What problem do you solve?

That is the question.

And, believe me, answering this question is the key to the strength of your project or business.

You can think of this quest as a part of your story, though this chapter won’t be about you. It’s about your clients. The beauty of this story is that it’s being written right now, as you read these words, and soon it will have new and compelling narrative.

My intention is to help you connect to the people that belong to your client population. I know that sometimes this is the most difficult thing to do for any project or business, no matter how excellent the product or service.

Hopefully, after you read this article, something will shift that will help you to make the connection to your potential clients even stronger.

Let’s begin by asking this fundamental question: what problem or need does your client population have that your project or business can help solve?

To be able to answer accurately we first have to do a different kind of thinking.

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The three words for 2014—for the existentialist entrepreneur

The year 2014 is made up of days. 365 uncharted, unfilled, wide-open days.

As entrepreneurs and independent professionals, we have, or definitely should have, concrete goals for this year. Earn more, connect to more clients, become a trusted professional within our networks, help the world understand our project’s vision, etc. But how do we really meet these goals? The real results that can be seen and measured by the end of the year depend on what we do every day. It’s the decisions, planning and actions of every single day that build our success. We can look at ourselves as existentialists—each one of us responsible for giving meaning and life to our own projects.

There is a wonderful freedom in professional independence along with heavy doses of fear, doubt and uncertainty. To be able to build strong and lasting enterprises and to keep our objectives clear we need a toolbox that is constantly replenished with new and useful tools.

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When your talent is on fire, finding the perfect language is your coolest strategy

Outside, Barcelona was in flames.

Inside, the waiters in white mandarin collar jackets fluttered and fussed around me. And that was exactly what I wanted. Air conditioning, a small space to call my own for as long as I needed it, a few professionals paying attention to my every need, a Mediterranean menu and a glass of sparkling water with ice and lemon.

A moment of paradise.

In a city on fire.

Outside, it was hot, very hot; a sun-drenched July day in Barcelona.

A very curious thing happens every summer to the habitants of this city—we enter into a collective amnesia. We forget what summer is like and has always been like. And to express this curious condition we throw ourselves into a type of verbal and emotional ritual. We don’t formally organize any of this, but all of us, at the same time, are truly astounded by the heat. We are incredulous and morally wounded by the blasts of hot air that are projected onto our bodies and penetrate our souls. As if we had never had this experience before. 

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Out of the dark and into the light: the secret of content marketing

At the end of this post you will no longer be afraid of the dark. Or of the bogeyman. Or of marketing — content marketing in particular.

The word marketing makes many of us feel intimidated; it has somehow gotten blown into the status of a looming mythological and demanding god ready to cast down bolts of lightning if we do not pay homage and offerings to its power and greatness.

It is a word that often produces anxiety because most of the time we feel like we are not doing enough. Or know enough. Or are up to date on the latest tricks and trends. Or are fast enough. Or loud enough. Or cool enough.

Marketing, until now, has been the divine terrain of a few creative elite. Not of mere mortals such as you and I.

Marketing is kind of like the bogeyman with Ray-Bans.

But, by the end of this post, that will be different. You will have unclothed the myth and tamed the beast.

Sound good? Well, let’s get going.

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A holiday fortune cookie: What’s cooking for you in 2013

Being a creature of both tradition and innovation, the chef at The Strategy Blog has baked a new batch of fortune cookies to celebrate the closing of 2012 and to start the new year cooking with the most enticing ingredients and a pinch of mystery.

The unique recipe of these fortune cookies is especially blended to be eaten by entrepreneurs, free-lancers, artists, small businesses owners and the decision-makers of organizations. They are also easily digested and nutritious for management of large businesses, members of parliament and agents of change.

Because these cookies are only offered once a year, they are carefully cut and baked to offer the savory flavor of reflection topped with a glaze of creative thinking.

If you are not in the mood for reflection or creative thinking at the moment, perhaps you should wait to open yours when your appetite gives you the signal. The cookies have no expiration date and will stay fresh for as long as you need. Only the most natural, local ingredients are used, and they will be housed safely in the digital shelf of this blog — tightly sealed, toasted and crisp.

But if you do have the appetite and curiosity to unveil the fortune that is waiting especially for you, the chef would first like to help you enjoy these cookies to the maximum by telling you the underlying culinary secret in all of the fortunes offered here: The belief that our projects and businesses are extensions of ourselves — of our talent, skills, emotional landscape, blind spots and desires.

The chef believes that the personal is the professional, and it is difficult to separate the two. And with that in mind, how wonderful it is to observe the way we nourish our projects and how they also nourish us. We are, in fact, inseparable.

So enough chit-chat, let’s get on to the fun part.

If you want to open a fortune cookie, first you should contemplate all of the numbers, then, when you are ready, choose the number that tempts you the most. Click on the number, not on the cookie, to open the fortune.

It’s the one meant just for you.

Read, savor and enjoy.

Thank you for being here, dear reader, with me and The Strategy Blog one more year. You are what inspires me to keep writing.

