Gonzo Strategy – Business Advice from the Sports Desk
A tribute to Hunter S. Thompson*
In a series of six blogs, I will draw some strategic planning advice from an unusual source: the Gonzo journalism of the late American author, Hunter S. Thompson. Enjoy!
‘It is no longer fun when it stops being good’, is one of the lesser-known quotes from Hunter S. Thompson. For business planners it is probably worth greater scrutiny than other oft-repeated Thompson quotes, such as, ‘All the blood has drained out of democracy – it dies – when only half the population votes’, – although maybe a few American politicians should reflect on that one.
It is easy at a glance to tear the quote apart. For example, no one would ever describe chemotherapy as fun, yet such a treatment is essentially ‘good’in that it is trying to save lives. Thompson is not necessarily saying if it is not fun, things are therefore bad but rather that they become part of the grind of society. Simply contributing to that grind is not good. Makes things better, make this different, aspire to inspire. Setting up a child chemo ward that resembles a play room is good. Making the weekly stocktake fun may be difficult, but eventually phasing it out through automatic stock scanning sure helps.
How does it relate to strategic planning? Well, if you don’t take a hard look at the planning experience of your employees, customers and other stakeholders, you are not making it ‘good’. The country of Bhutan was the first nation in the world to attempt to establish an annual recording of Gross National Happiness. It is a shame other nations at budget time, and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) don’t report the same.
Business is hard work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. Good bosses can make work easier with small things such as spur of the moment surprises, and finding the time of day for every staff member. Articulate such behaviours in the long-term strategy; the staff are the organisation. As Richard Branson is oft-quoted as saying, ‘Look after your staff, and they will look after the business’. Don’t overdrive it, but ‘people first’ must be a point of intense focus in strategic planning. If you want to use the language of modern business, this is the long-term strategy for the employee, customer and stakeholder experience. I prefer Thompson’s words.
It is a bold concept when current businesses look at things through a dry Australian Financial Review lens or seek the next panacea. It challenges big business paradigms. However, to use another of Hunter’s quotes: ‘Buy the ticket, take the ride’.
Jason Thomas is the Founder of de Montaigne Strategic Planning, which provides robust strategic planning and training services to small to medium-sized enterprises, not-for-profit organisations and government departments.
He has over 30 years’ experience in senior leadership, operational and planning roles across the military, public and private sectors. In addition, Jason holds numerous degrees and qualifications including Gold Mastery Certification with the Haines Centre for Strategic Management.