business strategy | January 22, 2013

Know The Odds: Roger Martin On How To Bet In Business—And Win

"Contrary to popular opinion, strategy is not about turning uncertainty into certainty," business speaker Roger Martin writes in the Harvard Business Review. Rather, he suggests "thinking about strategy as a way of dealing productively with life's inevitable uncertainty, by continuously making and updating your bets about the future." Martin is an expert on helping businesses craft effective strategies to achieve long-term goals. In his new book, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really WorksMartin and co-author A.G. Lafley flush out the many misconceptions that company leaders have about business strategy.

As he writes in the article, you can't predict the future of your industry with absolute certainty—and strategizing isn't meant to provide a definitive guide of what to expect. However, having a concrete plan in place allows you to pay closer attention to trends occurring in your field. "The strategist says: 'this is what I think will happen,' watches what does happen, and then updates the strategy and bets based on the newest information," he explains. In essence, it isn't about knowing for sure what your company will do, but about having a plan in place that allows you to quickly and easily respond to an unexpected event. When you are constantly planning for the future, no matter what the outcome of your predictions, you are better able to adapt to changing and emerging trends.

Martin is currently the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He is highly regarded for his opinions on business and business education, and gives eye-opening speeches that help audiences expand their thinking and try innovative, new business models.