We’ve all been disrupted, our daily routines, our hobbies, our home life, our work life, and so on, and so on. The only thing certain is that things are uncertain. However, uncertainty breeds creativity, new perspectives, and the opportunity to truly innovate.
For many, the initial reaction to COVID was to survive. Emotions ran high; scared, confused, anxious, mad, sad, indifferent, hopeful, helpful and even inspired. Since then it’s been an ongoing pivot of emotions and predictions for the unforeseeable future of tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
We’ve challenged ourselves to think harder, faster and different. We can no longer categorize ourselves simply as someone who “fights” or “flights”. We are many things – fighters, hiders, innovators, failures, survivors, helpers, motivators, leaders, etc.
Each new idea – good, bad, and off the wall – has merit in the way that we understand the inspiration and the problems they attempted to solve. Learning is a continuing activity and from every failure, we should be able to learn something new about the way we operate and the way we think.
Regardless of how much content we can digest, we’re still humans and we can’t predict the future. And, as humans we all struggle with the unknown. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. So, the goal is to create traction rather than stress by directing our energy towards something positive.
Typically, strategic foresight helps us strategize for the future. However, under our current circumstances, next week is just as uncertain as twenty years from now.
So, how can we take principles from strategic foresight and strategic planning to help us navigate these uncertain waters? How do we lead our business through the uncertain now and all possible futures?
Here are a few tips:
- Keep it simple (KISS Method)
During this time, we can fall into an analysis paralysis trap very easily. Don’t get wrapped up in every chart and detail; don’t over analyze. Be nimble and keep it simple. The KISS principle is that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Try different ideas, measure, and move. Fail fast! Now is not the time to over plan, the future is fragile. Focus on the fundamentals, strip away the fluff, and make sure your “platform” is prepared and flexible to support many different futures.
- Be intentional
It all starts with intention. For example, at Think|Stack our 2020 goals included a tremendous amount of growth. This event has caused us to change our 2020 mantra. As a leadership team we decided that the “new” primary focus of 2020 is to ensure every customer is served and every employee stays employed. This doesn’t mean that we won’t grow, we are hopeful that growth can still occur, but it provides great clarity for us and our team about decisions we will make, risks we will take and what we need to trim to focus solely on that outcome. What is your new or rejuvenated intention? How are you communicating that?
- Stay focused, but be open
Looking for new opportunities or getting wrapped up in non-critical functions can be an outcome of all the turmoil. We must remind ourselves to stay focused on the mission and intention. But we must not be so focused that we miss a great opportunity or navigate ourselves out of business, we need to be able to pivot. Depending on your business, everything may have fundamentally changed and that might require a significant pivot. Don’t be afraid to look for those signs and have your organization prepared to pivot if needed or desired.
- Do the basics well
If you have ever played a sport, you know how important the fundamentals are. If you do the fundamentals well, and you work together as a team, you will win most of the time, even without the superstar athletes. The last few years we’ve been living in a thriving economy; we were the winning team. And then, we were thrown an unexpected curveball and our growth mode was quickly disrupted. Think back to when the Baltimore Ravens were the winning team, and then lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Recognize that you need to take a step back, collect yourself and go back to the basics.
Think about the foundation your company was built on. Strip away all the glitter and make sure you, your team, and your budget are focused on those same basics that made you successful in the first place. Remind yourself to strengthen those skills and rebuild upon your original foundation.
It’s like in basketball, if you can’t make the fade away three in the corner, you might want to return back to the free throw line and strengthen your basic shooting skills.
- Talk to your clients
No matter the industry, needs are changing. How you interact with and serve your clients is going to change. Heck, your clients might change. Get in touch with your clients, now more than ever. Do it often and in different manners. Pick up the phone vs. sending an email. If you do nothing else on this list, do this because nothing is more important than hearing from them directly and understanding their needs. Be empathetic, be authentic. You will win a client for life and you will understand the strategy that needs put in place to properly serve their needs.
- Exercise, practice makes perfect
Do some exercises to check your strategy and direction. Use this energy to innovate and change. Take time with your team to connect via virtual exercises and stay connected to stay aligned.
Now that you’ve read through our tips, we encourage you to download our simple one-page Strategic Worksheet to help identify your new 2020 Mantra!
This can be a great way for you to redirect your organization’s energy and focus towards positive innovation, now and in the future.
Reuse the worksheet as often as you like! It’s always good to keep ideating to remain current so that you and your organization aren’t caught off guard.
We encourage you to use this worksheet collectively as a team. Your leadership team can also create sub-strategies within their departments. Just remember to come back together as a whole to make sure you’re all working towards the same common goal.
Encourage the conversations and direct the stress and fear into positive change!