I’m writing from a restaurant in the Mexico City airport, a plate of spicy fajitas in my belly. I’m tired yet satisfied from conducting three strategy workshops over three days in two countries.
Though I have delivered versions of my Outthinker Process program perhaps a few hundred times now, today something was different. I was working with a group of extremely bright and imaginative top executives at Kraft who somehow "got" the process in a way that others have not, and helped me appreciate the power of reaching "strategic clarity."
You see, there are four types of initiatives you could be investing your energy in at any one time. If you get these right, you win. If you get them wrong, you spin your wheels and fall further and further behind.
To avoid the latter fate, make a list of all the initiatives you are currently executing or considering. For each initiative, ask yourself two questions: If I successfully executed this initiative, what impact would it have on my ability to achieve my goals? and, How easy is it to execute this initiative?
This will give you four types of ideas:
1. Wastes of time: hard-to-execute ideas that would have little impact on you achieving your goals anyway. Dump these now and invest the energy you save into more productive activities.
2. Tactics: easy-to-execute ideas that will not significantly impact your success. Execute these if you want, but they are not important enough to be a strategic priority.
3. Winning moves: easy-to-execute ideas with huge impact. Execute those now!
4. Crazy ideas: difficult-to-execute ideas that, if you could figure out how to make them happen, would really make a difference. Most companies discard these "go to the moon" ideas. Outthinkers spend time figuring out how to make these feasible.
Eighteen months ago I applied the Outthinker Process to my own business and divided my activities into these four categories.
1. Wastes of time: I had been busy trying to certify coaches in my process. I realized that while I love doing this, it is not a profitable business, so I stopped doing it.
2. Tactics: I had been doing a lot of consulting and realized that while I love doing this and can now charge a lot of money for it, it is not a scalable business. I am stuck on the hamster wheel just charging for my time.
3. Winning moves: My speaking business was a winning move. I was already making money from it, I loved it, my fees were rising, and there was still a lot of room for the fees to grow.
4. Crazy ideas: I had three crazy ideas in mind that I had not been investing enough time in. First was to take my process (the Outthinker Process), which I had trained perhaps 2,000 people in, and package it as a program. I could find a home for this program in a high-end training company and license it to them, thereby making money while I sleep. The second was to complete my PhD, a project I had been working on for four years now, but that was not advancing quickly. The third was to launch a private equity fund that would find emerging Outthinkers, invest in them, and help them grow. The fund had become a dream that I did not know how to start.
I realized I was so busy doing my "waste of time" and "tactical" activities I had little energy left to invest in the "winning move" and turning my "crazy ideas" into reality. So I wrote my new priorities down on a little card that I keep in my wallet and pull out every few days to remind me of my priorities: stop doing certifications, just take consulting work you like, push hard on speaking, figure out how to license my IP, get my PhD, and launch a fund.
Eighteen months after clarifying my priorities, I realize things have transformed. As I finished my last workshop and left Kraft headquarters, heading to the airport, I pulled out my BlackBerry. In my inbox were emails from three potential workshop clients, two groups interested in my fund, and two speaking inquiries. I caught up with each of them by phone as my taxi navigated Mexico’s busy traffic. And now, with two hours before boarding, I will finish editing a section of my almost-finished dissertation.
That is the power reaching strategic clarity. You get what you want, if you are patient and focused on what is important.
Read more about this framework in my upcoming book Outthink the Competition.
[Image: Flickr user Colton Witt Photography]