Happy holidays and happy new year!

Jenifer

(Remember, click on the number, not the cookie.)

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The ancient aroma of cutting-edge business strategy

Umbrellas closed and dripping we hastily ducked into the small waiting room leaving the rain and narrow street behind. Immediately, softly, we were wrapped in the ancient scent of burning incense —the aroma of healing.

One of the most wonderful aspects of my line of work as a freelance strategy consultant is precisely this: the opportunity to intimately know, to see, hear and feel people’s projects with all of my senses. I help people to draw a personalized strategic map and plan of action for their idea, business or organization. That’s why a client and I were standing in the cosy waiting room, swathed in the fragrance of sweet wood on that rainy day.

My client will soon open a small business to offer her health services in Barcelona, and she is doing it by herself as the sole creator, investor and worker. I am helping her to draw the map she will need to be successful. She is excited, afraid and full of desire.

Because this the first time she has embarked on this type of venture, I thought it would be helpful for her to talk to someone who has a business similar enough in size and content to invigorate her ideas, but different enough for that person not to worry about us copying their blueprint.

I knew of just the right business a nearby town. Using my network of contacts, I found a close colleague who personally knew the owner and offered to make a call on my behalf, opening the door for me and my client to have a conversation to learn about his experience. He invited us to come to his shop on a Friday afternoon.

And this is where the story begins.

We were greeted at the door by the owner, let’s call him Julian,

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The hard drive and the brain

The first image is my hard drive. It stopped functioning.

The second image is my brain. It continues to function.

One important difference between what our computers do and what our brains do is that even though our hard drives stop functioning; our brains don’t.

Another difference is that hard drives are made in identical series.

Our brains are wonderfully and remarkably unique.

Yes, that’s right.

But this is just the beginning; it gets better.

Our brains shape who we are.

And it is who we are that leaves its mark on the world and on the people around us.

Not our hard drives.

It is who we are that creates our projects and dares to give them life, dares to fail, and dares to try again.

Not our hard drives.

It is tempting these days to fuse the two together—the brain and the hard drive—to make them into one, to celebrate their similarities, to desire that they function the same way.

Don’t.

You will miss knowing the very nature of your existence:

Your ability to engage in creative thinking, slow thinking, re-thinking.

Your ability to make a mistake, to take a risk, to fall and to stand up again.

Your ability to connect ideas, to perceive needs, to ask questions and listen quietly.

Your ability to grow, to laugh, cry, feel anger, to ask for help, and then learn.

Your ability to have an insight, to see the whole picture, to come to a realization.

Your ability to act, to take a leap of faith, to defy reason, to begin again, to change directions.

Your ability to succeed at doing what you believe in and draw strength from what you value.

What the world needs, more than ever, right now, is who you are—who you decide to be, what you decide to do, what you decide to communicate, and who you decide to communicate it to.

A computer and its hard drive can’t do that.

You and your brain can.

…………………….

Author’s note: the image of the hard drive is from my Macintosh laptop. The image of the brain is from an MRI that I had done because I was very curious.

If you would like to see a few intimate moments of a brain—my brain—in movement, click here or watch the video below.


Delight in a moment of mystery: Fortune cookies for a strategic 2012

The beginning of a new year is a symbolic time for many people.

In the West, this is a rare occasion when our highly commanding society actually dictates very little. When publicity and advertising and cultural mythology are not telling us what to feel, to want, or to do.

Depending on where we live in the world, as the clock strikes twelve midnight, there are different customs that many of us follow, but the deeper meaning of this moment is up to every individual to define or embrace for themselves.

In my adopted region of Catalonia, populated by large clock towers throughout every town and village, we eat a grape with each dong of the midnight hour. Hastily shoving one grape per second into our smiling open mouths under our laughing eyes, and secretly wondering, every year, if we will choke upon reaching the twelfth grape, the ritual thereby becoming our farewell to the world instead of our entry into a new year. At the end, we don’t choke, we never do, though the risk is exciting and palpable.

So we enter the new year, alone or in the company of others, chewing, swallowing, and full of desire. A year marked by the cyclical 12-month calendar that structures the parcels of time for most of the people on the planet. 

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The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

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The motorcycle story

While running, I saw it.

Parked next to others, tail outward, resting between two chalky diagonal lines.

I don’t even recall the color of its body because a memory came at me fast and smooth as my eyes swam over the details and took in the word, Ducati.

The memory felt easy. The images that came to mind were familiar; it was the same sequence that unfolded every time I saw a motorcycle with this name.

I remember the way his eyes looked as he explained what he wanted me to know with the simplicity of passion.

Many years ago, my friend and I were walking to work through the backstreets that wound around the neighborhoods close to the college campus; we were both waiters at the same restaurant. He stopped abruptly, got quiet and looked down at a lone red motorcycle parked on the gravel. His face softened and he shook his head for a moment as we stood in silence. Then, he raised his gaze, locked his shining eyes on mine and with excitement in his voice he said: 

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