How to Teach Strategic Thinking

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Recently in a conversation with a faculty at a reputable law school, I was asked what I saw as the biggest shortcoming in recently graduated young lawyers. I shot the answer out lickety split–no question about it–they completely lacked the ability to think strategically. The question that followed was–well, one naturally to be expected: Would you be willing to conduct a lecture as part of a post graduate offering, on how young lawyers can learn to think strategically?  Again, my answer was far too quick. Flooded with the a rush of self congratulation over the invitation, the answer oozed out of me as smoothly as a salted  caramel from chocolate on a hot day…” I’d love to.”

Thirty days into the process of designing the itinerary for the self-discovery journey to strategic thinking, apropos of the subject, I find myself murmuring: What was I thinking? Was I thinking at all? One thing for certain there was nothing measured or tempered about my enthusiasm to take on the challenge. Dare I say–nothing strategic about that decision.   So on this glorious weekend summer’s day  in a small Connecticut village that New Yorkers kill themselves to get to negotiating I-95 every Friday night, I sit. At my computer. An intentionally made-to-look-retro fan keeps me cooled while its rattle drowns out  bird tweets and competes with gentle breezes. “Help Me Rhonda” fittingly plays in the background.

In the last thirty days, I have spent most of my discretionary time reading everything in sight and googling every conceivable variation of the phrase “how to teach strategic thinking”…to adults, to millennials, nay even children. After querying  colleagues and daughter MBA candidate came the flood of recommendations… Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” and Covey’s classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” A trip to the book store lured me with no fewer than ten different volumes of HBR (Harvard Business Review) compilations–promoted as “must reads.”  I got the one on “managing people” possibly influenced by  the tag line “If you read nothing else on managing people, read these definitive articles.”  Sold.

So, in these intervening weeks since the caramel oozed out of my chocolate,  my world has become an exploration of mastering outside the box inventiveness, analyzing human effectiveness and managing intuitions and interventions.

For those of you who are regular followers, this is the part of my blog where I pull something out of the hat of my past and draw an connection that most assuredly seems to have little to do with the blog topic. My personal paraprosdokian literary widget.
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Not too long ago  on my way home from work, I passed Tate Modern and read a poster about an exhibit of Matisse’s cutouts. It was there, on the south bank looking up at the billboard promoting the exhibition, where I  learned, for the first time, that my favorite Matisse art piece was actually a collage fashioned from cut out pieces of paper. How did I not know that in the 40 years since my first encounter and subsequent love affair with the piece? Now come to find out, he didn’t paint or even draw my favorite blue nude–he pasted it.    I believed I knew a Matisse  painting when I saw one.  Turns out, I didn’t. As for pornography and knowing it when I see it–I’m going to have to reconsider that as well.  Which brings us to strategic thinking…right now I can’t quite pin down for you what it is or how you can acquire a knack for it, but I can tell you this: if you work with me, trip up and make that strategic fail and I can be all over you like a wet t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

One Day I had an idea…

How many times have you said to yourself, I wish I had thought of that, or even worse, you did think of i14317367_10154423018650406_541273375062655995_nt, but someone else made it happen?

Given the abundance of naysayers, critics, skeptics and knowitalls that abound in our world today, it’s no wonder that people find themselves filled with regret that they hadn’t launched that start up in the garage, or taken that chance and put all their resources into a basket they were told couldn’t hold a feather.

Take heart, it takes energy and drive beyond anything normal, bordering on the obsessive and compulsive, to push past the many authorities who are sure that you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t have the credentials and what it takes to make it succeed. It takes an unfathomable amount of that je ne sais quoi, to push through the “who does she think she is?” and “how can he possibly think he has what it takes to do that?”

In those early days when the idea was a glint in my eye,  the naysayers were abundant. Uninvited, they crashed my party–coming out of the woodwork everywhere: “A country lawyer creating an international entity…impossible!”  “A woman heading into war zones…ridiculous!” And, the worst of all, ” Creating an organization that depends on the generosity of lawyers…will never succeed.” Nay, in “Et tu, Brute” fashion, even my own family was not bashful expressing their extraordinary skepticism.

To be honest, the job didn’t seem as daunting in the prospect as it became  in the actuality. Many I’m sure share the experience of passion and clarity of vision trumping (pun intended)  perceived obstacles and challenges.  But, like the tortoise who plugged along through the race, every day before me soon enough morphed into a day viewed through the rear view mirror. And, naturally enough, with each stride I moved closer to converting the vision into a reality. Which brings us to today.

I once had an idea. It was that lawyers young and old would travel to regions of the world where the practice and implementation of laws was challenging for any of a variety of reasons. And–  lawyers from around the world with the time, energy, resources and inclination to give back, if given the opportunity, would.

It is said revenge is sweet. The same is often also said about success. I’m pleased to report that both adages are true. For those who provided the rock upon which I chiseled what has become “my story”– thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I leave you with this:

 In this life, your narrative is just that, yours. Now go. Write it.