How to Engage in Blue Sky Thinking When It’s Raining

How do we plan in a time of complete turmoil and uncertainty? That’s the question most of us are asking in this year of unprecedented change. One thing we know won’t work is pulling out last year’s plan and updating it. So, what will?

For my team, the secret ingredient for growth planning is Blue Sky Thinking.

What? That’s crazy, right? We need to focus on basic recovery and crisis management, don’t we?

Of course. Shoring up your defenses is needed for business continuation. But it won’t get you to what’s next. Blue Sky Thinking will. Blue Sky Thinking is that attitude of optimism that looks into the universe and sees endless possibilities.

The “What if? Why not? Can we? Will we?” questions that drive Blue Sky Thinking can boost creativity and energy for you as the business owner and leader as well as for your entire team. Now is the time to consider wild and crazy ideas that just might open the door to your next big marketing campaign or new product development.

Optimism! Like laughter, optimism delivers real health benefits that strengthen teams and bottom lines. Your team needs the confidence right now to look beyond the rain and see the rainbow.

Here are seven steps for engaging in Blue Sky Thinking for your 2021 growth planning.

  1. Review the fundamentals: your core strengths; your solid and enduring successes; your team; your resources and capabilities.
  2. Don’t focus too much on COVID impacts. Focusing on COVID will limit your thinking and likely cause you to miss emerging opportunities. Also, too much is unknown to make predictions about the full impacts meaningful. Instead, use the successes and failures of the past six months as guardrails to future expectations.
  3. Look at COVID as an opportunity that you didn’t see coming six months ago. Evaluate the changes that have happened in your industry. What’s needed now that wasn’t before? How can your business serve that need?
  4. Create a flexible framework rather than a specific action plan for 2021. A framework allows you to adjust your plan within your capabilities and resources and to pivot when necessary.
  5. Reevaluate your mission statement. Your business has changed this year. Does your mission statement reflect where you are going? Re-crafting your mission statement with an eye toward where you are going next will infuse energy and enthusiasm into your 2021 plan.
  6. Consider the big leap. What if you could enter a new market? Completely redesign your product line? Buy out a competitor? What would it take? How would you do it?
  7. Enlarge your world view and include (DEI) diversity, equity, and inclusion steps in your planning efforts. What business practices changes do you need to make to better include people of all ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, abilities, and ages in your product development, hiring, and business operations?

If you need help facilitating a Blue Sky Thinking session for your team, contact me here.


Clare Price
Clare Price
Clare Price is CEO of Octain, a global strategic planning consultancy that helps mid-market companies grow to dominate their markets by Fueling the Speed of Businessä. Clare is a Growth Architect whose passion in life is helping businesses achieve their market potential. Many business owners have great goals and plans but struggle to effectively implement them. Clare works with business owners to achieve maximum revenue growth in six key areas: product/service development, customer acquisition, brand visibility, message clarity, market expansion, and sales. Today, that also means growing through a remote economy. Clare’s new book, Make Remote Work, is the resource guide to successful business execution with remote workers, customers, systems, and products. Prior to starting Octain, Clare was a Research Director for Gartner, a global IT advisory group, and VP Research for Demand Metric Inc., a marketing advisory research firm for modern marketing organizations. Clare is the author of Make Remote Work and the cyberthriller, Web of Betrayal. She has been a featured speaker for Vistage, the American Marketing Association, the California Society of Association Executives, Women in Technology International (WITI), eWomen Network, and the U.C. Davis Graduate School of Management. On a personal note, Clare is the proud Mom of two Shetland Sheepdogs, Dan, and Toby, who loves to cook, explore new cuisines, and discover new wines.

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  1. This particular moment that humanity is experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to emphasize the need (and responsibility) for leaders of any type of organization, both in the public and private spheres, to be able to have forecasts of the scenarios they may face in the future.
    And, to do so, you also need a good dose of optimism.