Five Thinking Approaches
Updated: Feb 4
Individuals and Organisations around the world share some common challenges.
Whether you are in a policy making or operational role, whether you are involved in a commercial enterprise or a public sector organisation, and whether you are a specialist (Finance, IT, Marketing, Sales) or in general management you will need some or all of the capabilities to:
Be highly proficient in getting others to accept your viewpoint
Enable groups of stakeholders to come to a shared vision as to the best way forward, essential for getting agreement and commitment to implementation
Visualise the breadth of opportunity open to you and be able to select the best options to focus on
Be able to manage in an uncertain future. You will need to have strategies that are robust to alternative futures since single line forecasting simply does not work in a world characterised by significant uncertainty. Energy prices are a great example of this.
Be able to design the optimum business system – to see how to create competitive advantage as technologies enable new business models to emerge. The Internet of things will be one of the next big drivers in this arena.
Learning how to adopt the thinking approaches to build the required capabilities
Peter Franklin has had over 30 years of experience in both management and consulting during which he has learned and internalised five thinking approaches which enable the above challenges to be addressed. Indeed whilst he has had the opportunity to experience many more, these five have been found to be the most useful and powerful, and have been deployed by him successfully on many occasions over the years.
So what does this mean for you and your organisation?
You and your team can improve your capability to tackle the challenges you face, and consequently enjoy much more positive outcomes, through deploying the 5 thinking approaches:
This is because there is a thinking approach suited to each of the capabilities described above.
Taking each of the competencies in turn:
1. Pyramid Thinking, which is sometimes called Top-Down Thinking, is an approach ideally suited to giving you the capability to become highly proficient in getting others to accept your viewpoint.
Discovered by Barbara Minto of McKinsey’s and documented in her book, “The Pyramid Principle”, the approach teaches you how to structure the logic of your argument such that the message is easy to absorb, and take on board, by your audience. Peter has added in what he has learned over the years on delivering benefits driven propositions to create a methodology that will maximise your ability to convince your audience of the compelling nature of your proposition.
Peter learned the approach at the turn of the millennium when he was with PA Consulting where it was mandatory, from the chairman down to the lowest analyst, to learn and use the approach. He found it so valuable he has used it in all his work from the day he had the good fortune to learn it.
In particular, if you are working in a business development, marketing, or sales context the combination of logic structure and benefits focus will ensure your win rates increase significantly. Hence, Pyramid Thinking is truly essential for anyone involved in business development, marketing, or sales.
We offer both face to face and on-line (group or individual) courses to enable you to make this capability part of your business as usual.
2. Value Mapping is an approach which enables groups of stakeholders to come to a shared vision as to the best way forward. Examples of Peter’s projects in this area would be:
Working with the Board members of the UK electricity industry to redefine the structure of trade representation through a shared understanding of how trade associations create value for their members in the electricity industry
Working with an upstream gas organisation on how knowledge management can deliver maximum value
Working with the business heads of various divisions of a major energy company to create a structure for the Finance function which maximised value to the enterprise
Working with the heads of the oil industry across Europe to maximise value form the relationship with the European Commission and Parliament
Working with the business heads of a multi-utility to define how IT can create maximum value for the enterprise
Working with cities in the UK to identify how a computer simulation can add maximum value to energy architecture planning
Whilst all of these projects have taken place in the energy sector they span the variety of functions that exist in all organisations and enterprises such as Policy making, Finance, IT, Marketing, Knowledge management etc. The approach is applicable to any function in any sector where the challenge is to deliver maximum value from the activity under consideration.
In particular if you are involved in business development, Value Mapping is the most powerful approach for not only identifying what a client/customer or a potential client/customer needs or wants, but also ensuring that their mental map of what they want is fully aligned to yours enabling you to design the product or service so it both delivers, and is perceived to deliver, maximum value to the client/customer – a true win-win for both sides.
3. Option Generation and Selection enables you to understand the breadth of options open to you and to select those to focus on. Every organisation has intrinsic capabilities which can be harnessed to create new products and services and to enter new markets.
What is needed is a facilitation approach which enables the generation of a long list of ideas. However, this is not enough since no organisations can dilute its resources across a long list of options. A robust, yet efficient, means of selecting the short-list to focus on is also essential.
Peter has taken on Board Strategic Landscape Mapping from Cambridge University as the means of creating the long-list.
Born out of the Shell Directional Policy framework which Peter used in a number of strategy studies in Shell, which itself is a development of the Boston Consulting Group Dogs, Stars and Cash Cow framework, the Competitive Positioning toolkit is a spreadsheet driven facilitation tool which enables a team to prioritise the options which have both best prospects for profitability and for which the organisation has strong competitive capability.
Peter has deployed this approach for organisations ranging from a multinational IT services provider to a small quality management consultancy.
4. Scenario Planning is the tool you need for successfully managing future uncertainty.
There is an Arab proverb that says:“He who foretells the future lies – even if he tells the truth”.
Peter was made aware of this quote when he was himself trained in the discipline of Scenario Planning when he was working for the Royal Dutch Shell group. Shell had learned that forecasting is futile, having been unable to predict energy prices with any reasonable degree of accuracy for many years and decided to move away from forecasting as the foundation for strategic thinking.
Shell concluded that it is much better to envisage the alternative futures – called Scenarios – which could come about and to make sure your strategy is robust to these. The trick is to be prepared for the eventualities that may come about rather than trying to become a clairvoyant and predict the future.
5. Business model generation is the newest of the approaches Peter has adopted.
This approach enables an individual or a team to create a blueprint of their enterprise detailing how it will be architected for success. A one page framework covers everything from the value proposition, to how an enterprise engages with its customers to what it needs to do well to establish a competitive advantage. Peter came across this approach about four years ago and bought the book on the approach as described on www.businessmodelgeneration.com
You can either buy the book and simply put it into practice or get Peter and/or his colleagues to work alongside you on your first implementation to transfer their experience of deployment to you.
So whatever your challenge there is a proven approach for tackling it which you can add to your toolbox.
These approaches have been proven time and time again in Peter’s management and consulting careers. They will certainly stand you, your teams, and your organisation in good stead over the course of time.