I've written several articles on the distinction between planners and searchers for BI. My experience with the planning-searching dichotomy originated with developmental economist William Easterly and his research on the international poverty war. Easterly has little use for heavy-handed central planning that seems the norm for foreign aid to impoverished countries, preferring instead the work of searchers, “who explore solutions by trial and error, have a way to get feedback on the ones that work, and then expand the ones that work, all of this in an unplanned, spontaneous way.”

Easterly's straw men contrast the work of Planners quite unfavorably with that of Searchers. “Planners determine what to supply; Searchers find out what is in demand. Planners apply global blueprints; Searchers adapt to local conditions. Planners at the Top lack knowledge of the Bottom; Searchers find out what the reality is at the Bottom. A Planner thinks he already knows the answers; he thinks of poverty as a technical engineering problem that his answers will solve. A Searcher admits he doesn’t know the answers in advance; he believes that poverty is a complicated tangle of political, social, historical, institutional, and technological factors. A Searcher only hopes to find answers to individual problems by trial and error experimentation. A Planner believes outsiders know enough to impose solutions. A Searcher believes only insiders have enough knowledge to find solutions, and that most solutions must be homegrown.” In short, in Easterly's world view, Planners execute elaborate top-down solutions that may or may not hit the mark. Searchers, by contrast, acknowledge they don't have the answers but systematically set out to learn for the benefit of their constituents. I believe this same dichotomy that serves the war on poverty is also pertinent for the development of business strategy and intelligence.

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