Everyone wants strategic planning to be a creative process that fosters innovation. The problem is that new ideas come to us at the oddest times, without warning when we least expect them – and usually not 20 minutes into the strategic planning session scheduled for next Wednesday at 8:30 AM! What’s a strategic thinker to do?
First acknowledge this dilemma. Agree that we will look for ways to reflect on the critical issues and challenges facing the organization outside of the structured strategic planning process as well. Encourage people to think on their own time about the critical issues that have surfaced in the process and how we could respond to them. Another suggestion: from time to time get together over coffee or a brown bag lunch to discuss a specific issue in an unstructured setting – no agenda, no defined meeting outcome. A facilitator can help with probing questions but again, keep it informal and unstructured. It can also help to invite an outsider or two. Someone should take notes. Any new ideas will find their way in the formal process in the future.
At the risk of contradicting myself, there are also a number of creative thinking tools and structured activities that can foster breakthroughs. I’ll save that for a future post.