Sure, there were some early days I sat around and frittered away time in sweatpants like George Costanza would have. I needed the break, but I also let the tide go out too far in those moments. It always left me feeling less than unfulfilled.
Since then, I’ve been focused on growth as the input for the most fulfilled output.
I spend the bulk of my time focused on learning and gaining perspective both personally and professionally. It’s a bonus when I get to do it with amazing teams or companies. Sometimes I get paid for it, as it coincides with helping a team. Sometimes I don’t (THF| TFI). It’s always worth it, though.
In the last few years, I have toyed with the idea of going back to school, business school to be more specific. I know I have a defacto Thornton Mellon MBA, but I’m always curious about what I don’t know I don’t know. For now, I am not sold the time / value equation is worth it, so I look for ways to dive deeper via smaller bites, especially in areas like strategy, finance and marketing.
Recently, NYU Professor Scott Galloway, one of my favorite thinkers in consumer, tech and leadership, announced he and his team would be doing a 2-week online “Strategy Sprint” related to consumer-facing business strategy in the digital age.
The online course under the new Section4 brand spanned 15 days and consisted of video case studies, a couple of 90-minute live Zoom classes and a final project focused on applying what we learned. It cost $500.
My first encounter with Prof G was 900 seconds and 90 slides at DLD15. Since then there have been more DLD conference Videos, the L2 Winners and Losers series on YouTube and now a weekly podcast with Kara Swisher called Pivot. So my baseline of Scottisms and principles was pretty strong coming in.
The course concluded a few days ago.
Here is my quick Section4 Strategy Sprint Review:
Time Commitment – The whole course was about 12.5 hours (I tracked it). 3 hours were live Zoom classes, 4-5 hours were doing my final project and the rest were lessons broken up into video case studies. Scott’s team was on the ball, responded quickly and the Slack channels and community were on point.
Coursework – Even with my strong baseline for the material coming in, 40% was net-new and the rest was a deeper and more organized dive into the familiar Galloway principles that he calls the T-Algorithm. These are the strategies used by B2C companies to, in his words, “potentially achieve trillion-dollar market cap trajectories”. If you listen to Scott or have read The Four, this will be familiar, but much more in-depth.
Final Project – The final was to perform a strategic analysis on a company and sector you know, and apply the T-Algorithm to ultimately inform a business case for the chosen company. I used Comoto / RevZilla and found it super helpful in crystallizing my thinking around suggestions I have made and will continue to make at a board and advisory level. It’s nice to have more concrete cases of value creation and impact at my disposal. Great artists steal…
Strategic Process – On the strategy front, the process followed a familiar framework of creating a “value curve” to graph potential strategic differentiators. The graph was a mix of Galloway’s T-Algorithm elements coupled with relevant domain-specific items of our own addition.
We then prioritized the potential strategies we charted for maximum value creation and differentiation with an eye toward variance across the competitive set. I found this to be a Galloway-specific version of the framework I was first exposed to when I read Blue Ocean Strategy about a decade ago. After reading Blue Ocean, I used to quip, “RevZilla will be Cirque du Soleil while the rest of the industry is trying to be the best Barnum and Bailey.” Essentially, how can we invest in places that our competitors or customers are not even thinking about yet. That’s the foundation of Blue Ocean. That framing held up.
If asked I would probably define business strategy something like, “The ‘above the shoulders’ work that focuses on prioritizing tradeoffs for creating value or mitigating risk. Intentionally choosing what to do is just as important as choosing what not to do.”
In the last live class, Scott succinctly offered, “Strategy is a plan of action that produces an aim. In business, the aim’s goal is the greatest ROI utilizing a finite amount of resources.” Much simpler. Great bookend on the course. Great framework moving forward.
Conclusion – At 40 bucks an hour, this was a no-brainer for me, even considering my experience level and longtime exposure to some of the material. I wish I could have taken a class like this a decade ago. It also moved fast and was never boring. Prof G was as WYSIWYG as he always is.
For anyone earlier in their career, this would be invaluable on both what it takes for companies to win and be durable in the digital age as well as what it takes to think like an executive with regard to how you approach marshaling resources and your plan of attack.
I’d recommend this course to anyone in B2C and I’m going to tee it up for other leaders in the B2C companies I’m currently working with or have invested in.
Lastly, bridging all the way back to the beginning of this long post, I’m obviously feeling very content at the conclusion of the coursework. I was challenged to learn new things, elevate my thinking and apply what I learned. Thanks Prof G.
If you want to sign up or check out a future class visit the Section4 site.
Now, on to figuring out what today’s lesson will be…