Business Strategy Mapping Should Be Taught In High Schools – Don’t you think


Quick exercise: Take three groups of high school students.
(Or three groups of senior executives.)

  • The first group with the puzzle pieces face down
  • The second group with the puzzle pieces face up
  • And the third group with the pieces face up and with a copy of the puzzle box lid

Which group is going to be happier, faster, more productive?  The group with the puzzle box lid. (Quick note, I usually use a 24 piece puzzle in workshops, because it only takes about 5 minutes to learn this lesson.)

Why is the group with the puzzle box lid going to be happier, faster, more productive . . . because with the lid people can:

  • See all the pieces
  • See how the pieces fit together
  • Better know what to do with their pieces
  • Better hand off pieces to the correct people
  • All work together more seamlessly, quickly, etc.

Behold the power of the lid!

For high school students, it doesn’t matter what profession they choose, they are going to continually be surrounded by hundreds of business-models every day. Understanding what the puzzle box lids (business models) look like will be a huge help in life.

The basics of food, clothing and shelter all require us to interact with business-models. These three examples alone mean interacting with a grocery store, a clothing store and a landlord or bank (if you are renting or buying). And each of these three business-models, have business-model ecosystems that support them.

Wouldn’t it be useful if business-models were more transparent to people? So we could all more proactively work our way through life. Instead of only being able to react after something happens.

Why isn’t business strategy mapping taught in high schools? Because it isn’t even taught in colleges and universities. Open any college or university catalog and try to look up the discipline of “Strategy”. Many universities don’t even have the discipline listed. And if it is listed, it is thought to be a subset of either: economics, finance, marketing, etc. Try asking them how they put it all together: marketing, finance, operations, data, research, design, etc.

Business strategy mapping should be taught in high schools. And all universities should at least have a “Center for Strategy Excellence” that shows students how all of the classes (disciplines) fit together. Including their: objectives, initiatives and metrics. We should get on with it already. Good business strategy mapping can fit on a restaurant place-mat and be suitable for coloring. We shouldn’t wait any longer. So why do we wait?

One challenge is that most business schools, teach business in silos. Marketing, finance and operational silos. Once you get to their graduate programs, they teach in deeper versions of each silo. Business silos are great, for the efficiencies they bring. You can’t get those efficiencies any other way. But business cuts across silos to get actual work done. The more progressive universities like to teach using a case based method. This often leaves everyone to individually infer how all of the different business disciplines fit together.

Thus we send students out into the world where they often contribute to the jumbled mess that is made of things. A jumbled mess, because given the way business is generally taught, they have only a vague personal sense as to how things either do or don’t fit together. We shouldn’t keep doing this. There is a better way. It is a much easier way. It involves showing students how business is actually a conversation as to how we drive opportunities from potential to profitability, and the points in between.

This is how business is often taught . . .

This is an improvement . . .

And this is how it generally actually works . . .

What is frustrating is that when approaching a couple of elite business schools with the idea of “showing students how all of their classes fit together”, there were two main themes that emerged:

1.) “We already know everything there is to know, so there is no need to change anything.”, and

2.) “We are not going to change anything until we see empirical evidence that marketing, finance and operations fit together”

W a i t ! . . . W h a t ?

In some businesses the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. In some large organizations the left hand doesn’t even know there is a right hand. And in some really large organizations I have seen the left hand actually hide from the right hand.

We need to live in a much more functional world. I think we can fix this in a generation or two. The first thing we need to do is start teaching high school students, how the world actually fits together. What do you think?

Please share this with others. We need to all get to better places more quickly. And let me know if you have any questions. As a business geek, I love this stuff.

#marketing, #finance, #operations, #strategy, #students, #HighSchool, #BusinessStrategyMapping, #BusinessSchools

Also, we need to make things better more quickly. Here are 6 conversations that can help:

More can be found @

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