Behind every strategy there is competition for something: votes, power, profit, fame, etc.

Behind every strategy there is also a rationale, a reason why someone thinks it will work better than the alternatives.

People succeed (and fail) with wildly different strategies. But some strategies go further. They don’t make you think wow, that’s out of the box. They make you think yikes, you’re out of your mind.

Here is our end-of-year, politically incorrect review of absurd strategies. Remember: you don’t have to agree with us. We don’t even agree with each other, except maybe on a couple.

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How do you create competitive advantage? Elon Musk found the way, and the competitive advantage he enjoys makes his companies the best companies to work for today. Tomorrow may be a different issue.

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Today we will look at three best companies, which together I will dub Elon Musk Enterprises. The reason these are the best companies to work for is that they are wonderfully independent of the uncertainties and vagaries of the free market.

Developing strategy is hard. Developing strategy that makes business news is even harder. One way to do it is Willi Robertson’s: work hard, look weird, and promote your brand relentlessly under god. Another is to possess the strategic thinking of Elon Musk.

Launching a new strategy is fraught with unexpected problems since consumer demand is always somewhat unpredictable. Oprah Winfrey can attest to that with her W network. Implementing a strategic plan, however, should be easier if the strategy actually has a coherent, consistent set of activities behind it. It helps further when the set of activities behind a strategy is simple and elegant.

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Competitive intelligence, trade secrets, and Oreos: Learn how a Chinese company tried to gain a competitive advantage from an American competitor using a twisted market strategy that led all parties to fail at competing. Clearly, taking risks does not guarantee a competitive advantage. 

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A short news item in USA Today on March 6, 2014, reported that a San Francisco jury found two men guilty of stealing trade secrets from DuPont. Stealing trade secrets intrigues me since I am in competitive intelligence (CI), and CI has fought for decades against the idea that we’re corporate James Bonds spying on competitors.

We won the battle. The only people now who consider CI to be as exciting as industrial espionage are those who haven’t left their caves since Y2K. Today’s misconceptions are too sad even for Austin Powers. CI today is misconstrued as fishing online for competitor data, mischaracterized as trolling social media for customers’ view of competitors, or misunderstood as sniffing financial reports. But this is another subject. At least it is no longer espionage. At last the world realized we are boring.

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A recent story in USA Today: “Apple becomes a hedge fund target.” It seems that George Soros doubled his stake in Apple to 66,800 shares. Carl Icahn revealed earlier with a tweet that he is building up a big position as well.

Soros and Icahn are just the latest in the wave of large hedge funds and their billionaire founders buying stock in public companies. What’s news is that they are no longer confining their moves to smaller companies. According to USA Today, “The percentage of companies that activists are targeting valued at more than $1 billion is 29%. If that pace holds it would be a 45% jump from 2012, FactSet data show.”

At this point you may be reading to satisfy your curiosity about the big egos and big bucks involved. Ackerman and Soros bought into JC Penney, and now Ackerman has left the board. Soros is facing Ackerman on Herbalife, where Soros went long and Ackerman went short. Fascinating; boys and their toys. But if you stop to reflect for a minute, you may realize this is much more significant than rich folks playing. In fact, I claim, we are entering the Third Revolution in the history of public companies, thanks to the much-maligned hedge funds. A much-needed revolution, too.

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