This coming quarter is crunch-time for TEDxUofW. We’ve got our vision and we’ve got our team. In 10 weeks, we will have our entire event planned out.

Last night, I spent an hour with the other Co-Curator to map out milestones for the quarter. As we were planning, the notion of remembering to keep ourselves flexible came up. No matter how detailed our plan became, we reminded ourselves that we had to plan for our plan to change.

This concept of “go in with a plan, but plan on changing it” has been on my mind for a while. (I’m sure there’s a better, more catchy way of articulating it, but that’s what I’ve got for now) I came into college pretty set on a double degree in Business and Psychology and going into consulting. I thought I had a good plan, one that would help me “succeed”. Now 5 quarters away from graduation, I have a radically different view. My experiences in the worlds of design, web development, photography, and startups as well as my major change to Business/Informatics have profoundly changed my passions and future outlook.

The way I see it, this mindset applies not only to projects like TEDxUofW but to life as a whole. Even when we are children, we “have a plan”. We dream of becoming things like a firefighter or astronaut, and our play reflects a simulation and an exercise of our imagination. As we grow up and are influenced by those around us, our dreams and plans take a different feel as they become realistic. In high school, we plan for college. In college, we plan for a career. In our career, we plan for raising a family our retirement.

Look at your own life and think back to your conversations with others. How many of our plans have followed through exactly the way we intended? If you’re like me, the answer would be zero. Regardless of how great of a plan we make, everything can change tomorrow or even in the next hour. One person, one decision, or one idea is all it takes for our life to take a wildly different course.

As much as I like concise statements, I’m going to expand “go in with a plan, but plan on changing it” to “go in with a plan to be prepared, but be prepared for your plan to change.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for planning and I try to map things out as detailed as possible. But as I go through life I’m starting to realize that flexibility when things don’t go according to plan is more important than the plan itself. We are given extensive instruction on how to plan, but little on adapting our plan. I don’t remember where I read it other than it being Darwin-related, but the most successful species are not the strongest or smartest. Rather, they are those that best adapt. The same is true for individuals and organizations.

And sometimes, the best plan is not having one.


January 7, 2012