Mention strategic thinking and people immediately assume 3 things: It’s for strategic planning; it’s a job for senior management; it’s boring. Boring? Nuh uh! Well, I guess you could see it as boring if you think the sustainability of your organization is boring. Thinking strategically means “thinking conceptually, imaginatively, systematically, and opportunistically with regard to the attainment of success in the future.” Put simply: it’s about considering your situation differently, through different lenses and asking questions – lots of questions. Those of us in the information and library sector are perfectly positioned to be strong strategic thinkers and to advise others on viewing situations differently, including patrons, clients, partners and stakeholders. When the world is uncertain (ah…..that would be now), build your strategic thinking muscles. We have the skills required: we are learners, we are curious, we are courageous, and we don’t have to do it alone – we collaborate.
4 ways to build the muscles:
- Be purposeful learners. Learn things you know nothing about. Courses, books, articles, webinars, blog posts — so much is free! Libraries and the web are a learners’ treasure trove. Just pursue non-library related topics. Even wood-working. Put on a new pair of learning lenses.
2. Harness your innate curiousity as an ‘informationist’ to seek, find, and contemplate ideas and developments that have NOTHING to do with libraries. You’ll surface opportunities you’ve never considered.
3. Considering opportunities or opening new doors requires courage. You’ve got that! Working with students, the public, or corporate clients demands courage, and we demonstrate it every day. Use that courage look at new services. Be brave and take a deep dive into your processes, systems and ways “things are done.” Asking uncomfortable questions calls on every ounce of our courage. Critical thinking, a close cousin to strategic thinking, demands spunk. And we have spunk. It is never easy to choose this direction or this service model instead of that service model or that direction. Status quo is always the preferred path. Show your spunk. Learn, be curious, pull the analysis together and have the courage to purpose some new approaches.
4. Combine your efforts and your ah ha’s with others. Collaborate. Divide and conquer the learning, reading, exploring. Support each other’s bravery. Almost every library has ‘explore’ or ‘discover’ somewhere in their mission, values or vision. It’s time for staf to do that exploring — be brave! Exercise that value of being a lifelong learner – and learn about new, diverse aspects of the world that, surprise surprise, may give you a fresh perspective.
I was honoured to talk with Caledon Public Library’s staff @ their staff day in September 2020 about four easy ways they can strengthen their strategic thinking. Use this at your staff day. Here’s the video: