What if instead of asking young adults what they want to do after high school, we asked them what problem they want to solve? If we ask the traditional question of what a 17-year-old wants to do for work after high school, they may answer “become a firefighter.” However, at 20 years old, that same person may have a sports injury that limits their physical ability and eliminates their opportunity to pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) required to become a firefighter. Despite this person having a world of opportunity in front of them, they are still stuck at point A and caught flat-footed where they are going. They must come up with a new point B to move forward again.
If we had asked that same high schooler what problem they want to solve when they are older and they answered that they want to prevent people from getting hurt from fires, they have now established direction with the ability to adapt and pivot. Being a firefighter is still a pathway, but as the young adult grows older and events happen, there may be another path that plays more into their strengths or physical constraints. Perhaps they discover a love for science and construction and now see a path to creating a material that is useful in preventing fires within buildings.
This traditional question of asking what role someone wants to have in the future is much like a traditional strategy. The leadership of an organization will come together and say that they want to get from point A to point B. However, when a significant event like Covid happens, that point B might not exist anymore and the organization is caught unprepared. For example, Kodak’s famous fall off the photography leadership board was something that a lot of people saw coming. The strong commitment to producing film cameras and film rather than the greater focus on providing people with a way to capture life’s moments led to their inability to pivot and continue their growth in what could have been the digital camera space.
Understanding the problem you are set out to address gives your organization a “why” and keeps you from getting stuck in the “how” and “what.” This enables an organization to develop the strategic frame that provides direction through the good times and the black swan events. In other words, define a North Star from which an organization is navigating from, as well as include stakeholder promises, guiding beliefs about the future, and strategic assets (often referred to as competitive weapons). With a defined strategic frame, an organization has clearly defined concerns that they are addressing. The how and what you do to address those concerns and problems you want to solve in the world, can now be created to foster workability in the fast-paced ever-changing landscape we know in today’s business world.
Ironically, a young adult’s sense of curiosity and creativity is very important in crafting a strategic frame. At Insigniam, we have a strategic frame that allowed us to adjust and adapt quickly to Covid as it unfolded. Today, our North Star keeps us focused on serving other organizations and assisting them in defining their North Star. This is why we help organizations set the conditions to foster and tap into this necessary curiosity, creativity, and introspection.