Why Your Strategy Process Doesn’t Work – Part 3
In Part 1 of this series, I laid down my feelings about how so many strategic planning processes just aren’t hitting the mark. In Part 2, I explored the subject of passion, which I presented as the first half of a two-part solution. In the final installment of this series, I’m going to explore the second half of that solution: creativity.
Strategy is, in its simplest form, a plan to achieve a goal. Passion will allow you to own that goal and to care about the results. This, in turn, will allow you to put together a more effective and more achievable plan. But that’s only half the picture, because what if some other passionate company happens to be going after the same goal as you and in exactly the same way? Somebody’s going to lose in that situation, and my guess is that you’d rather it be your competitor!
The fix, of course, comes in the form of finding a different path to achieve your goal than anyone else. But being different doesn’t always mean that you’re going to win. The real trick is to be different in a way that resonates with your audience (which, for most businesses, will consist of its customers). Creativity encapsulates this one-two punch of being different, and also connecting that difference to something that somebody cares deeply about. Combine that with passion, and your existing strategy is sure to make the turnaround that it so rightly deserves.
But how exactly do you tap into this mysterious creative realm that, by the way, far too many people on this planet simply don’t believe they have access to? One way is to let go, even just a little bit, of what you’ve been taught, and let a few of your gut instincts take over.
Unfortunately, it is all too common to view the subject of strategy as some academic badge of honor that can only be bestowed upon those select few individuals who have studied the right courses in college, read the right books, or can recite from the right list of strategic buzz-phrases that have somehow managed to make their way into the standard catalog of acceptable corporate-speak. Not that any of these oft-repeated ideas are actually being practiced; just that they are spoken enough times out loud to serve as mantras for what companies want to tell themselves they believe in.
But creativity does not come in the form of repetition or imitation. In fact, it is just the opposite. It comes in the form of thinking outside that cliché box that continues to encapsulate most large organizations. It comes in the form of embracing the idea of new ideas and accepting all of the inherent risk that goes along with actually trying a few of them out on the world. Understanding what other companies have already successfully done is, by and large, a good thing; but only if that knowledge is used to form a bed influence from which truly new ideas can sprout. If, on the other hand, that knowledge becomes a foundation for imitation, the entire concept of creativity is sure to be wiped out in the ensuing chase.
As a songwriter, if I copy someone else’s successful song, I’m likely to be sued. But, for some reason, copying someone else’s successful strategy not only seems to be acceptable, it actually appears to be the encouraged norm.
So creativity is the cure – of that I am certain. But how exactly can you tap into this sometimes hidden inner quality, particularly if you have always considered yourself to be a non-creative person? The answer to that question can be found on the other side of the false notion that being creative and being an “artist” are somehow one and the same. I have known plenty of artists who are not at all creative. They do a good job of imitating, but they have trouble expressing themselves outside of the boundaries of what other artists before them have already established. Similarly, there are many creative business people who would never be considered artistic, but who have forged some of the most groundbreaking new paths known to mankind.
The truth is, we all have the ability to be creative. Some of us just need a process to help bring it out. And that process involves taking that which is already known to us, and using it to inspire new ideas and new ways of moving forward. Doing this comes with a certain amount of discipline: discipline to learn, discipline to expand, and discipline to execute. Creativity lives collectively within these areas and, yes, I believe this is a process that can be taught.
Perhaps the exact methodology for tapping into one’s own creativity is a bit beyond the scope of a 900-word blog, so I have included some additional resources on the subject that can be downloaded below. Still, the point I want to get across, even if you choose not to pursue this subject any further, is that your company’s strategy process needs to encourage creativity over imitation. It needs to inspire free thought above academic boundaries. It needs to embrace ideas from all levels of your company, not just those select few people who have the right kind of degree or title. Combine these newfound paradigms with the passion that I talked about in Part 2, and you’ll be able to take your strategy process to a whole new level.
So that’s the gist of it in 3 easy parts: 1) Your strategy process is broken; 2) Passion will make it a little less broken; 3) Creativity will make it not be broken anymore.
Simple enough. Now go out there and help make strategy fun again! And as you do, I promise I’ll be right there with you – loving every minute of it!
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