I went to TEDx MidAtlantic a few days ago. A day and a half of fascinating — and mostly comprehensible — lectures on the theme of “Unbreakable.” It being DC, there were some common threads: Policy and governing were discussed a lot, by people who are all about policy or are in government. But we also heard from a young man who decided to get vaccinated against his mother’s wishes; a Holocaust survivor who teaches children magic tricks; and a researcher who has figured out that catching people doing the right thing can change behavior for the better.
The real action, however, was not in the room. It was in the hallways, at the breaks. Faces were alight with possibilities; attendees were clearly connecting their dots in new ways. Over dinner, we too had a far-ranging conversation that would not have occurred but for the ideas we had heard (and were trying to digest).
What do those 36 hours have to do with developing strategy for organizations? Simple: It is very hard to look over the horizon — to develop a strong strategic plan — until you can get out of the ruts you don’t even know know you are in. We often work with nonprofit leaders and boards who have been doing the same thing for a long time. One way we get them to see things anew is we bring them information, data, new research to underpin their strategies. What if, however, you could really shake it up? There is the trope of big hairy audacious goals; getting brains unstuck enough to get to that level of goal-setting can be hard. And some organizations don’t need to change their whole mindset to develop a strong plan. What is clear, though, is that in order to plan successfully, organizations need to acknowledge that they need some amount of new perspective.
So for anyone out there considering a strategy development process: One question you’ll want to consider is not IF you need to shake up your thinking before you plan. It is HOW MUCH you need to do so.