Torville and Dean achieved a perfect score in the 1984 Winter Olympics. Nadia Comaneci produced seven perfect 10s in Montreal’s Olympics in 1976. Perfection then, but now?

In their book The Imperfectionists Charles Conn and Rob McLean, two McKinsey alumni, share observations on the challenges of a conventional approach to strategic planning. Imperfection may sound like the poor relation, but it can give you an advantage. It forces you to think differently. It pushes you into changing your position, making a series of small moves to gain a better view of what is going on while all the time gaining valuable insights into the world around you.

Messrs Conn and McLean share their experience of businesses that describe imperfection not as failure, but simply “accepting the ambiguity of not having perfect knowledge before making strategic moves.” They use rugby as an analogy. Despite the aim of the game being to move forward to score, sometimes it can be achieved effectively by moving sideways, even backwards.

When technological change is moving at warp speed it can materially change the outcome of strategic decisions. Imagine a rugby match where you’ve committed to a game plan or strategy of dominating the game by pushing forward. Using technology as a proxy for the opposition, you find yourself facing a much faster, more aggressive and intelligent team. Your game plan to dominate going forward disappears, you need to regroup, track back and defend.

Taking this into the business world, how do you go about constructing a strategy that accurately predicts your likely opposition. For example, the possible impact of artificial intelligence, automation, the economic outlook and more. How do you prepare for an unforeseen energy crisis, inflation spike and rocketing interest rates. What about the increasing geo-political tension waiting in the wings. There are sixty national elections around the world this year. What could that mean for global stability?

Arguably, conventional wisdom no longer works. Progress is much more about awareness and agility. Recognising when to shift sideways or step back allows you to survey the field and see where the gaps lie and map out a better way forward. Embrace the imperfections of ‘plan A’, pivot, and move on. All of this suggests strategic planning should be a constant, dynamic process, not something left waiting for the next board meeting date.

One of the key qualities the authors highlighted as essential for planning in uncertain times is curiosity. Asking why? It often comes down to how you see or perceive the problems. The authors are particularly fond of the dragonfly. Why? Well, it has a rather special way of looking at things. Its eyes have 30,000 lenses. I suspect it sees things a bit differently.

We know the aim and rules of the game but when faced with complex client planning issues we question everything, select different lenses to look at the problem through until we exhaust every approach. This can lead to new, creative ways to push the planning boundaries. It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective can do when it comes to devising creative solutions.

Imperfection is good, we believe there’s always room for improvement.