Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Big Vision in a Big Country

So take that look out of here, it doesn't fit you
Because it's happened doesn't mean you've been discarded
Pull your head off the floor, come up screaming
Cry out for everything you think you may have wanted
I thought pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can't stay here when every single hope you had shattered....In A Big Country, Big Country

I had the best talk with Midori Connolly a week ago or so.  She's one to follow if you don't already.  She has big visions for the future of associations as well as meetings and events.  Refreshing and fun and a joy to talk to.  Also, loved Elizabeth Engel's guest post - Dare to Think Big on Affiniscape's blog.

Later, I ran across a comment questioning whether thinking big was even appropriate any more.  After all, we can't plan for longer than 2 years at a time so isn't 20 year vision irrelevant?  It feels very smart and edgy to claim no allegiance to big vision.  Vision is so old-fashioned.  The cool kids believe in "real time adjustment," quick, nimble, opportunistic, entrepreneurial action. To them, big vision is a waste of time - all the smart people don't believe in it anymore.

I reject that line of thinking.

It seems that all we talk about anymore is "strategic planning."  Yes, planning cycles are shorter - no doubt.    I believe the most effective strategic plans don't look farther than 18 to 24 month cycles.  And all of those things I mentioned - quick, nimble, entrepreneurial, etc., are excellent strategies and tactics to use - but only when in pursuit of big vision.  I believe a strategic plan, linked to nothing but short term revenues, is a ticket to irrelevance.

We should be talking about "big vision," not as something we "can't see because we can't see the future" but as a "future we can play a role in creating."  Why are we allowing others to create our futures for us?  Somehow we are allowing ourselves to be convinced that big vision doesn't matter any more.  That fighting for big ideas is an impractical waste of time.  That creating big vision is irrelevant with the rate of change that is upon us.  I make no apologies for continually pursuing big vision and for wanting to work with associations who believe in it too.

I submit to you that in a world that is subsumed with small thinking, with moving from crisis to crisis, with shock doctrine ethos, with making short term bets instead of investments in a longer term future that associations have an obligation, a duty and a right to substitute this addiction to the short term with devotion to the long term instead.  Something people can rally around.  Something that makes you gulp a little bit.  Something that makes people in your industry or profession stop in wonder at your audacity and your daring.  Something that actually makes the world better for all of us, not just our members and their narrow interests.

It's time to get beyond the balance sheet, pull your head up off the floor and come up screaming.  Screaming for something just and fair.  For something inspirational and hopeful.  Something that will fill your souls and not just your reserves.  Stop the mindless pursuit of money and start talking about why your existence makes the world a better place for everyone.  Why everyone in your industry or profession should get out of bed and be proud of what they do, whether members of yours or not.  How you make a real difference in people's lives and, more importantly, how you intend to keep making a difference in the years to come.

It's not arrogant to believe in big vision.  It isn't a sign of hubris, or denial or stupidity.  It's a sign of a deeply held belief that this can't possibly be all there is.  In the final analysis, our dreams of a better, more equitable, more just future are the only things that stand between us and cultural suicide.

In a big country, dreams stay with you...like a lover's voice fires the mountainside.....

Stay alive.....



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