Your hard Work is not a Strategy

No.9 • June 11th, 2017

You don’t have a strategy, do you?
Let's be honest, none of us has. Not really. I know I didn’t. I still struggle today. For the longest time, my strategy was to 'Work hard and be nice to people’.

As designers, we truly want to believe that hard work, and genuine kindness will get us to our personal design-nirvana. The places where everybody knows our work appreciates us for what we do and gives us a whole lot of money to do what we love to do.

But hard work without progress is nothing. It is blind action taking. It doesn't work. Not over the long term. We all had our successes, but they didn't get us anywhere. Don’t get me wrong; you will need to work hard and to be kind to other people. But you want to know why you are working hard before you start doing it.

The point is that our actions miss direction if we don't choose the destination, first.

But deciding on a destination is hard, it cuts our options, and we have to pick one destiny above all others. That is why we avoid the tough business decision. No matter how hard we work, because we have not picked a destination, our hard work and our progress will vanish quickly in the eyes of others.

And that is what strategy is all about. To pick a destination and to make a plan on how to get there. To cut all other options and to pursue your plan by taking action. 

For years I struggled with strategy in my work, and especially in my presentations. It was hard to get clients to see what I saw. To envision the possibilities I had in mind. But honestly, how could they? I haven't told them my strategy. My designs showed tactics and actions. They were beautiful. They showed all the actions we would implement. Things like new logos and new animated show openings, etc. But they didn't explain how all these efforts were aligned towards a goal. Probably because I didn't care about their business goals, too much. I only cared about my craft. 

But design needs to be more than and a buzz-word, it needs to get you results. And strategy is the way you get there. Strategy is an actionable plan that points towards a goal. It also tells us how we get there with the resources we have at hand.

Strategy aligns all your actions towards the goal; it generates success action by action, step by step. Things like hard work, kindness and developing your craft are the actions you take to get you to your personal design-nirvana.

‘If a strategy is a coherent plan of action to solve a problem, then tactics are the actions within this plan. This means that strategy must tell us how to achieve the goal.'
–Jim Antonopoulos

It seems so easy, now. Today, I can honestly claim that strategy is part of my design work. And more importantly, I can tell you why!

If you are interested in strategy and how it can benefit your career, then check out Jim’s free email course at The Strategy Masterclass. Click the 'Free lessons' link on the top of the page to learn more on the topic.

The insights I gained in this course helped me to increase my effectiveness and productivity; it helped me to understand strategy.