Strategy Safari: The Elephant in the Room


Six blind men of Indostan we put in front of an elephant and asked to describe it based on them touching it.

The first approached the elephant, and happening to fall aainst his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl: “God bless me! but the elephant is very like a wall!”

The second, feeling of the tusk, cried, “Ho! what have we here so very round and smooth and sharp? To me ’tis mighty clear this wonder of an elephant is very like a spear!”

The third approached the animal, and happening to take the squirming trunk within his hands, thus boldly up and spake: “I see,” quoth he, “the elephant is very like a snake!”

The fourth reached out an eager hand, and felt about the knee. “What most this wondrous beast is like is mighty plain,” quoth he; ” ‘Tis clear enough the elephant is very like a tree!”

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: “E’en the blindest man can tell what this resembles most; deny the fact who can this marvel of an elephant is very like a fan!”

The sixth no sooner had begun about the beast to grope, than, seizing on the swinging tail that fell within his scope, “I see,” quoth he, “the elephant is very like a rope!”

Strategy definition is pretty must the same as the blind men describing the elephant, it means different things to different people.

According to strategy expert Henry Mintzberg:

We are the blind people and strategy formation is our elephant. Since no one has had the vision to see the entire beast, everyone has grabbed hold of some part or other and “railed on in utter ignorance” about the rest. We certainly do not get an elephant by adding up its parts. An elephant is more than that. Yet to comprehend the whole we also need to understand the parts.” 

Entrepreneurs tend to approach their businesses like holding a hammer. There is that saying that goes “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
Its important to understand business in its entirety, not just our one favourite part of the business we enjoy.

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