BCG Henderson Institute

Generic filters

Last year, poachers killed 35,000 elephants for their tusks. We’re facing an all-out crisis. But we have a simple threefold strategy to save elephants: Stop the killing. Stop the trafficking. Stop the demand.

Posted on the website for “96 Elephants” in 2016, the above strategy, orchestrated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), became one of the most successful conservation efforts ever. The WCS convened a coalition of hundreds of zoos, companies, and individual donors, who succeeded in banning the ivory trade in U.S. and China, passing anti-wildlife trafficking legislation in the U.S., and substantially reducing elephant poaching.

“It’s inconceivable that we could successfully execute our strategy to protect wildlife and wild places worldwide without creating and using powerful stories,” says John Calvelli, executive vice president of public affairs at WCS.

The above five sentences from the WCS are a good example of what we call a strategy story. Business strategy is usually born of a highly rational process, grounded in facts and analysis. Storytelling, often associated with fiction and entertainment, may seems like the antithesis of strategy. But the two are not incompatible. “Our work is grounded in science, but the scientific facts and arguments alone are never enough to persuade anyone to act,” says Calvelli.

What Is Strategy for, After All?

A business strategy is merely a tool for realizing competitive advantage. It requires a thorough understanding of the company’s starting position, its aspirations and capabilities, those of its competitors, the needs of its customers, and the dynamics of the situation.

But a clever strategy on paper is only the starting point for engaging those who will implement it. Strategies must also be communicated and understood — and they must motivate action.

Sources & Notes