Thoughts on Leadership: Innovation and Planning

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in San Antonio, TX for 2018 Sales Convention planning. As you know, I’m a huge proponent of planning. Last year during my keynote onstage at Sales Convention, I even quoted one of my all-time favorite sayings by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”

Also, for those who haven’t read it, I wrote a post all about business planning here.

The theme of the upcoming Sales Convention in San Antonio is “Innovation” and I believe innovation and planning go hand in hand. You cannot innovate without first having a solid, decisive plan in mind. Yes, serendipity plays into it and sometimes, you just get lucky with a positive outcome but the more you plan the more likely it becomes that you’ll find the success you seek.

Another truth: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Rita McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, together with Ian MacMillan, of the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, discussed the concept of what they call “innovation planning” or “discovery-driven planning” and why it’s so important for the accomplishment of goals. In legal terms, “discovery” is a pre-trial procedure when attorneys obtain information before trial through demands for production of documents, depositions of parties and potential witnesses, written interrogatories, and more. In general terms, discovery is crucial to a well-composed plan because it means you’ve done your homework; you’ve looked into what your competitors are doing, you’ve studied and calculated and deliberated all outcomes.

McGrath and MacMillan state, “Conventional planning operates on the premise that managers can extrapolate future results from a well-understood and predictable platform of past experience.”

But innovation planning means a thorough investigation into what you don’t understand. It’s almost impossible to merely plan based on past experiences or what you think you know, you must plan with strategy and decisiveness, research all avenues possible for your initiative and decide which way forward will yield the best results.

So, what’s the message? Innovation planning is quite literally what we did in San Antonio this week. Our team didn’t say, “OK, we’re going to recreate what we did last year in Phoenix because we received a positive reception.” Instead, we brainstormed ways to make this Sales Convention different and fresh, and spoke about the specifics involved in turning this event into one that’s even bigger, better, more effective and engaging than anything we’ve produced before. That’s the power of innovation planning at work. Just wait until March 4 – 6 when you see our General Session stage …

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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