With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), many believe that we are on the verge of the next seismic shift in the business landscape. In fact, the impact is expected to be so significant that AI is now often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.
If the previous three revolutions were any indication, twenty years from now many of the businesses we take for granted will be gone. For that reason alone, it’s more important than ever that owners and executives revisit their long-term strategies to determine how to capitalize on new opportunities, or risk being left behind. Yet, in my experience, strategic planning efforts often aim to accomplish too much in too little time, largely resulting in a “stay the course” strategy which may be a recipe for failure in an environment undergoing significant change.
In Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations that Accelerate Change, authors Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon provide a framework that can improve the outcome of strategic discussions. Their recommendation is that each meeting should be centered around one—and only one—of the following objectives:
- Building an understanding. The goal in these meetings is to make sure that all participants are well-informed about the facts that are relevant to the issue at hand. In my experience, this is the step that is most often overlooked, because leaders, as experts in a field, often wrongly assume that everyone has the knowledge necessary to contribute to the conversation. To make better strategic decisions, it’s best to level the playing field by helping everyone build a shared understanding of the facts relevant to the matter at hand.
- Shaping choices. In shaping choices meetings, goals include idea generation, sketching/prototyping what solutions might look like, as well as refining and prioritizing options. Depending upon the nature of the issue to be tackled by the group and the time required to sketch or prototype solutions, you may have to hold multiple shaping choices sessions.
- Making decisions. If you’ve successfully built an understanding and prioritized choices, the decision-making meetings are often anti-climactic, because the group will probably have already come to some conclusion about the most logical choice.
This simple framework can be more time consuming, but given the complex issues facing most businesses and the creativity required to address these issues, the time should be well worth it. Finally, as best-selling author Adam Grant points out, the extra time “gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns,” as opposed to the more conventional solutions that usually result from trying to complete a task quickly.
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