Setting your strategic vision and choosing a strategic planning model
The very first step in developing your strategic planning skills is to connect your imagination in setting your vision and long-term goals with the right planning actions. I usually suggest exercising imagination and brainstorming at least one page of your goals and objectives. You should not worry if your goals seem too vague or too mundane – you are at the beginning of a long learning curve and you can always adjust your ideas.
At the same time, you have to choose the right strategic planning model to start working systematically towards realization of your dreams. There are many models for this, and many textbooks are available. One interesting and novel model that I recommend adapting to your needs and interests is the “Blue Ocean Strategy” (developed by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne). In a nutshell, the Blue Ocean Strategy, or BOS, deals with a decision making and planning in the uncertain milieu of the Information Age and rapidly changing business environment (very much similar to the modern students’ environment!), focusing on four major elements. I have revised and adapted these four elements from the business and production environment to the social context of university campuses. They are: identify your uncontested strengths, make competition irrelevant, create and capture new demand, and creatively deal with value and cost.
Identify your uncontested strengths
Like in many other strategic planning models, the first skill you have to acquire is your ability to assess your strengths and weaknesses for every situation and for every project. Different situations on campus and in real life require different sets of talents and competencies. Thus, we cannot be strong in all fields, but it is essential to learn to assess and improve your uncontested strength – your best knowledge, experience or expertise. The 3-W approach can be very helpful for working on these skills, as you answer three major W-questions: Where [you have unsurpassed strength]; What [you need to do to further improve and demonstrate your skills], and When [you should achieve your next benchmarks in working on your strength]. The BOS philosophy goes that systematic work on revising and improving your strength in specific skills, competencies and qualities, can make you an uncontested expert or professional in your field.
Deal effectively with competition
The BOS model suggests that the cornerstone of success in many businesses and in life is effectively dealing with competition and establishing your product, your expertise or yourself as a leader in the field. However, dealing with competition does not mean participating in every possible contest and race. It means that you have to skillfully identify the competitive advantages of others and figure out where and how you should become more competitive by improving or acquiring new competitive skills that clearly demonstrate you can use your knowledge in effectively solving problems and challenges in real life better than anyone else. This might be the best photos for Instagram, the most interesting videos for YouTube or the best writing skills for startup projects. After all, Steve Jobs of Apple Corporation repeatedly demonstrated that even though his products did not have all the latest technological features, they were useful in addressing many needs and interests of his clients in some specific fields.
Capturing new demand
In a world that is greatly impacted by rapidly changing technologies, gadgets, apps and social media fashions, universities, corporations and even government organizations have to face new issues and challenges on an everyday basis. It will help tremendously if you develop strategic planning skills and intuition in identifying today’s and future demands. This could be in various fields – the latest techno, new media and social trends on your campus, in your future internship or workplace, or something else. Just learn how to acquire those new skills and competencies, staying in demand for your ability!
Dealing with value and innovation
This is one of the most difficult parts of the strategic planning according to the BOS model: how to innovate yourself so that you become one of the most valuable persons in the class or on campus. Carefully look around and you can find indeed some individuals who are highly valued by classmates, professors or startup geeks!
In other words, you have to develop strategic planning skills to become a valuable member of your community by continually self-educating – not only learning about innovations but actually being innovative in approaching problems and challenges in the world of today and tomorrow! After all, the Blue Ocean Strategy approach is all about the ability to be dynamic and to reinvent yourself in our rapidly changing environment.