The Space for True and Intentional Business Strategy

Anthony Ewing
Dec 13, 2016 · 4 min read

I like to think that we all grew up on big ideas. As children, everything began with a vision. For example, playing outside with friends, we’d start by saying “let’s build the most amazing treehouse”. This vision would be at the center of our focus. We would sit at the dinner table, distracted from the day’s work, fixating on how to improve our new kingdom in the morning. We would start each day with our vision as we continued to build: “you know what would make this treehouse even more amazing!?…”

How different would we be as children had we jumped right to tactics? I can’t imagine meeting my best friend in the middle of a vast forest, and immediately fixating on the leaves that needed to be cleared first, materials we didn’t have, or the weather that might postpone our start.

As kids we imagined… we built… We went home and reimagined… and the next day we built even more. Each day brought a more refined vision, reiterated from the last, but just as exciting as the first. At the end of the summer, the treehouse was perfection - a progression of big ideas supported by daily execution.

As adult professionals, are we making bold claims each day? Do we start projects by asking, “how do we build something great?” Do we go home each night fixating on our vision and meeting our co-workers the next day with enhancements?

Now I know that business outcomes are a product of both vision (let’s build the most amazing tree house) and execution (someone needs to remove all of these leaves before we get started). But, in my 15 years in the corporate world, I am pretty certain we are much more comfortable focussing on the leaves and the weather than on building something great each day.

Nowhere is there a greater need for big thinking than in Learning & Development. Whether in a startup or established company, L&D is an integral component to the way we attract and retain our people. This makes our work as learning professionals extremely important, tangible, and meaningful. We live for “the learning experience” as much as we do the bottom line. Our outcomes are measured by the impact we make on people’s success in the workplace and development in their career; a bit different than margins and revenues.

I can’t think of a better area of business to walk into work each day excited about building the most amazing tree house!

The learning experience is unique at each organization. It’s directly correlated to people, culture and business needs. It’s enabled by tools we develop and programs we build. This is our daily affirmation. We should constantly challenge our definition of learning because our environment and audience are changing more rapidly than any other function in business.

So what does this look like tactically (dare I step down from the treehouse and talk tactics)? How do we walk into work forgetting about the leaves and thinking about what matters most? The approach starts with spending time clearly defining the learning experience at our organization. This is the very specific outcome of mapping our business priorities to the type of learning engagement needed to achieve these goals. It’s making a statement that clearly defines how our learners should experience our offerings, and supporting it with platforms, programs, and human resources.

The learning experience becomes our vision (our treehouse). We use research, trends, and learning principles to reverse engineer the vision and update our strategy on a quarterly basis. We stay engaged by starting key meetings with 10 minutes of brainstorming on how other industries are innovating in the L&D space, challenging the constructs we work in everyday.

The same way we use design principles to build curriculum we should use tools and frameworks to help define and build upon a unique learning strategy. We should create the space for true and intentional business strategy.

Next, we tie everything we do to this vision. We cut the fatty activities that aren’t helping us get closer to the most amazing treehouse. Too many teams quickly lost themselves in the leaves and the weather. And this is a very real struggle, seeing as our roles have become more demanding with new operational and compliance-driven responsibilities. It takes work to keep the learning experience in front of everything else.

Finally, we communicate our vision. We make big claims within the organization and we get excited about backing them up. Your stakeholders don’t want to hear about the process you’ve put in place to keep the leaves cleared. They want to hear about the treehouse.

This is not a natural space. Yet strategy is such an integral component to keeping our work meaningful. And it has real and specific impact. Teams that lead with strategy work more efficiently, find deeper meaning in their work, and create remarkable learning experiences for their colleagues.

It feels natural to start the rest of my career right here. It feels right to be going all in on my strengths as a practitioner in the strategy space, waking up everyday with a mission that I have been converging on for years:

Creating the space for true and intentional business strategy is the foundation of the Thoughtium experience. Our process is unique. We specialize in big ideas supported by real execution.

I am excited to announce my new company, Thoughtium. I am humbled at the opportunity I have to enter the marketplace with such a passion for value delivery and documenting this journey. And I am thankful to have the clarity, autonomy, and people around me to put forth this dream.

Now let’s go build the most amazing treehouse!

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