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Purdue Center for
Regional Development

Strategic Doing

Strategic Doing teaches people how to form collaborations quickly, move them toward measurable outcomes and make adjustments along the way. In today’s world, collaboration is essential to meet the complex challenges we face. Strategic Doing enables leaders to design and guide new networks that generate innovative solutions. It is a new strategy discipline that is lean, agile and fast—just what organizations, communities and regions need to survive and thrive.

What is Strategic Doing?

It is a new strategy discipline specifically designed for open, loosely-connected networks. Unlike strategic planning that was designed primarily to guide strategic activity in hierarchical organizations, Strategic Doing is designed for situations in which nobody can tell anybody else what to do. Collaboration is the only way to move forward.

How does Strategic Doing work?

Strategic Doing works by teaching simple, but not easy, skills of strategic collaboration. The skills are simple to understand, but they take practice to master. We teach the skills primarily through three to four hour strategy workshops.

For organizations, communities and regions that do not have a strategic plan, Strategic Doing can generate an initial plan in a matter of hours with an intensively focused and custom workshop. The process quickly forms new collaborations among workshop participants and moves them into learning by doing.

As these collaborations form and participants learn from each other, Strategic Doing advances quickly. Short, focused strategy reviews take place regularly, usually every 30 days. With Strategic Doing, strategy becomes more like software development. New versions of the strategy appear frequently as participants learn what works.

What if we already have a strategic plan? Can Strategic Doing help us?

For organizations, communities and regions that are stuck with their strategic plan, Strategic Doing provides an agile process to accelerate implementation. By producing rapid-fire strategic action plans, Strategic Doing moves existing strategic plans to new levels of performance.

Where has Strategic Doing worked?

We have applied Strategic Doing in a wide variety of contexts from the development of new clusters and regional innovation ecosystems to the launch of new workforce innovations and the regeneration of inner-city neighborhoods. So, for example, Energy Florida and the Water Council both launched with Strategic Doing. Rockford, IL, and Northern Illinois University adopted Strategic Doing to build their aerospace cluster and organize a network of community development groups across the city.

The Charleston Digital Corridor designed its innovation ecosystem using the principles of Strategic Doing. Purdue University used Strategic Doing to accelerate the development of workforce innovations in a 14-county Indiana region. Michigan State University is using Strategic Doing to rebuild inner-city neighborhoods in Flint and Detroit. To learn more about these and other applications of Strategic Doing, connect with us.

How do we get started?

You can learn about how other organizations, communities and regions have used Strategic Doing. You can explore different types of engagements with Purdue, or you can connect with us directly, so we can start to explore your situation together.

Since all of our Strategic Doing work is customized to meet your needs, we start all of our engagements with a telephone call to discuss your situation and identify some concrete outcomes that could help you.

 Here are examples of how organizations, communities and regions have used Strategic Doing to confront complex challenges and moved to higher levels of performance and prosperity. You can keep up with the latest developments in Strategic Doing at strategicdoing.net and our Facebook page.

Workforce Innovations

Purdue University used Strategic Doing to design and organize complex workforce collaborations in a 14-county region in Indiana. Funded with a $15 million federal grant, Purdue organized four focus areas and over 60 collaborations. Remarkably, 80% of these collaborations continued past the initial funding. Using this lean and agile approach, Purdue, although it received only 8% of the money awarded nationally, produced 40% of the national results.

NASA Shuttle Shutdown

Faced with the NASA Shuttle shutdown, civic leaders on Florida's Space Coast turned to Purdue and Strategic Doing. As an outgrowth of an initial workshop, leaders formed a new clean energy cluster that has grown into Energy Florida.
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Rebuilding Neighborhoods in Flint, Michigan

Our colleagues at Michigan State University have been using Strategic Doing to rebuild the devastated neighborhoods of Flint, Michigan. By focusing on the assets to which the participants in the neighborhood have access, civic leaders are guiding the development of transparency and trust within these neighborhoods. In this way, they are embedding a new development dynamic within these neighborhoods.

Redesigning Undergraduate Engineering Education

Purdue is using Strategic Doing to guide the development of strategic action plans for 12 universities as they redesign their undergraduate engineering education. Working with its partners, Stanford University and the National Inventors and Innovators Alliance under a National Science Foundation grant, Purdue is pioneering new approaches to building the complex collaborations needed to transform the university educational experience.
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Transforming the Trajectory of a Small Indiana County

Strategic Doing can easily be applied to the complex challenges facing our world counties. In one example, Scott Hutcheson used these disciplines to guide a community conversation in Medora, Indiana. From the small beginning, the county is now home to the National Maple Syrup Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. This work propelled a small business producing high-quality maple syrup into new, national markets.
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“Strategic Doing”: A New Discipline for Developing and Implementing Strategy within Loose Regional Networks (source)

Network–based Engagement for Universities: Leveraging the Power of Open Networks (source)

An Introduction to Strategic Doing for Community Development (source)


Economic development is the identification of local assets for growth and leveraging them through collaboration. The best methodology I've seen in 20 years for achieving this is called Strategic Doing.

Paul Collits
Australia New Zealand Regional Science Association

In neighborhoods besieged by complex, wicked problems, Strategic Doing creates hope through the power of taking action with the assets are gifts that we already possess. In that moment when we combine assets we begin to tell a new story of opportunity and possibility. Strategic Doing gives us the power to change our lives, our neighborhoods, and our communities.

Robert Brown
Michigan State University

When Strategic Doing is incorporated into the culture of an organization, it is possible to not only drive new innovation and more rapidly achieve desired objectives, but also energize teams to achieve more with less individual effort.

Christi Bell
Business Enterprise Institute
University of Alaska

You have a number of choices in how to engage with Purdue to pursue Strategic Doing.


Keynote addresses are designed to explain the transformations taking place in our economy and how Strategic Doing can help organizations, communities and regions meet these challenges.

Strategic Doing: The Game

Participants learn that complex strategic action plans can be developed quickly if they follow some simple rules and stay focused. The simulation game demonstrates the power of Strategic Doing in a fast and engaging way.

Strategic Doing Workshops

Custom workshops teach Strategic Doing by working directly on real-world problems faced by organizations, communities and regions. These workshops are designed to produce practical strategic action plans that can be implemented immediately.

Strategic Practitioner Training

This custom training is designed for civic leaders interested in implementing Strategic Doing in their organization, community or region. It goes through the basics of designing and guiding a Strategic Doing process. The training also refuses common pitfalls and problems that people encounter in launching a Strategic Doing process.

Core Team Development

An effective core team is the most vital component to an innovative Strategic Doing network. This training helps core teams ramp up quickly to become high-performance teams capable of designing and guiding Strategic Doing.

Strategic Doing Certificate Course

This intensive training course is designed for practitioners committed to taking a "deep dive" into Strategic Doing, so they can learn the intricacies of designing and guiding strategy in open networks. People complete this training receive a produced certificate in Strategic Doing and are capable of teaching Strategic Doing: The Game as well as designing and guiding their own Strategic Doing workshops.

For more information on any of these Strategic Doing solutions, please connect with us.