When we consider the word animation, many of us think of cartoons and Walt Disney’s legacy in particular. Or we reflect on someone who is full of life, energized and eager. These are dynamics that change the context we live in and, from time to time, the world around us.
Having the NLN Education Summit 2016 in Orlando, Florida, featuring a Disney wonderland of animation, I gave some thought to the underlying creativity associated with animating something. Is animation just a segment of our world, reserved for those who innovate or invent something? Or, is animation something that we can achieve in all aspects of our lives?
Within academic institutions, there is often an unstated, but real, mandate to succeed in our highly competitive marketplace. Nurse faculty need to openly acknowledge this competition. The mandate is seen in many things we do, but the fact that it is a competition is not universally stated. We want the best and brightest faculty and students, the best NCLEX pass rates, and the best U.S. News & World Report rankings. Thus, we develop strategic visions and plans to make our competitive efforts manageable and acceptable within the academy, where the emphasis is on intellectual development and the flourishing of faculty and students.
Such competition, whether openly acknowledged or not, morphs into strategic visions and goals, often accompanied by tactics and activities designed to make those goals a reality. Written as short- or long-term objectives, these processes often devolve into endless lists of tasks to be accomplished, with accountability assigned to individuals and due dates set. The dream that might have sparked the original vision gets lost in the details, and daily routines of doing the work, and often the dream itself, are forgotten.
In their 1994 book Competing for the Future, Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad challenge us to be bold in our competitive world. Their calculated method to achieve boldness is to animate the dream, using the framework of strategic intent to capture the emotional and intellectual energy of the process. This approach captures the “misfit” between current resources and the goals, that is, the competitive goals of the organization.
Strategic intent, according to these authors, conveys a unique point of view of the future and one that conveys how the organization will be in that future (the dream). Thus, strategic intent has direction. It also conveys a sense of discovery, because the direction to be explored is not fixed and known. People are to discover how they are distinctive from the competition.
The third element of strategic intent has an emotional component, not something typically described in a strategic planning process. The sense of destiny captures the notion that the way forward is worthwhile for the time and energy of the team members. The destiny is to make an impact on the lives we serve (e.g., our students or future patients).
Animating our dreams has broad and powerful dimensions. It allows us to look ahead and envision how the places we occupy might look in the future and how we want to be in that future. We can animate any segment of our worlds. As educational professionals, let’s openly acknowledge that ours is a competitive environment that actually surrounds all we do. Think about how you are competing. Perhaps you are working to be recognized as offering the most interesting courses, or for your productivity in publishing, or for getting promoted.
As we begin the academic year, many leaders, especially those new to an organization, will launch strategic planning processes. Typically these are designed to include as many voices and opinions as possible and can become tedious processes that engulf the community, rather than inspire it. Many hear that strategic planning is about to begin and run for cover, in high hopes of not being tapped to do the boring work.
If we look at strategic planning from the viewpoint of being bold and examining what the competitive environment will be in the future, then we can dream. That changes everything. Our imaginations are fired up; our energy and our intellects engage. Moreover, we create a destiny and our unique position within it. The process is fun and invigorating. How to get to that destiny becomes a path we discover together — not some rehashing of tactics and steps that lead to known outcomes. We take risks, explore, refresh and evaluate, and animate with powerful tactics.
If we look at strategic planning from the viewpoint of being bold and examining what the competitive environment will be in the future, then we can dream. That changes everything. Our imaginations are fired up; our energy and our intellects engage.
Animating our dreams is something all can do. As Cinderella said: “Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come shining through.”