Activating Strategy

Human-centered approaches for bringing strategy to life
Preview Course

Strategy is often portrayed as a thinking exercise—a set of decisions and plans made by a small group. But strategy is brought to life by the people in every part of an organization every day. Engaging the people critical to both creating and activating your strategy is an element missing from most strategy approaches. In this course, you’ll learn how to make more informed choices by getting tangible and running small tests, assess your resources and readiness to ensure your strategy is actionable, and scale and sustain your organization’s ability to support strategy across functions, departments, and teams.

No matter where you sit in your organization or what strategy frameworks or processes you use—this course can help you ensure your teams have the shared understanding, alignment, and conditions they need to move confidently from strategy to action.

Course Outcomes
  • Identify the strategic choices you and your team own.
  • Discover methods to engage and align people from the beginning to help inform your strategic choices.
  • Get tangible and conduct small tests to make confident choices, learn, and gain shared understanding.
  • Determine what resources you’ll need to build and scale your ability to support strategy.
  • Bring strategy to life through your everyday choices.
Part of Certificate Programs
Skills You’ll Gain
Business Strategy Stakeholder Alignment Resource Assessment Innovation
Format Online Cohort Course
Start Date
Duration 5 Weeks
Time 4 Hours/Week
Regular price
Sale price
Unit price
Download Syllabus

Go Deeper with Certificate Programs

Activating Strategy is part of one certificate program:

What You'll Learn

Introduction: Activate Strategy

Approach strategy in a new way by leveraging the tools and mindsets of design.
Watch a sneak peek
  • Activating Strategy — A sneak peek of the course
1 Video Lesson
  • Bringing Strategy to Life — Learn foundational design principles that are key to creating and activating your strategy.
1 Assignment
  • Articulate Your Strategy: Choose a past or present strategy that you know well and can discuss in detail. You'll revisit this strategy throughout the course to gain hands-on practice with the tools, techniques, and mindsets of activation.

1 Discussion:
  • Describe your current strategy process, if any. What challenges have you faced when trying to implement strategy?

1 Resource:
  • Designing Strategy: There is no single strategy tool that everyone uses. But we at IDEO do have some preferred frameworks we like to use. Get a peek into our strategy process.

Week 1: Create Engagement

Establish shared understanding and alignment by designing for and with the people who will make your strategy successful.
3 Video Lessons
  • Strategy is Social — Learn how bringing others into the design process can help you better execute your strategy.

  • Mapping Strategy Stakeholders — Understand the four types of organizational stakeholders critical to your strategy's success.

  • Designing Engagement Moments — Design for a variety of interactions that engage each stakeholder group.

1 Assignment
  • Plan Stakeholder Engagements: Create a simple stakeholder map that answers two key questions: Who are the players that need to be involved? And what role do they need to play in bringing your strategy to life? Then design a plan for engaging these stakeholders at key moments throughout the strategy journey.

3 Discussions
  • We truly believe that people support what they help create. Recall a time when someone sought your input, insight or collaboration on a project. How did it make you feel?

  • How many people do you normally interact with on a strategy project? How might you expand your lens to include less obvious stakeholders?

  • In what ways do you normally engage with people on a strategy project? How might you engage them in new ways and expand the types of roles they play?

2 Resources
  • How to Think About Stakeholders: Dive deeper into the needs and constraints of each stakeholder group, and the practicalities to consider when planning ways to engage them in strategy work.

  • Case Study: Cornell CALS: What can stakeholder engagement look like more concretely? Read about how Dean Houlton and his team at the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences tackled the challenge alongside IDEO.

Week 2: Build Confidence

Make more informed choices by getting tangible and running small tests.
4 Video Lessons
  • Making Strategy Tangible — Learn three ways that tangibility can make your strategy more real and actionable.

  • Building to Think — Prototyping is one of the most powerful ways to create and activate a strategy.

  • Building to Learn — Gain traction for your strategy by treating testing as the first step toward implementation.

  • Building to Align — Leverage tangibility to help you share the story of your strategy in ways that build support and inspire action at all levels.

1 Assignment
  • Tell Your Strategy Story: Create a simple, compelling narrative to communicate the what, how, and why of your strategy. Share your story with others and get feedback.

4 Discussions
  • Strategy is about the future, and the future is unknowable. Of the three ways we tend to cope with this uncertainty, which one resonates the most with you and why?

  • What surprises or intrigues you about the idea of prototyping strategy? What questions do you have?

  • How do you feel about feedback? Has someone's feedback ever changed your mind about something – such as an idea you were strongly attached to? Share your story here.

  • Think of the last time you experienced misalignment with a team member. What helped you get on the same page?

1 Resource
  • Gallery - Making Strategy Tangible: See real examples of strategies that were made more tangible, testable, and shareable. Find inspiration for your own strategy prototypes, tests, and stories.

