Strategic planning is all about the questions we ask, the new insights that come into view as a result of those questions and the concrete actions we can take to accomplish our ends. And in this challenging economy, developing a winning plan is more important than ever.

Strategic plans often come in the form of several inches of paper packed with data. We absolutely need the data to drive data-informed decisions. And even before we collect the data, we need to know which questions we want the data to help us answer. Ideally, the data will lead us in a new direction and drive important decisions as opposed to simply confirming what we already know.

There’s a wonderful story about physicist Albert Einstein proctoring an exam. One of his students was surprised by the test’s questions and said, “Professor Einstein, you accidentally gave us last year’s exam. The questions are the same.” Einstein replied, “The questions may be the same, but the answers are not.”

So whether you’re asking new questions or revisiting important questions you’ve explored in the past, what new answers are you discovering through your strategic planning process?

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Beryl Loeb is founder of the Loeb Group, which works with business executives, professional service firms, PR, advertising and digital web marketing agencies looking to accelerate their growth and transform their business through targeted skill-building. For more information, go to http://www.theloebgroup.com.