Why do we value strategy so much?

We have a strategic plan, it's called Doing Things

We have a strategic plan, it's called Doing ThingsMy job, technically, is developing social media strategy on behalf of our clients.  I write a lot of ‘this is why social media is important for your business’-type documents.  I work with some brilliant strategic thinkers.

Sometimes, though, I wonder: why are we, as digitally focused communicators all so obsessed with strategy? Why are we all so impressed with ourselves when we come up with a cool strategy for a campaign, for a candidate, for a cause.  Why do we have conferences, organizations, entire channels dedicated to strategic thought?

All I can come up with at this very moment is the following: Strategy is easy. Execution is not.

Talk is cheap, actions are not.

I had two very different experiences at conferences these last two weeks.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to go to the Clinton Foundation’s “Clinton Global Initiative University” conference in Miami.  CGIU is an organization where college-age folks can make ‘commitments’ to amke a difference in the world in one of several different areas, and are empowered by the Clinton name, and get together once a year to network, build resources,  and present.  A coworker and I went around with a Flip Camera and interviewed students about what they’re doing.   The answers were truly inspiring.

These 20-22 year olds were working to get schools built in starving nations, developing bike-share programs to cut down on greenhouse gasses, to getting legislation passed to address homeless needs.  These millennials, who we are so quick to dismiss or try to box into our own limited ideals, are out there doing something that has a tangible positive affect on the health of the world. They aren’t spending their precious resources talking about engagement strategies, which video site to use to share the story, or ‘what facebook’s open platform means for oauth’. They’re just out there, looking at things that need fixing and fixing them.

In contrast (and I will keep the abuse to a minimum here), I went to the first day of Jeff Pulver‘s #140conf this past week. Now, Jeff has done a lot for the development of the web, and certainly has his heart in the right place with this conference, but the sheer amount of self-congratulatory “isn’t Twitter great, folks?” nonsense that permeated the tone of the panels and discussions was overwhelming enough that I could not bring myself to go back for day 2. Of course there were some great, inspiring conversations, but they were just that. Conversations.

The difference between these two experiences? One focused on strategy, and strategic discussions of tactics, and one was a demonstration of people doing the work.

In the end, all the ‘social media is important’ decks in the world won’t fix the problems in our society, even the ones we’re so intent on saying that communication and open dialogue will address.

So with all our hours of conversations about conversation, all our debates about where online communities are going, all our Tweets and Facebook status updates and blog posts, all our strategy and strategizing our action, what have we really done but talk.  What have you done to change the world? Who would you place your bets on making a real sustainable difference in the health of the world?

Personally, my money’s on the doers.