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Strategy's futures

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Original languageEnglish
Article number102664
JournalFutures
Volume125
Early online date23 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Abstract

If ask: “What is the time?” you will look at your phone or at your wrist and provide a swift answer; yet if ask: “What is time?” you will most likely struggle to provide a coherent answer, no matter where you look. This vignette is attributed to Augustinus, who, in the space of two lines, makes us painfully aware what difficult an idea time actually is. In this essay we set out to bring some of the subtleties and complexities of time to the discipline of strategy – a discourse that has been firmly focused on the future (and hence engaged with time) yet has shown little appetite nor much ability to problematize time adequately. We ask: what is the complex nature of time, and how does that nature alter strategy? By exploring this question we problematize the nature of the future, and discuss how the future is enacted in strategy practice and through which strategy tools the future is turned into an object of the present. We argue that a fruitful approach to the problem of time in strategy needs to be attentive to the multiple forms of futures at play (such as the common distinction between short term and long term futures), the actors who carry them and the tools through which they materialize. We illustrate this approach with two examples in which the relationship of strategy with the long term was problematized: debates on the management of forests in the 18th and 19th century, and debates on the financialization of corporations in the 20th century. We pursue the analysis of strategy's futures by examining the temporalities of three common strategy tools: models, plans, and discounting. The overall contribution of this essay to this SI is to make strategy researcher and practitioners aware of time's complex nature, and how this complex nature plays a critical role in the pursuit of strategy.

    Research areas

  • aesthetics, long-term, power, strategy, time

ID: 186137328