February 18, 2014

The art of the winter picnic and its benefits for strategic thinking

Most people, including those of us in the communications business, tend to picnic in the spring, summer or fall when the warm weather soothes the body and mind. Often, this includes family and friends, a cookout in a park, good food, and a bit of libation — with the objective of just plain fun and relaxation.

What you'll need: boots, backpack, waterproof ground cloth... Oh, and don’t forget your brain!

What you’ll need: boots, backpack, waterproof ground cloth… Oh, and don’t forget your brain!

Now, if I told you you might enjoy and actually benefit from a solo picnic in the winter snow, when it’s 28 degrees out and actually snowing, you might think me a bit off-kilter. However, over the years, I’ve found this kind of excursion quite enjoyable and “strategically beneficial,” particularly when I’m working on a tough problem for one of my clients or new business prospects.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Either cross-country ski gear or high, waterproof hiking boots if you don’t do CC-skiing.
  • A backpack filled with two pieces of firewood plus the all-important fire starter log, some newspaper and a windproof lighter.
  • Your favorite sandwich (I like a good tuna sandwich), a side of coleslaw, potato salad or macaroni salad, and, if desirable, a good cigar, preferably an Arturo Fuente Opus X.
  • A half- or full bottle of good champagne or a thermos of cosmos — remember, you have to find your way back to civilization after the picnic and be able to remember your strategic thoughts.
  • A waterproof ground cloth, and your iPhone or tablet with a downloaded TV show or movie.

Oh, and don’t forget your brain!

Now, let me describe an excursion I took recently so you can see if something similar might appeal to you.

It’s not crazy if it works.

It’s not crazy if it works.

I was working hard on a response to an RFP for a prospect and, frankly, wasn’t making as much progress as I would have liked. So, I set off for my patented winter picnic/strategic thinking session in Philadelphia’s famous Fairmount Park. Armed with the paraphernalia described above, I CC-skied about a mile (make sure you don’t have to go too far to the right spot — the picnic itself is the key, not getting there) to an idyllic meadow adjacent to a fast-running creek, where there are a number of fireplaces that people typically use in the warmer months. As you can imagine, there was no else in sight.

I cleared the snow from the fireplace and the ground in front of it, put down my waterproof cloth, unpacked the food, opened the champagne, lit a cigar, and started the fire.

During my picnic, I warmed myself by the fire and watched part of a missed episode of “Downton Abbey” on my iPhone (which had to constantly be protected and dried due to the fact that it was snowing). After about a half an hour of this, I commenced the strategic thinking part of the excursion. And, lo and behold, the solitude, the comfiness of a fire in the snow, the food, the champagne and the cigar all combined to help me move past my strategic roadblock and forward with my thinking process — which resulted in what we all hope will be a winning RFP response.

As the beer commercial says, “It’s not crazy if it works.” So, try it — you’ll like it!