Looking far ahead

I should be sitting in an industrial waste site right now. Or on a sand bar barely above the waters of False Creek.

But I’m not. I’m at Granville Island Public Market, on the island which gives a whole new meaning to the notion of “multiuse,” and which  is one of the delights of a trip to Vancouver.

This whole island was created with muck dredged out of the ocean to become an industrial site, and then recreated as dynamic place we see today (Art school? Check. Cement factory? Check. Produce market? Check. Yacht mooring? Check. Theatre? Check. Waterpark? Check.). This history of creation and reinvention was and is due to successive, ambitious, audacious visions.

Vancouver is a city where I’ve spent time my whole life, so when I visit, I get to see how it’s changed and grown – a single building, a bridge, or an entire neighbourhood. Maybe I see the changes differently because I don’t live here any more. It’s easier for me to see bigger patterns because I’m a step removed.

We don’t get to visit our own organizations – that’s where we live every day. But why is it important to cultivate this ability to look at the big picture, to imagine the spaces and places we might create within our own organizations, if we could only imagine something big enough?

  • To lay the foundation. If the only thinking we do is short-term, then how can we get started on things that will take years to come to fruition – but which also need serious investment early on?
  • To remind us why we are doing things. We’re busy with the day to day, and maybe we see how the day to day connects to the year’s goals. And sometimes that just doesn’t add up to enough of a reason to keep plodding along. (Or to make us smarter about the work we’re doing every day.)
  • To inspire us. Why are we going to tackle things that are hard, or ambiguous, or require courage? Only if we can see, however hazily, the far shore that we’d get to if we take that journey across the ocean.

Are we personally going to be the ones to see these projects through, or are we starting something that others will have to finish? How does the answer to that question change what we do? Could it make us bolder?

Does this future view mean that we base all our actions on a rigid 5-year plan? No, of course not. 

But do we want to spend all our time just trying to get to the end of the month in one piece?

Not me. I’d like to think that, at least some of the time, I’m building something amazing.

If you’d like to talk about making some big plans, or what you do once you’ve got some, please get in touch.

Photo of Granville Island is my own.

Contact us at meredith@meredithlow.com or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


We offer resources to help leaders of associations and other not-for-profits think about their approach to strategy and governance, from various perspectives.