With so many things changing rapidly in business, being able to successfully react to unexpected developments is a tremendously valuable strategic thinking and innovation skill.

How do you prepare when you may have to "wing it"? Having had to be ready to act with little formal preparation in so many situations, here are some field-tested suggestions for doing it more effectively:

  1. Invest a little effort ahead of time imagining what scenarios other than the original one might develop. For me, that often involves visualizing, i.e. literally "watching," in my mind what might happen. Other times, it's writing down possibilities or using a decision tree to look at alternative scenarios. This quick assessment lays a foundation for knowing what you might have to work with.
  2. Amid the potential scenarios, figure out what you can reasonably prepare for, just in case. Are there easily secured tools, resources, or information that will get you ready to go in multiple directions should the need arise?
  3. Know whether there's a routine that makes you more comfortable amid uncertainty. This may include things around you, people available for support, or activities / rituals you use to get in the proper frame of mind. If it's possible, go through the routine to set the stage.
  4. If you have to wing it, go forth creatively and boldly. Don't apologize, make excuses, or say what the original plan was. Act as if the way you're winging it were the plan all along. Often, no one will suspect any differently.

I'm not sure having to innovate on the spot in important situations gets any less nerve racking, but with these steps, you can better flex and still deliver on strategy no matter what gets thrown at you. - Mike Brown

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