Monday, March 04, 2013

It's good to step back every now and then

It’s been awhile.  Sorry for the lack of advance notice, but I decided to use February as a month for some major reflection and reassessment.  In this longer than usual post, I’m going to share the outcome of that effort.  If my plans for the next several years aren’t of interest to you, feel free to stop reading now.  Regular blogging resumes Wednesday with a quick burst of daily posts focusing on the core questions for cultivating engagement. 

Looking back
If I judged my success since founding Idea Architects in 2002 by business volume alone, it’s been a nice decade for the most part.  But while money certainly matters, it’s not the metric that means the most to me, nor is the number of speaking engagements or size of other work opportunities I am afforded each year.

I most value making a distinct or unique contribution, to provide some of what is more scarce in the current landscape rather than merely adding to what already is available in abundance.  I am motivated by creative challenges that get me out of my comfort zone and that allow me to work with individuals and organizations who care about ideas and idealism.  Somewhere in the last few years, less of my time has been engaged in these type of efforts, creative blocks have occurred more regularly, and a gnawing sense it was time for a change was more frequent. 

Listening to mentors: what's most needed now? 

To think about where to focus my attention and efforts for the next 3-5 years, I turned to a group of trusted colleagues and mentors. Here is what they told me today's leaders need, but they feel is not as readily available as might be desirable.

  • Context and connections for the abundance of content: more sense, connections, and deeper meaning made of the reading and resources that are just being skimmed, if noticed at all.
  • Support for getting in action: moving beyond just raising awareness of what needs to be done to facilitating individuals and organizations getting in action on the ideas and issues that matter most to them.
  • Ensuring engagement and collaboration in face-to-face leadership and learning experiences: making the most of having people together in real-time, appropriately incorporating varied learning formats and technology tools to maximize the value received and created.
  • Introducing simplicity and clarity in areas that seem to be increasingly clouded by unnecessary complexity, specifically the topics of productive workplaces, strategy, and innovation.

    My response to all this?  Count me in. 
Moving forward 

So my work moving forward will consist of four areas that address these areas of scarcity in their structure and design. 
  1. Delivering major keynotes bundled with implementation/discussion breakouts, blog or magazine essays, and a pre- or post- event webinarA keynote alone just raises awareness.  By making my keynotes into interactive general session presentations and bundling them with additional content exploration opportunities, I can help conference attendees not only think differently, but prepare them to do differently. 
  2. Providing facilitation and presentation skills training coupled with individual coaching via phone, Skype, or Google hangouts.  I probably teach these topics more than any other, but I want to expand my efforts to help conference presenters and association volunteers build their capacity to facilitate more powerful conversations and interactive learning experiences.  They are a critical conduit to others having positive interactions, yet don't always possess the full skill set their efforts require.
  3. Facilitating deep dives into a single strategic issue or question using design thinking principles to help organizations refresh or reinvent their competitive advantage.  Traditional strategic planning may be dead, but the need to craft strategy most certainly is not.  These sessions will help organizations draw on fresh thinking to make significant progress on one critical question or issue confronting their efforts. 
  4. Providing high quality leadership conference/workshop curriculum for others’ use including session outlines, slides, handouts, and facilitator training/support.  For the cost of bringing in one outside speaker for a conference, organizations can now have professionally developed curriculum they can use in perpetuity, tapping into their own staff and volunteers as presenters. 
And I'll be spending more time reading and writing
I’m flattered that people periodically tell me “You need to write a book.”  I don’t know if anyone ever needs to write a book, but I do enjoy writing: it was my undergraduate degree after all.  So I’m actively exploring creating content I care about that I think other might value.  Time will tell if that ends up being a book, but it’s definitely going to show up on a monthly basis in this format:  a white paper on a particular topic area, highlighting insights from a broad range of resources (answering the what? question), but also exploring what these idea might mean and how you can apply them to your efforts (the so what? and now what? questions). 

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading through my future plans.  If any of the four areas would be of value to you or your organization, I'd welcome the chance to talk with you about the possibilities.  And watch for a more detailed information PDF to be released later this month.

My best availability until year's end is during August, September, November, and December.


Greg Fuson said...

I think you're focusing on all the right needs. And I applaud your decision to pause, reflect and recalibrate, not just continue piling up the engagements that are there for the taking. On behalf of associations and conference planners everywhere, thanks for all that you give. I'm eager to read the new content that's in the works.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Thanks Greg. Knowing that you see a lot, I'm glad these areas resonate with what you're observing. Form informal feedback I've heard, it sounds like you were a hit at PCMA.