I wonder if there is any cash for consultants in facilitating strategic planning these days…

Most of the CXO’s and the executive teams I am speaking with these days are looking at strategy as a 30 to 90 day perspective. The world changes fast, “environmental scans” and “competitive analysis” seem to be luxuries that are for a woebegone time. Nostalgia is great…it brings a tear to the eye and makes you long for a simpler era- even if that era was just two to three years ago in hotel conference rooms and business retreat centers with flip charts and “trust-building” group activities. Gone like three-martini lunches and corporate jets. Sigh.

Strategy is tactical…Like white is the new black for fashion and small is the new big for business partners…
But, what about the day after the day after? The 91st day? Who is thinking past the current 90-day cycle in your company and what are they asking themselves? What brain-food are they eating? What plans are they hatching?

Is it time yet to be looking out 91 days +? Let’s see…have you

  • Cut every dollar you can cut?
  • Pressed the flesh with every customer you can meet?
  • Reassured all of your ‘A’ players?
  • Read the Wall Street Journal and every other business source until your eyes bleed?

If the answer is yes, then it’s time.

Let’s start with brain-food– My advice is get out of the echo-chamber. Stop listening to your industry leaders, reading the trade journals and going to the shows. It’s like going to a coroner for a wellness visit. All of the thinking is about what was and it is coming from the people who are huddling in the warm comfortable space called “the industry average.” You have to break free of that group if you want the kind of brain-food that will lead you to the answers you need for the 91st day. Here is some brain-food worth consuming-

  • Financial Times – Read it for the cleaner info sourcing. These guys don’t have a seat at the White House Press room- they write what they want and they are forward-viewing with a deeper dive on information. Of course it is more expensive- quality often is. If you read what everyone else reads, you will think what everyone else thinks.
  • Google Alerts – Flag the key terms that are driving your business. Think about it- your industry information is trying to get oxygen in-between the important announcements of who Britney Spears is dating or the estate of Michael Jackson. You need the information coming to you as it is happening, not sifting through the packaged and processed filter of popular media.
  • TED.org – 18-minute lectures on all sorts of stuff around technology, entertainment, design, futurists, communication and so on. Be selective, there is a library of hundreds of these lectures with the brightest of the bright, but many things aren’t relevant to you- So?  Skip those and find what is valuable to you.  You can subscribe through I-Tunes for easier access.

What about the peeps?… Coach Joe, (writer, speaker, philosopher from central casting), says that our thinking is the average of the 5 people with whom we spend the most time. This may be very scary if you are suffering from some relational arrested development and still hang out with the friends you did beer-bongs with in high school. I would tend to agree with the idea. We get a lot of our calibration, interpretation and mis-digested information from the people around us. This is more true with the frequency and intensity that comes from our most regular contacts. Should we throw out our regular contacts? Well, that question should be considered in therapy. Let’s expand the question to “Who else should I be spending time with that can feed my brain the ideas and information that will take me out past the 91st day?”

  • Analysts – Go talk to industry financial analysts and follow them. These are the folks out in front of not only the movers and shakers in the industry who are moving adult-money to make big-things happen, but also the trends and technology that will leap frog your better guesses at the future.
  • Politicians and lobbyists – I know…you want this like shards of glass in your eyes. It has been a long time since these people were on the list of future shapers that you would listen too…. But they own big parts of two industries already and they are hunting at least two more by Christmas. These folks are shaping yours and my future at a pace we are unaccustomed to.  If your business is a rock in the river of the stimulus package, then you have been at this cocktail party for a while now. However, for the rest of us, the dragon seems to have an unlimited appetite and is recognizing no borders. Better connect and spend time with them.
  • Go up a zero, maybe two – Birds of a feather…I find that most of us hang out with people around our business size or personal income. Your range may go up as high as double to triple your size or down to half your size in either category, and you are still comfortable enough. But there it stops. Go up a zero on the back end- that takes the number up by a minimum of a factor of 10 on you. Two zeroes and you are in a whole new atmosphere. Their perspective and access is different than yours. Tap it.

These are only some sources for brain-food- there are others that I’d like to hear about from you. The point is that you have exhausted the traditional sources for feeding your mind about the future by now. It is time to get new food if you want to change your direction and shape a different future.

Tell me what your sources are to feed your future.

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