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The Competitive Advantage of Reaching for the StarsOne important aspect of any career development activity, whether it be individual, department-wide, or company-wide, is goal setting. It is important when planning for the future to have specific benchmarks with which to evaluate the success of the plans. Different people view goal setting in a variety of ways. Some people advocate for setting several small, easily attainable goals rather than larger goals. And research certainly supports the benefit of breaking lofty goals into more easily achieved sub-goals.

But it is also crucial to be certain that goal setting is not a process that is grounded entirely in realism. Yes, it is good to make goals that are attainable. In order to truly have competitive advantage, though, it is crucial to reach for the stars and think big. Harness that can-do attitude and think beyond the immediately attainable.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, this idea of making big goals is supported by a classic theory called strategic intent. Basically, “As an idea, strategic intent is about setting a bold and ambitious goal, out of all proportion to a firm’s current resources and capabilities. Strategic intent takes the long view: the act of such intent is to operate from the future backward, disregarding the resource scarcity of the present.” So don’t get hung up on short term challenges. Dream big for the future.

It isn’t difficult to transform goal setting. Just take a more manageable goal (Everyone in the department will pass performance reviews this year.) and transform it into a more optimistic goal with larger scope (Everyone in the department will meet and exceed their performance expectations by 20% each year.).

Now, you may say that such goal setting is unrealistic. But look at it this way. If you invest time, energy, and creative thinking towards a seemingly unattainable goal, if you get within arm’s reach of that goal but ultimately fall short, you are closer to success than if you had dreamed small, and you are closer to boosting your competitive advantage than you would have been with more bite-sized goals. So reach higher and get further today!

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