I gasped as my friend Sandra told me of her near-death experience paddling on a river. She fell in, got hypothermia, had no effective communications, and had to crawl out of a canyon to find help. It could have ended very, very badly. I shuddered at what may have happened.

I’m all for adventure. It is one of my core values and I have lived all my life following its call. Solo adventure can be done safely, with plenty of planning. In my experience though, adventure together is better. It’s safer, easier, and way more fun.

Likewise, strategy together is better. None of us is as smart as more of us. We can challenge assumptions, test ideas, and explore creatively together.

Here are some key principles to make it work well for you:

Use an A-Team.

This is an independent, personal board of directors. These are folks who have got your back, and are ambitious for your success. They are also outside of your usual sphere of influence, they are not your family, and not your actual board of directors! You want folks on your team who care but who are not invested in the result.

Follow a process.

Ask three critical questions, and do one at a time:

  • What’s going on? Do an environmental scan to look at big picture trends affecting you locally, nationally, and globally.
  • How might we respond? Do scenario planning to explore possible futures.
  • What should we do? Build a results map, measures, and then improvement projects. This is the time to do creative thinking and customer mapping. This is the nitty gritty leading to execution. Most leaders start here, and this is a mistake. You need context, possibility, then a plan.

Report back.

You need to treat strategy and implementation as a grand adventure! It’s about exploring new ground. Your A-Team helps you develop your route plan, so it’s a courtesy to check back in with them, to share your ‘trip notes’, insights, and achievements.

Strategic thinking with others helps you paddle the wild river of change with more confidence and security. You’re twice as strong, and you’ll double the fun.

How do you test your strategic thinking? How do you make room for multiple perspectives? Who might you invite to be on your A-Team?