I would scan the environment, but there’s too much of it

For months I snatched tempting bits from the flowing river. A story on donor-advised funds, a white paper on the future of higher education, and so on. The piles of magazines and white papers grew, as did my open browser tabs and saved files.

I couldn’t keep up. I got so tired of seeing the same article about Generation Z uppermost on the stack of paper on my floor that I turned the whole stack upside down. I was on continual environmental-scan mode, and it wasn’t doing me any good.

What direction would we pursue if we had a clear view of the dominant trends, the rising opportunities, the threats on the horizon? Awareness of the external context – the world as it is, and how it is moving – is often missing from strategic planning, which ends up exclusively focused on our internal workings.

But, but. All the current ideas and trends in philanthropy, marketing, technology, engagement, wealth, population, higher education – come at us from all directions.

Just as I struggle with how to consume and process information as a person, I struggle with how we deal with it as an organization. There must be a way to make it coherent and feed it into the process.

I don’t have an answer.

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