When I was a kid, I was always obsessed with everything Martial Arts. I grew up in awe of Bruce Lee as he broke walls with his hands, and rolled around in stitches as Jackie Chan broke his hands on walls. Buster Keaton eat your heart out.
Jean-Claude Van Damme would fight in bloody kumite tournaments and then make you wince doing the splits. Even a much thinner Steven Seagal showed us that you could be a master of Eastern fighting skill and still be a wise guy (and get in some of the most ridiculous one liners in action movie history).
I have always practiced some form of Martial Arts in the background over the years, be it Karate, Aikido, Krav Maga or Jujitsu. While there are important physical aspects to the fight game that are fairly evident, some of the most powerful effects are in the mental and strategic lessons that they teach.
Martial Strategy is an interesting thing. Grit, fortitude, and toughness all go hand in hand with the application of the skills, but they also teach a softer side - breathing, meditation and stress reduction. Things get really interesting in the philosophy of some of the most famous martial practitioners - men who have 'swum the deep waters' and made fighting their living.
In Mastering Jujitsu, Renzo Gracie, one of the sports most mythical fighters, outlines an underlying framework for modern day martial arts that has important lessons outside of the mat.
From the book:
"Too often, martial artists obsess over the accumulation of techniques without ever attaining an overall strategy to guide how those techniques are applied in the course of a fight... What fighters need is a background strategy that they can follow over the course of the fight. Technique is used merely to realize that strategy...The importance of an overall strategy cannot be overstated. A lack of a clear and flexible fight strategy will quickly become apparent in any fight that goes beyond a minute's duration. When a fighter lacks an overall fight strategy, he inevitably proceeds in the manner of a blind man, stumbling from one moment to the next, trying desperately to make sense of the actions unfolding in front of him... Lack of strategy always leads to inaction, confusion and a sense of hopelessness when things go wrong. This is fatal in a real fight."
Now let's re-interpret that same statement through the lens of marketing (note, you can also apply this to other roles within the organization such as Founder or CEO). With a few tweaks, the philosophy will sound something like this:
Too often, marketers obsess over the accumulation of tactics without ever attaining an overall strategy to guide how those tactics are applied in the course of execution... What marketers need is a background strategy that they can follow over the course of execution. Tactics are used merely to realize that strategy... The importance of an overall strategy cannot be overstated. A lack of a clear and flexible strategy will quickly become apparent in any activity that goes beyond a short time period. When a marketer lacks an overall strategy, they inevitably proceed in the manner of a blind man, stumbling from one moment to the next, trying desperately to make sense of the actions unfolding in front of them... Lack of strategy always leads to inaction, confusion and a sense of hopelessness when things go wrong. This is fatal for an organization.
Take a look at your marketing or operations. Do you have a clearly defined and flexible evolving strategy to guide your actions, or are you merely stumbling along from one messy tactic to the next? Have a good think, because like a real fight, results could be fatal.