In the book, ‘How will you measure your life’, Clayton Christensen speaks about the difference between deliberate and emergent strategies from a career point of view.
Deliberate strategies, as the name suggests, are strategies that one implements to follow a specific plan that he/she has in mind. A 5 year career plan is a good example of a deliberate strategy. You know what you exactly want. You go get it. It involves following established processes with clear timelines and defined goals.
Emergent strategy, on the other hand, means being open to learning new things and traveling down unexpected paths. Emergent strategy itself implies learning what works — taking one action at a time in search for that viable pattern or consistency. It is important to remember that emergent strategy means, not chaos, but, in essence, unintended order.
Most of us end up walking on the latter road. Being conscious of our environment, acting on our predilections and taking the right decisions help us move and maneuver our career on the fly. We continue to look for opportunities and play around with different spaces till we finally stumble upon the space that really interests us. Clayton asks you to keep looking till you find your true calling. But until that happens, following an emergent strategy is the best we can do.