Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reality and Planning

“I’m not really crazy about reality, but it’s still the best place to get a decent meal”

                                                                      Groucho Marx

We are embarking on a new strategic planning process in my organization. One that hopefully will look out ten years into the future. In a recent meeting I found myself arguing for not paying much attention to the current reality. In fact, I wasn’t too excited about trying to gauge future reality (if that isn’t a contradiction). For me the goal was to come up with compelling vision of what our role could be in an unpredictable future. Maybe my assumption was that “belief” is an important part of success. If you have a good narrative about yourself and your organization, it will give you a road map that will provide enough direction to ensure achievement. It is an interesting question about how much that narrative must be based on “reality.” There are myths that we all know to be “unrealistic” but yet impact our thinking in useful ways. How many times has a work of fiction caused you to change your perceptions or reform your view of the world? Which are more powerful facts or ideas? Of course, it is always difficult to mount a full assault on reality. I will probably eventually succumb to competitor analyses, demographic studies, and regression equations that might reveal trend-lines. But there is something that is tempting about relying on faith, as billions of people do each day. Not blind faith – because that is always true of someone else. But instead the kind of belief that results in things happening that we thought would never happen. Perhaps Joseph Campbell said it best, “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning... a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. “

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