The Philosophy of Business: Strategy

I was 12 years old when I decided I wanted to become a professional musician. That summer I landed my first paying gig, and the rest – as they say – is history. Around the same time, I cultivated a deep and life-long interest in philosophy.

Here is how Wikipedia defines philosophy:

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.

In my opinion, the application of philosophy to business is strategy. Robert Boyden Lamb defines strategic management in the intro to his book, Competitive Strategic Management, as follows:

Strategic management is an ongoing process that evaluates and controls the business and the industries in which the company is involved; assesses its competitors and sets goals and strategies to meet all existing and potential competitors; and then reassesses each strategy annually or quarterly [i.e. regularly] to determine how it has been implemented and whether it has succeeded or needs replacement by a new strategy to meet changed circumstances, new technology, new competitors, a new economic environment., or a new social, financial, or political environment.

What’s the Point?

Philosophy is a way of addressing problems through a “critical, generally systematic approach and… rational argument.” Effective business leaders also address problems rationally, critically and often systematically. How a business positions itself in the marketplace, how the business interacts with clients, and even how a business develops product and service offerings – these decisions demand a rational and critical approach.

The original Greek definition of philosophy, “love of wisdom,” is extremely relevant to modern business strategy. The more knowledge and information that is factored into intelligent decisions, the better the outcome is likely to be. Philosophy is about tackling the big questions, and those questions are just as applicable to business:

  • Why are we here? (Mission)
  • How do we make decisions? (Business Intelligence)
  • What is our relation to the outside world? (Marketing, Customer Service)

What is your philosophy of business?

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