Relying on anecdotes about what successful people have done, or banking on the brilliance of your employees is setting yourself up for disaster. You need to have a plan.

tobusytoimproveAt a conference recently one of the speakers told a story about Innocent, the UK smoothie brand. According to him, one of the founders of Innocent had once said about the early days of the brand that “People started praising our communication strategy, which came as a surprise to us since we didn’t have one”. Soon afterwards people at the conference started tweeting images of the quote captioned with “Luve it” or “Great story”.

What the people that love this tend to forget is that not every company is Innocent. Just because they manage to do great things without a strategy doesn’t mean most companies will. Quite likely the opposite will happen, and they will fail. Innocent’s founders or communicators managed to tap into something that made them successfull. But that’s not a strategy. That’s one person being brilliant, and you can’t base your strategy on people being brilliant. That’s the equivalent of making “going viral” part of your marketing strategy or listing “becoming Steve Jobs” as a necessity for your company being successful.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Innocent is a great company, videos do go viral and there is a lot of people just as smart as Steve Jobs out there. In fact, hiring brilliant people is something I would recommend every company to do. But none of it takes away from the fact that we have got to have a plan, a strategy, that provides answers to crucial questions like what are we going to do, how are we going to do it and so on. In fact, having a plan will increase the chance that your brillant people do even better, that your video will go viral and that you will channel you inner Steve Jobs to even greater success.

Being the natural that improvises everything looks great on film. In the real world, not so much. Take the time to figure out a plan. It’s worth it. And actually pretty cool too.