Week 3: Enable Action

Ensure your strategy is actionable by assessing and building your resources and readiness.
3 Video Lessons
  • What Are Capabilities and Systems? — Understand the important role they play in ensuring your strategy is activated and enabled.

  • Assessing Capabilities and Systems — Learn how to identify and assess the core capabilities and systems needed to support your strategy.

  • Planning Capabilities and Systems — Consider five common elements to help you build a concrete action plan.

1 Assignment
  • Assess Your Capabilities and Systems: Define the capabilities and management systems needed to activate and support your strategy. Use a simple stop light exercise to assess their current state and identify gaps. Then start to sketch out a plan for how to get what is needed and at the level required.

3 Discussions
  • Have you ever seen a strategy fail or fall short of goals because the right capabilities and systems weren't in place to support it? Share your experience here.

  • What are some challenges you have faced when trying to build new capabilities and systems from the ground up?

  • Of the five elements to consider when creating an action plan, which ones have impacted you and your team the most?

2 Resources
  • Common Capabilities and Systems: Explore common types of capabilities and management systems to determine which ones are relevant to your strategy.

  • Should You Build, Borrow, or Buy?: Consider a set of six dimensions in your assessment of whether to build, borrow, or buy they capabilities and systems you need.

Conclusion: Maintain Momentum

Support the ongoing activation of your strategy by continuously reflecting on and measuring its progress.
1 Video Lesson
  • Strategy is Living — Learn why every team should have a set cadence of moments throughout the year to assess how the strategy is working.

1 Assignment
  • Define Your Metrics and Plan Reflection Moments: Think about how to design team moments to evaluate your strategy's impact. Articulate what you expect to see if the strategy is working as intended.

1 Discussion
  • How often do you and your team revisit and update a strategy? What are some ways that you keep tabs on its performance?

1 Resource
  • Cultivate Strategy as a Core Leadership Skill: Intentionally design for ongoing strategy conversations—not just progress reports but real discussions of the strategy and its implications.

Meet Your Instructors

Jennifer Riel

Partner & Global Director of Strategy at IDEO

Jennifer has led strategy processes at large public and private sector organizations around the world. She advises senior leaders at several Fortune 100 companies and teaches creative problem solving and innovation at the Rotman School of Management. She co-authored Creating Great Choices with Roger L. Martin.

More About Jennifer

Iain Roberts

Partner & Chief Operating Officer at IDEO

As COO of IDEO, Iain helps the company navigate organizational complexity and works to give designers the creative agency to make a positive impact in the world. Throughout his tenure at IDEO, Iain has led multiple design practices and stewarded some of IDEO’s largest relationships with Fortune 100 companies. He holds a master’s degree in industrial design engineering from the Royal College of Art and a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Southampton University.

More About Iain

Frequently Asked Questions

Cohort courses run on a set calendar, with fixed start and end dates. Course learning is self-paced within those dates and requires approximately 4-5 hours per week over 5 weeks. Courses consist of videos, activities, assignments, access to course teaching teams, and feedback from a global community of learners.

Cohort courses also provide optional 1-hour video Community Conversations, held weekly by the teaching team. They occur during set times, which are released during the first week of the course, and set to accommodate as many time zones as possible.

All of our courses are fully online and self-paced, so you can take them from any time zone, anywhere in the world.

During 5-week cohort courses, your course teaching team will host scheduled virtual community conversations which are optional. Timing will be announced during the first week of the course and is set to accommodate as many time zones as possible. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to make it, as these are purely optional.

Absolutely! We have had many teams go through our courses together with great success. For those taking our courses as a team, we provide a couple of additional benefits:

1. A Team Learning Guide, developed to provide your team with resources to facilitate offline discussion to complement the in-course experience.

2. A Manage Learners function, which provides visibility into your team's progress within the course.

3. The ability to create a private Learning Circle, which is a closed space for discussion on the learning platform specifically for your team.

For more information, visit our Team Learning page.

You can purchase your course by clicking Enroll on this page. This will take you to our checkout process where we accept various credit cards, PayPal, or Shop Pay. 

We also offer installment plans which you can select at checkout if you use the Shop Pay method of payment. Available for U.S. learners at the moment.

Collaborate with a Global Community

Loved by Learners Across the Globe

Jim Hackett
Jim Hackett Retired CEO Ford Motor Company, Steelcase Inc
Activating Strategy
Cohort Course

“Design is a powerful tool in unpacking the most vexing problems in business today.  It refreshes our optimism and answers 'how might we?' attack issues that seemingly are impenetrable. Iain Roberts has mastery of the art and rigor of Design Thinking with a rich list of 'problems solved'.”

Jim Hackett Grand Rapids, MI

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