#STAYWOKE When Planning Your Business Strategy in 2017

The movement for to achieve social and racial justice for Black lives stems today from what many consider to be excessive policing in people of color communities and a lack of redress in incidents of police misconduct. This social change has grown from demonstrations in response to officer-involved shooting incidents to more structured organizational and policy initiatives such as Campaign Zero and propelling the racial justice agenda into national consciousness including the 2016 presidential election.

One of the rallying cries of activists is the encouragement to #staywoke. The vernacular expression is an admonishment to people who care about justice, equality, and freedom to consistently remain attuned to the political, economic, and social dynamics around them and to thoughtfully scrutinize media in order to effectively advocate or strategize to confront issues.

In a climate plagued by what many consider to be a regression in equality and opportunity for people of color and those who are low-income, this admonishment is very timely and instructive.

The imperative to #staywoke is also important for leaders of any organization or business, especially those seeking growth or long-term sustainability. From a strategic planning perspective, the #staywoke ethos can be described as ‘environmental scanning.’

Environmental scanning is the process of remaining abreast of the dynamics in your business landscape that can accelerate or impede your business prospects. Scanning includes assessing such areas as legislation that affects your industry, technological shifts that can make your services obsolete, seeds of discontent fomenting among your staff, or staying on the pulse of public opinion when a sea change is on the horizon. A significant and likely game-changing environmental factor that will undoubtedly influence business and economics is the new presidential administration that will take office in January 2017.

Scanning your environment regularly and with an open mind can allow you to anticipate issues or advancements that might alter, enhance, or disrupt your existing way of doing business. If companies like Kodak or Blockbuster Video scanned their environment more effectively — and importantly, acted upon the findings — they might have maintained their marketplace dominance. Instead, digital photo technology and Netflix unseated industry players that enjoyed vast market share for decades.

How does one effectively #staywoke as an organization? Some steps include:

  • SWOT the PESTs: Acronyms for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) and Political, Economic, Social, and Technological (PEST), these are analytical tools used to assess the market and implement strategies to maximize strengths and opportunities to guard against weakness, threats, and/or inhibiting PEST factors.
  • Networking: The importance of building relationships with influential people in your industry or political environment cannot be overstated. Relationships allow you to gain strategic, oftentimes insider information on changes or factors that might influence your work. Efforts should be made to avoid the insularity that comes with having colleagues in one industry. In today’s environment of cross-industry collaboration, it is especially useful to build relationships with people outside of your industry, as they offer a different frame of reference, which can be the source of innovation and a fresh perspective.
  • Good ol’ fashion readingprint and virtual: Subscribe to media sources related to your industry and scan them daily. Set up an RSS feed on topics of interest to remain aware. LinkedIn groups are also a very rich source of information.

In 2017, your organization cannot take the luxury of looking down and inward when operating your business.

Don’t make it a Blockbuster night. Stay woke and alert of your company’s assets and room for growth!

Ivory Chambeshi

Ivory Chambeshi is Founder & Chief Champion of Urban Rising Group, a Los Angeles-based community development consultancy which helps organizations with strategy, project planning, capacity-building and community outreach. She enjoys sharing inspiration on leading with integrity and strategy to cultivate equitable communities. She holds master's degrees in Urban Planning and Public Administration from the University of Southern California. Her heroes are Ida B. Wells and Leslie Knope.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.