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Using Spy's Guide Concepts To Build Strategies: A Review

Dr. Jerry Smith is Vice-President of Data Sciences and Artificial Intelligence at Cognizant. Recently, he wrote about using the concepts in A Spy's Guide To Thinking and A Spy's Guide To Strategy to build strategies. He graciously allowed a reprint here:


"Really understanding strategy is a hard problem. One that requires itself a strategy. Amazon list over 200,000 books on strategy. Finding any book is easy. It’s a simple query executed in a text field of a web page. It’s results in a collection of data. Authors, summaries, recommendations. But picking one of them requires a decision. A decision requires analysis, a point of view. Therefore, deciding on book can also be an easy action if the right analysis of the proper data is performed. Learning about Strategy requires Tactics. This foreplay between strategy and tactics has never been better illustrated than through the works of John Braddock. John was a case officer at the CIA. He developed, recruited and handled sources on weapons proliferation, counter-terrorism and political-military issues. He was a master spy. And as he points out, master spies are master strategists and master tacticians. Through John’s second book A Spy’s Guide to Strategy, we learn about strategy through the eyes of a CIA case manager. A master spy. A field operative. John teaches us that Strategy is imagination and reasoning, separate but connected. Strategy is looking forward (imagination) and reasoning backwards. He shows us how to reason backwards through zero-sum games where our battles will take place. We continue backwards through positive-sum games where our alliances are built. Farther backwards into boss-games - inevitable. To win the boss-games, we might have to win the more zero-sum games, more positive-sum games, and maybe more boss-games. A cycle. Once you reason backwards far enough, you must move forward again by taking action. You turn decisions into actions. Actions into results. John shows how these results lead to yet more strategy. More tactics. This framework is beautiful in its simplicity and applicability to everyday life. Corporate life. Home life. If you are a master strategist, read John’s book to learn how Osama bin Laden used this strategic framework to position himself as the next Khalif of his Caliphate end-game. If you are a master historian, then read this work to help you really understand the dynamics of strategy. If you are both, drop me a note on what that world is like."


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