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How do you plan when the pace of change keeps increasing exponentially?

The traditional business practice of developing a 5-year plan has become obsolete, because paradigm-shifting technology keeps arising faster than that.

But the alternative of abandoning long-term thinking generates chaos and, at best, postpones consequences. Short-term solutions have contributed to the current challenges in our economy and environment.

On a personal level, short-term thinking makes it difficult to gain momentum towards bigger success since it keeps distracting you with minor trends.

How do you reconcile these two extremes? Adaptable planning is the solution, as it contains the best of both worlds.

There are two elements to adaptable planning: a flexible base and scalable precision.

A flexible base means your starting concept is broad enough that individual elements can be added or subtracted. Once, a client insisted on building an entire business brand to serve burnt out nursing professionals. When that idea didn’t bear fruit he had to start all over again from scratch. If he had branded himself as the go-to guy for issues all health care practitioners face, he would have had much more room to play and repurpose his work.

Next, scale the precision of your plan to match the timeframe. Remember the old days when it would take several seconds to download a high-resolution image, and you would be fed progressively sharper images while you waited?  At first you’d see blotches of color and then vague outlines, and then the beautiful result would finally appear.

When I was managing software development teams, I enjoyed the exhilaration of changing direction while moving at 90 miles per hour. “Whoops, a competing product came out so we have to add these three new features while still making our production deadline.”  Or, “The client changed the specs and we have to replace this entire set of functionality with something else.”

It’s much easier to change direction once you are already in motion, rather than starting from zero when you fully understand your ultimate result.

In my software days, for example, we knew that we were developing an artist’s tool to create 3D worlds for video games that worked in certain ways.  What we built was an adaptable platform that would allow us to add new features later without a complete rewrite.  Either waiting for the client/market to make up its mind or locking down the complete specification would have been disaster.

How do you make this kind of adaptable plan?

Make use of the complementary strengths of the two sides of the brain.  The logical left brain is good at making precise structures and lists, and the intuitive right brain is good at imagining and sensing information that cannot yet be described.  The right brain inspires and the left brain executes.

You might write a traditional business plan with an expandable concept, and simply make the details more sketchy as you move out. Alternatively, move to a mind map for the longer term plan.

What’s important is that you anchor your plan with precision and adaptability in the short term, and commitment in the long term. In this way, treat yourself to the solid launch pad and the inspirational momentum you need to make the difference you are meant to make in the world!