Mapping and linking assets to find opportunities

S trategic Doing provides a discipline for thinking and acting strategically in open, loosely joined networks. Four questions frame the strategy process. On the surface, these questions are simple, but answering them is not easy.

On the first question of the Strategic Doing cycle — What could we do? — participants explore their assets and the new opportunities that emerge when they connect them.

It’s interesting to watch what happens when people are asked to identify their assets. Two common patterns emerge. First, instead of focusing on the assets they could share within their emerging network, people focus on what they do. They focus on their current activities.

I’m not sure why. It may be that we are conditioned this way. We tend to define ourselves by what we do. Or, alternatively, people stake out their territories by what they do. Whatever the reason, explaining what you do is different than identifying what you’re willing to share.

Strategic Doing’s first question runs into another obstacle. We are comfortable with listing assets, and, certainly, developing these lists serves a useful purpose. Oftentimes, regional leaders are simply not aware of all the assets within the region. So lists are helpful.

But maps are better than lists. It’s far more helpful to place assets on a map than put them in a list. Putting assets on a map draws are thinking into connections. The place to start: the Asset Strategy Map presented in the right column.

And this is the important point.

Asset mapping creates value when we connect our assets in new and different ways. New opportunities emerge. So, our conversation needs to focus on identifying “link and leverage” scenarios. If we align, link and leverage our assets, what new opportunities emerge? That is a critical strategic question.

We are not accustomed to thinking in these terms.

Ed Morrison is Director of the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. For the past five or six years, he has been developing new, agile approaches to strategy in open, loosely joined networks, a discipline he calls Strategic Doing. Prior to starting his economic development work, Ed worked for Telesis, a corporate strategy consulting firm. In this position, he served on consulting teams for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Volvo, and General Electric. He conducted manufacturing cost studies in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Sweden, and France. Ed started his professional career in Washington, D.C., where he has served as a legislative assistant to an Ohio Congressman, staff attorney in the Federal Trade Commission, and staff counsel in the US Senate. He holds a BA degree cum laude with honors from Yale University and MBA and JD degrees from the University of Virginia.

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