Alice in strategy land by Kate M. Santon can help improve your business

1 April 2016 by in Business and finance

Why replacing the rulebook with a 150-year-old pair of novels can improve your business strategy

Rules abound in our working lives. Many people follow these rules unquestioningly, adhering to procedures, attending meetings and handing in reports. But are the long accepted ways of conducting business always the best? Are these rules and procedures helping or hindering our organizations?

Perhaps it’s time for business leaders to take another look at how they strategize and run their businesses. A new book suggests we might turn to an unexpected source when it comes to reinventing our working lives. In Alice in strategy land Kate M. Santon suggests taking a sideways view – going down the rabbit hole could be a useful way of improving business strategy. When Alice stepped through Lewis Carroll’s looking-glass into the surreal world beyond it made her question all her assumptions about the way the world worked. And by taking some advice from Carroll’s array of eccentric characters Santon suggests we can open our minds to new ways of practising business.

Mad Hatter's meeting

Much like Alice’s path across Wonderland, business strategies can be dominated by rules, riddles and dead ends. We don’t always think about what we do, tasks can become monotonous, and there’s nothing quite like another (Mad Hatter’s) meeting to dampen the spirits. Like the White Knight, who’s had ‘plenty of practice’ at falling off his horse but never considered changing his approach to achieve a more positive outcome, we rarely stop to reconsider our assumptions and methodology.

While a 150-year-old book by an Oxford Don may not be the most logical place to look for business advice Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass were never about logic.

So what lessons do the books have when it comes to changing our business routines? Some of Santon’s suggestions include:

  • Take a pragmatic approach to meetings. The Mad Hatter’s tea party seemed to have all the usual suspects but no direction or purpose. If this resonates with you, think about how you can shake up meetings to get real results. Who really needs to be there, what are you hoping to achieve? Business leaders can learn from innovative companies like Hootsuite, which imposes meeting-free days and keeps meetings as short as possible.
  • Rethink your online presence. Pinterest, one of the Internet’s most popular websites, has become hugely profitable precisely because it ripped up the business rulebook and did things the way it wanted to do them: creating the infinite scroll, reducing advertising and doing away with ranking so that it is more of a community. As Alice sees time and again rules are there to be broken.
  • Sod the competition. Running with the Red Queen can be incredibly exhausting, not to mention fruitless. If you’re desperate to beat your competitors at their own game, innovation will slow down. You will never get ahead simply by trying to keep up. What do you think you should be doing?
  • Reject the ‘blame and shame’ culture. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards’ is not just common in Wonderland. Just as the Red Queen’s readiness to shout ‘Off with their heads’ made her a volatile leader, arrogant management can damage an organization.

Alice full cover.inddThe other crucial thing we learn from Alice in strategy land is that business should be fun. No, seriously! Leaders who want their teams to come to work sporting Cheshire-cat grins need to foster an atmosphere in which people can be creative. Developing a creative curiosity, says Santon, ‘can help everyone when it comes to coping with today’s working world.’

Alice in strategy land is available now and can be purchased here.