“Outrage is easy; strategy is hard. Outrage provides necessary motivation. But only strategy can deliver victory,” writes Tony Blair in a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times. I wasn’t a particular fan of Blair when he was Prime Minister of the UK, but am a fan of this opening line. I am not a left-wing radical, but am outraged by the head-spinning flow of news and non-newsworthy tweets flowing out of Washington recently. In fact, my centrist rationality is the very reason for my outrage.
When I teach “strategy” to arts managers I refer to the classic concept of goal attainment through the establishment of specific, measurable objectives for which action plans are developed. In this process, the goal might be, for example, maintaining or growing support for the National Endowment for the Arts, currently a target for elimination by the current administration. Objectives could include: secure support of a legislator who is currently undecided; raise $X funds for a social media campaign in support of the agency; organize 100 friends to write postcards; and so on. However, when I teach strategy in the creative enterprise context, it is more recursive, incorporating malleable inputs, cognitive processes, and iteratively generated outputs. It seems like this kind of an openly adaptable model is what is needed now. The challenge is to employ such a strategy model responsively but not in an overly reactive way because when the rabbit is zigzagging all over the track, the greyhounds need to keep their eyes on the finish line and help pace one another.
In my creative enterprise strategy model, inputs include scans of internal assets and the current environment as well as traditional research. As an individual working in the arts and culture and education sectors, I have developed an action plan for responding to outrageous actions that is based on my internal asset scan (e.g., how much time do I have to devote to advocacy work; what skills do I have that can be deployed in advocacy work); an environmental scan (e.g., stay rationally up-to-date on social, cultural, and political developments; assess organizations that can help me achieve my advocacy goals); and research (e.g., keep empirical evidence at hand for deploying in policy arguments; know where to find information). Sometimes we forget that “strategy” can be deployed at this level, the level of the individual, to make change; enacting strategy is not something that only organizations do.
[Note that I do not condone greyhound racing. Image by Alex Lapuerta, CC 2.0.]