In our training in CAP, business, and military we often focus on three lanes of vision. The words TACTICAL, OPERATIONAL, and STRATEGIC end up at the front of a lot of other words. We all kind of get that tactical thinking is in the moment, operational thinking handles bundles of moments, and strategic thinking is made of big bundles of operational periods. Plans, goals, missions, and organizations all get tagged with roles in these avenues.
Many planners will suggest starting with STRATEGIC goals, the long-term stuff. This is a great idea and makes all the sense in the world – if TACTICS, OPERATIONS, and STRATEGY were the LIMIT of practical thinking and preparing for your future.
Imagine a pyramid. Divide it in three until you have a bottom layer, middle layer, and top layer. Bottom is TACTICAL, middle is OPERATIONAL, top is STRATEGIC. Bottom it down to earth, boots on the ground kind of stuff. Middle is in the middle making sure the top stays connected to the bottom. The top is high in the sky, distant and in the clouds.
If you stuck it out through that, humor me for one last imagination game. Imagine your same pyramid, now imagine the sky above it. Draw lines from the bases, and before you know it there’s a big invisible, upsidedown pyramid in the sky. This is the space where other thinking exists, thinking that doesn’t make sense on the ground. This is the space for VISIONARY thinking. If TACTICAL thinking saves your butt, OPERATIONS thinking saves your job, and STRATEGIC thinking saves your money, VISIONARY thinking saves your soul (symbolically or otherwise.)
Planners suggest starting with STRATEGIC planning because it informs it’s subordinate plans. VISIONARY thinking is the mirrored peak of our invisible pyramid. It becomes apparent that VISION will inform, but must be funneled through STRATEGY. Where the earthy pyramid has apparent boundaries, the lovely and frightening truth of this metaphor is that the imaginary can go on forever. Let your VISION be your sight beyond STRATEGY, and funnel the full wealth of your imagination through it to inform your STRATEGIC plans and thinking.
In 7 Billion years our Sun is going to swell and implode. Our planet will be long uninhabitable before then due to the natural decay of the stars. In 300 Quadrillion years, the Universe itself will just…stop universing? It’s not going to be here. Why bring up such spooky nonsense? 1. It’s true, and 2. the entities that face those battles have us for ancestors. How do we help them achieve their mission? Our planet is freaking out, people are freaking out. If we can come up with a plan for getting out of here before the Sun implodes, everything else will kind of fall in place. Phone reports and uniforms will handle themselves because of course they would. Astronauts can’t have sloppy uniforms. Doctors can’t skip a shift.
We give them rockets and nowhere to take them.
When I STRATEGIZE I always DREAM. My dream is to help heroes realize they’re already heroes, and empower them with all the wisdom and nonsense I have – right now. That’s the dream I’m following until it takes me to the next one.
Do you want to be the best squadron, or do you want to be so good it’s no contest? Or do you want the wing so good your awesome squadron has some competition? Then where do we go when we’ve peaked? It can keep going up and up the invisible pyramid.
When you’re thinking about thinking, don’t forget to dream.