Changing the Way the World Thinks about Strategy

M Dana Baldwin

Strategic Planning Expert

Does your organization have a tough time generating and implementing good opportunities for additional services or products?  Is there a major roadblock to approving them? We have written multiple articles about the importance of, and the good practices of, good idea generation for organizations.  Robert Bradford has published a series of papers on the practices of innovation (See the prior issue of Course and Direction for one of them).

In our seminars on Simplified Strategic Planning, we emphasize the importance of effective generation of opportunities by the planning team.  One area we have talked little about, however, is how these ideas get judged by the team.  Most ideas can be rated effectively by the process we introduce in our seminar.  Occasionally, there is one which simply doesn’t fit the mold at all.

In the Wall Street Journal of Friday, October 13, on page A13, is a book review entitled “Things You Don’t Tell Your Mudder” by Gregory Crouch about the book “It Takes A Tribe – Building the Tough Mudder Movement” by Will Dean (Portfolio, 228 pages).

The following quoted material tells an important story: “When Will Dean first submitted his perhaps-too-original business proposal to his Harvard Business School professors, they judged it “simplistic.” The most common response was, “Mr. Dean, do you really think anyone will pay you to run through mud?” Turns out, they would.”

“It isn’t difficult to imagine how preposterous the idea must have seemed in 2010: “Create a weekend adult obstacle course,” an untimed challenge that could only be negotiated with help from friends and teammates and strangers.” The article goes on to detail the success of the concept. “Today the Tough Mudder movement is a global enterprise, with more than 2.5 million participants and in excess of $100 million a year in revenues.” (WSJ, 10-13-2017, p. A13)

What are the lessons that can be learned here?  First: as we teach in our seminar, there should be no judgment of any idea as it is proposed in the session.  The rationale for this is simple: Any idea, proposed by anyone in the brainstorming session, may or may not have merit, but even ideas without direct application in the planning process might possibly trigger a winning idea in someone else’s mind.

Second: The process of judging the long-term worth of any idea needs to be objective, but must consider the “What if” of the idea. What if we really did follow through and use this wild idea?  What could happen to the company if we did this? Is the idea something which will have long-term value for us?  The team must step outside their zone of comfort to see the possibilities of the wild idea–not an easy trip but one that may be well worth the time to consider and evaluate.

Realistically, these ideas happen infrequently, if ever, to most organizations. Yet, it is important to keep one’s mind open to the possibilities generated in your consideration of potential opportunities so the one golden idea doesn’t escape your consideration.  It could be transformational.

If your innovation process needs some help, especially within the context of your strategic planning, please contact me to discuss how we can help you improve both your planning and your idea generation.  Dana Baldwin: 616-575-3193 or

I also suggest that you get a copy of our book, Elements of Innovation, here.

Have you been tasked with leading your organization through the strategic planning process?  Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar for in-depth instruction on this subject as well as all other aspects of Simplified Strategic Planning.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at:

© Copyright 2017 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *