solutions to complex problems, and once something has already been done it no longer sounds abstract. It is also a difficult question to answer because, like almost everybody, I have metacognitive biases, or the difficulties associated with accurately assessing one’s own attitudes toward a variety of things. Many of us cannot see our own strengths and weaknesses as well as others can see them.

However, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Once the door of awareness has been opened it cannot be closed,” and I’ve learned a few ways to trick myself into getting closer to the source. Conducting tons of consumer research has helped me refine this skill.

A critical element to exhibiting above-average talent across various skills is the ability to filter:

  • A college professor knows 1000 times more things than she teaches her students; she tells them what they need to know based on their skills levels and the course’s objectives.
  • A baseball player can hit any ball thrown to him; he chooses to swings at those that give him the best odds to hit the ball where he wants it to go in that situation.
  • A poet knows hundreds of thousands of words; she finds the one with the right definition, texture, meter and rhyme to finish her poem.
  • Anyone can point and shoot a camera at a subject; a great photographer adjusts his shutter speed and aperture then frames his subject in a way that makes our minds wonder how it can even be real.

Creating strategy is pretty simple if one thinks about it in this light. We have access to most of the same information as everyone else. We keep asking questions until an answer becomes clear. The better we are at asking questions, the clearer that answer is.