What are the vices of the Positioning School?
Looking at its dialectic network of knowledge, the Positioning School is clearly both consultancy-driven and programmatic: and much like the Design School, it repackages negotiation as the deduction and rhetoric as science. In fact, it is hard not to conclude that, for this school, “strategic knowledge” is oxymoronic – everything is either assumed or implicit.
This is a view of knowledge that has no circulation, flow, or internal development; has no long-term value attached to knowledge; and requires being kept alive by gurus and consultants. It relies on long-term conditions of predictability, has nothing to say about implementation, and requires that a company and its competitors share a broadly similar (and inherently deterministic) worldview. If you “follow the money” here, it goes to consultants and gurus outside the industry, rather than to form opinions within a company (or even an industry). This is essentially an ideology created by consultants, for the benefit of consultants.
Mintzberg expresses numerous misgivings about the Positioning School – but even so, the poverty of its network is remarkable. Its central conceit that companies should rely on consultants (a) to help them understand themselves, (b) to understand their industries, and (c) to select a generic strategy) displays an unwarranted arrogance both towards the people engaged in making businesses work in practice and towards business knowledge.