We are either expanding or shrinking. Developing or declining. A walk along the via dei Fori Imperiali near the Colesseum reminds me of such.
There, 4 maps depict Rome’s territories at various points in history. Depending on your perspective (ignoring the dates) you could be looking at its expansion or its decline.
Which got me thinking about strategy.
Romans were brilliant strategists. They executed a vision of an empire. The maps in question show us what a strategy can achieve in growth, and what happens when you don’t face up to the brutal facts and fail to re-adjust it.
The empire has gone. But the legacy lives on in various forms. Rome’s “products and markets” have changed over the centuries. Its place in the world’s cultural, political, social and economic affairs redefined. Today it is the home of the Vatican and 3 UN agencies, is the headquarters for multinational companies, and tourists come en-masse to be conquered by its history, culture and charm. Romans may still head out to other territories but it is probably with a classical education, a pair of Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and a wedge of pecorino romano.
A game plan
Arguably we all need a game plan. As cities, companies and as individuals. A game plan which makes sense of our respective specific situations, opportunities, objectives and resources. A game plan which remains dynamic.
Jim Collins in his best-selling book Good to Great put forward a way to get clarity. Known as the Hedgehog concept (from Isaiah Berlin’s essay in which he wrote, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”) it involves a deep awareness and understanding of what lies at the intersection of 3 fundamental areas:
1) What are we passionate about?
2) What can we be the best in the world at ?
3) What drives our economic engine?
- Collins, J (2001) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, Random House Business Books, London