Strategic thinking in the time of Coronavirus
A strategist’s regimen for staying fit in uncertain times.
I wrote the following piece at the turn of the new year before WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. And for all the expected reasons, I’ve held off on sharing it. So many of our heads and hearts are elsewhere, and the timing just didn’t feel right.
But as I’ve watched my clients, my team, and my community grapple with COVID-19 these past couple weeks, I’m increasingly convinced that great strategic thinking is precisely what our leaders—in all types of organizations—need to practice in this moment. Strategic thinking that is creative while still effective at scale. Bold, yet pragmatic. Generous, but with clear intention and impact. Deeply rigorous, yet agile enough to be applied quickly and in different contexts. And most of all, strategic thinking that is human. That grapples with inequity and privilege. That’s not always perfectly logical and clear cut. That recognizes and embraces the human condition and is designed for us and all of our idiosyncrasies.
It’s this kind of strategic thinking that can be a potent grounding force when we’re feeling out of our element. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit recounts one definition for being lost:
"…to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery."
I believe great strategic thinking is one way to become “fully present.” And as a result, it can turn what's normally a feeling of helplessness into a source of resilience, and ultimately, strength and progress.
With that preface, here’s my take on what goes into great strategic thinking— unedited from when I first sat down to write it. I was fortunate to have so many people, in so many different moments and manners, teach and gift me these principles. I hope you will find them as invaluable as I have. Right now, working from home, with my two little boys and my wife beside me, I see my present fully — in the face of all the uncertainty and mystery of the days and weeks to come. And I am grateful. I am hopeful. And I know that we will find a way forward together.