Strategy and ‘anti-strategy’

I’ve just started the final course for my MSc (‘Digital Education Strategy and Policy’). Week 1 has thrown up many interesting questions, including this one: what exactly do we mean by strategy, particularly in the context of digital education?

One of the main tensions in strategy seems to be between a classical definition (where strategists think they can control outcomes through reason and analysis) and ecological approaches, where ‘strategists [are] virtually powerless in the face of uncontrollable, and in many ways unknowable, forces’ (Jones 1998, p. 494).

Middle of nowhereSome see the latter as ‘anti-strategy’. But how can you ever formulate a meaningful strategy based on empirical analysis in a rapidly changing landscape such as digital education?

There are plenty of examples of organisations suffering due to a failure to adapt their strategy to the demands of digital (e.g. in publishing or music).

Are ‘born digital’ sectors – e.g. software development, digital marketing – any more successful at adapting to a constantly changing environment? And can organisations still take an evolutionary approach when they have profit-hungry shareholders demanding evidence of a more conventional strategy (e.g. Facebook)?

I started out thinking that a rational, analytical strategy was as desirable as a roadmap, even in a sometimes messy and fuzzy place like digital education. But now I’m not so sure…

Reference
Jones G. (2004) ‘Perspectives on strategy’, in Segal-Horn S. (ed.), The Strategy Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 491–508.


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