I've spent the last few days, in spare moments, looking at morphosyntax: how information about things like number, tense, person, and case are encoded in words, and how they should be processed and understood.
Which is obviously almost as rock and roll as throwing a TV out of a window. Even within the domain of linguistics it's pretty geeky stuff, I know. But it has the virtue of being interesting (to me) and pretty hard, meaning that understanding it usually takes a while and a bit of head-scratching.
And that's good. It's good for people who work in strategy, of any stripe, to have interests that make them think in pure, theoretical, or just plain logical ways. Strategists usually describe what they do as critical or rigorous or even logical, and they tend to use words like 'problem-solving' and 'analysis' pretty freely. But in a lot of what we do the real difficulty seems to lie in communication, or application, or the political difficulties of getting agreement on ideas and approaches. Much of the head-scratching comes from things other than really rigorous logical problem-solving: getting our facts straight and our numbers right. Which is not to devalue everything else - a strategist who can't get a strategy put into action is pointless - but just to say that the pure problem-solving part of the job can get neglected.
It's not just brain-training, either. Whether it's crosswords, number puzzles, computer games, rock-climbing or one-man tiddlywinks (not a euphemism), it's good to compete only with your own brain from time to time. If I don't understand some theory on language, that's no one's fault but mine; the satisfaction when something clicks is uncomplicated; and the challenge to understand it better is irresistible.
# Alex Steer (16/05/2010)