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What do Robert Burns and strategy have in common?

We're celebrating two brilliant tips Robert Burns left behind for modern day strategists.

Quite a lot actually! Here, Professor Donald MacLean takes to the Black Lochs – where it’s thought Burns’ family farmed – to explain why Burns can be a great inspiration to strategists.

To arrange a conversation, please contact us at hello@strategystory.co.uk

For StrategyStory, there are two key messages here that Burns left for us that should help to inform any great strategy.

Message number one:
We are not there to serve the plan. The plan is there to serve us.
From ‘To a Mouse’

“But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley.”

We all make plans and yet our shared experience is quite often, these plans don’t come to pass. That’s because the plans are ideas really, and other events happen that we have to react to.

This is why it’s so important that the people who put the plan together, and those who are impacted by the plan continue to talk, learn and adapt. Good communication is at the heart of great strategies.

Message number 2:
Listen to the views of others.
From ‘To a Louse’

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”

In a world where strategy is increasingly an emergent phenomena, it’s critical that we continue to see things from multiple perspectives. Including the ideas of others, as well as our own, is essential in keeping the plan alive, and preventing it from succumbing to a life sitting on a dusty shelf! Healthy, open dialogue draws together differences, views and ideas. This is central to the evolution of the plan, and to help us with that, we also need to see ourselves how others see us!

We hope you find this of interest, please do watch the video for more. Donald is filmed by the side of the Black Lochs behind Connel where he lives. A local story has it that the area was farmed by Robert Burns’ grandfather – the family at that time being called Burness. After the Jacobite uprisings, the family left the area going first to the Angus Glens, and from there to Ayrshire. So, in the week of Storytelling, there’s a story connecting our national bard to the ground on which Donald is standing!


StrategyStory supports businesses to develop strategies that work. We deliver through partnership programmes, online learning, workshops, seminars and public speaking.

Donald delivers lectures, talks and sessions on strategy and storytelling at private and public events.

If you’d like to arrange a conversation, please contact us at hello@strategystory.co.uk

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