The connection between digital media, (almost) infinite choice and strategy execution

The first questions we ask a client who is interested in using digital media have to do with the quality of their strategy execution processes. In fact, this initial questionnaire is front-loaded with these sorts of questions. Why is this so important? Our research and work has begun to reveal a connection between the two. Here is one way to think about it:

Digital media has begun to give people an (almost) infinite choice of what they can do and when they can do it. In a world of (almost) infinite choice, the ability to focus everyone on shared strategic goals becomes more important than ever.

Perhaps an analogy will make this connection more clear. Imagine you are a teacher leading a small group of Bloomington, Indiana high school students on a 5-day museum tour around their town. The choice of museums, according to the city’s visitor page, is far from infinite. In fact, there are fourteen. The systems and technologies that the students will have to learn in order to visit those museums is small as well. They will probably either drive, walk or take the local bus. They will be able to easily find them on a map, and could probably just ask friends for most of the locations. It will not be difficult for you and your students focus on, and to achieve a positive outcome.

Now imagine you are leading the same group of Bloomington students on a 5-day museum tour around New York City.

The choices are overwhelming. According to this web site, there are at least 70 museums from which to choose.  To add to this, the systems and technologies that the students will have to learn in order to visit those museums may be overwhelming. They may have to learn to navigate the subway system, learn how to negotiate a cab fare, how to find the museums, how to cross busy streets, how to catch and take a bus, etc. etc.

To have a successful 3-day trip in New York–the city of (almost) infinite choice–your ability to focus everyone on shared goals–becomes more important than ever.

This is analogous to the situation organizations find themselves in today. Every person in a company now has an (almost) infinite choice of things that they can do from their computer, their iPad, their phone, and even from their car. They can pose an idea to their friends or to the world, they can raise money for a project, they can instantly shoot and upload video to a public website from a phone, they can surf the web for competitive information, they can send an encouraging message to their colleagues, they can meet up with people to share knowledge, they can blast an email to the entire company, or just to their spouse.. the choices are (almost) infinite. To add to this, the number of different technologies that they can use to do these things is (almost) infinite as well.

Because of this, one big key to an organization’s success in the digital age is the effectiveness of its strategy execution process. And by this we don’t mean putting together a 40-page strategy document and filing it away for a year. Rather, we mean the discipline of making sure that every person in the company is constantly aware of the organization’s 5 or 10 top strategic goals, that they are able to understand how their daily decisions support those goals, that the company is measuring and communicating everyone’s progress on those goals, and that the organization is adapting its strategic goals often enough to keep up with the pace of change.

When an organization’s strategy execution is lacking, the blessing of (almost) infinite choice in the digital age can quickly turn into the curse of chaos, like a bunch of small-town students who try to visit all 70 museums in New York in 5 days. When an organization’s strategy execution is solid, it enables its people to make smarter choices, ignore the potential distractions, and use digital media to help accomplish the organization’s biggest goals.


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