Advancement, What's the Big Idea?
Great companies and great schools tend to lead with one Big Idea that both differentiates them from everyone else and provides an unwavering sense of purpose and direction.
A Big Idea, you might say, is essentially a story that is different enough, ambitious enough, and inspiring enough for the entire organisation to live by. Stretching across space and time, it's both the legacy and future horizon of a company or educational institution. It captures where we've come from, who we are, and who we want to be.
Articulating what this story actually is, however, can be harder than we first imagine. It's also all too easy to get distracted with all of the other ideas and stories that suggest themselves along the way.
Born in 1863, Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda could easily pass as commentator on this predicament of the Modern Age by the way he reminds each one of us to live our lives with singularity of purpose and direction.
Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life. Think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.
Vivekananda's words force me to stop and reflect for a moment on the Big Idea that has shaped my own adventure and, by virtue of the route that I have travelled, the Big Idea that has shaped and continues to give meaning to the role and function of Advancement in schools.
Advancement is telling the story of my school, helping people find their place in that story and managing a set of processes that enable these things to happen.
It's that simple. But it's also that complicated. And it's likely to take me another lifetime or two to unpack what this all means.
In the end, of course, Big Ideas come and go and history has a habit of making everything seem smaller at a distance. For the moment, however, I'm going to hold on to my Big Idea, make it my life, obsess about it, tell stories about it, and commit to leaving every other idea alone.
That will be My Advancement Quest.