You’ve studied the successes and setbacks of Masco, IKEA, and Gucci. You know that every business, every organization, needs a strategy. You understand the importance of a meaningful purpose and a tightly aligned system of value creation. Now it’s time to look at your own company. What’s your strategy?

When I put this question to the entrepreneurs and presidents toward the end of our program, many of them nod confidently. By this point we have been talking about strategy for a long time and they have a good grasp of the principles. And they’ve repeatedly shown their ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses in the strategies of well-known and celebrated firms—at a safe distance.

But when I ...

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