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The Blade Runner Strategy

Though I consider myself a planner and a strategist, I only reluctantly admit to engaging in debates about terms like "mission" and "vision." What are they? How are they defined? Which is which? Honestly, I long ago stopped caring.

Instead, I prefer the term "legacy" - i.e. a gift, a bequest, something handed down to future generations.
Think about it this way: imagine someone - an historian - sitting down in 50 years to write YOUR history and your organization's. What are you creating TODAY that's worth memorializing? What are you doing TODAY that might, possibly, endure for longer than a strategic planning cycle or two? What's your gift? More about that in a moment...

Last night I watched a 3 hour-long meta-movie - a movie about a movie - about the making of the movie Blade Runner, Ridley Scott's dystopic, claustrophobic vision of the not-so-distant future. Blade Runner was released in 1982, the same summer as E.T., early in the decade Ronald Reagan proclaimed as "Morning In America."

Moviegoers, tired of conflict and the downbeat economy, wanted shiny, happy people and shiny, upbeat plots. E.T. was all that, Blade Runner wasn't. And as Harrison Ford's first, post-"Raiders Of the Lost Ark" movie, audiences expected "Raiders II, the Sequel." It wasn't that either.
No, Blade Runner was textural and moody, a dark, atmospheric rumination on some thoughtful questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? What does it mean to be human?

I was struck by Director Ridley Scott's overpowering vision for the film and the Blade Runner world. Struck by how precisely he imagined Los Angeles in the not-so-distant future. Struck by an entire new generation of film directors talking about Blade Runner's impact on their lives, their thinking and careers.

And struck by how the "suits" (a pejorative term describing those who put up their capital to back the film) remain mystified by what's happened to "their" movie - happy to reap the returns but bewildered by a movie once relegated to "cult" status becoming a cultural juggernaut.
  Where's THAT in the focus group report?

You don't have to be a movie buff to understand the parallels: like Ridley Scott, effective strategists range widely and think deeply, offer compelling visions, and are intellectually curious enough to make new and unexpected connections. They see what everyone else sees and learn what nobody else knows.

They're mature enough to know that planning isn't about the right plans or last night's focus group results. It's about the right conversations. It's about changing mental models and aspirations. It's about persisting, striking out against the unknown, re-writing the rules and definitions of success as you go.

Conversations. Mental models. New rules. What MBA class covered those, I wonder?

They realize their organization counts on them more than it knows. They know not to waste an opportunity to grab people by the (metaphorical) throat and scream "Dammit! The work we do must MATTER! Time is too precious to waste on small dreams, on being just another me-too organization in a big me-too world, scrabbling in the muck for another tenth of an EBIDTA point!"

Pursue me-too mediocrity and you'll surely find it. Achievement is easy when you're comfortable being average. So argue. Cajole. Threaten. Plead. Dig deep. Peel away layers of corporate-speak. Seek passion, find essence. Never settle. And never, ever give up.

The world hungers for people with passion, people who live life with urgency and drive, who understand that there are few things worse than living a life soon forgotten.

Oh, and that legacy thing? There are only two things you CAN leave: a healthier community and a healthier organization. Everything else is just occasionally helpful commentary. 

Think about it. Will your vision be worth remembering 50 years from now? Will future students of health care leadership be driven by its power? Will lives be changed? If not...

"Kick the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight!" (U2)


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