President’s Corner #11: Your New ISMRM Strategic Plan


The first four posts in this President’s Corner (#1, #2, #3, #4) were intended to survey the landscape in which our Society now operates, as groundwork for a new ISMRM Strategic Plan with the overall theme of “Connecting MR in a Changing World.” Well, now we have a draft of the new plan.  And this is what it requires of you:

Make it yours!

Here is the process by which we arrived at our current draft.  At our last Annual Meeting in Honolulu, in June of 2017, discussions began on our Board of Trustees.  In brief remarks in the plenary hall near the close of the meeting, I also invited our community at large to join in the brainstorming.  Then, in July, a small task force met in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to review our mission and vision, and to enumerate concrete objectives and tactics.  This task force comprised a small cross-section of past and current Society leadership, along with representatives of various regions and specialties, including both established and early-career investigators.  The output of the retreat was distilled into a compact document, which was presented to and discussed by the ISMRM Board at its November meeting in Chicago.  The draft plan was also shared with the Annual Meeting Program Committee at its construction meeting in Nice in January of 2018.  We are still refining ideas and collecting feedback in the wake of these discussions.  Now it is your turn.

The strategic document may be found here, and also on the ISMRM website.  The structure and content of the plan may be gleaned, in a nutshell, from the table shown at the top of this post.  On the vertical axis are our key objectives – increase the value of MR, communicate the value of MR, expand our global connectivity & foster our global
community, and keep our house in order – which serve as organizing principles for our specific tactics.  To this relatively traditional strategic structure we have added a horizontal axis enumerating driving imperatives associated with our changing world – manage disruptive forces, marshal disruptive innovation, connect with the fields around us, and tell our story.  These imperatives are intended as a reminder of the urgency of change, and as a check on how well we are doing, not just in advancing our nominal objectives, but in leading that change.

So what do you think?  Does the plan, with its associated mission and vision statements, reflect who you think we are, and who we want to be?  Does it reflect our values, as well as our activities?  (We contemplated a third axis, with items like ‘Change the world, and enjoy doing it,’ ‘Make discoveries,’ and ‘Make things work,’ but we feared that three plan dimensions might violate certain basic principles of parsimony!)  Do our tactics address our day-to-day concerns along with our aspirations?  (Some have worried that there are not enough tactics devoted to, say, the conduct of our all-important annual meeting.)  What are we missing?

I realize that, to many of you, a Society-wide strategic plan may not, on the face of it, be a matter of gripping interest.  You are busy clinicians and scientists, after all, and there is plenty of pressing work to be done each day.  Yes, a strategic plan can be a nice roadmap for official ISMRM activities, and a helpful organizational principle for our board meetings, our committee structures, etc.  But why am I harping on it here, to all of you?

Why?  Because our world is changing fast, and our Society needs more than a static document which will be refreshed in five years’ time.  And because, above all, my goal this year is to stir up eddies of conversation about the future state of our field, so that all the great and restless minds in our midst can set about inventing it.*

So help us make our strategic plan a living instrument of our collective will and aspiration.  Make it yours.  Here are a few suggestions of how you can do so:

    • Submit your comments below, if you’re comfortable sharing them in public.
    • If you’d rather make more discrete suggestions, write to our new strategic plan feedback email address,
    • By these or other vehicles, suggest new tactics, or initiatives, that might further our objectives and/or address the imperatives we face.
    • Don’t wait – go ahead and get started with new initiatives, and let the ISMRM leadership and central office know how we can support you.
    • Share your own stories, of discovery or of human interest, with us. As part of the imperative to tell the story of MR, we are working on new mechanisms to engage the public at large.
    • Participate in upcoming feedback sessions, in the form of virtual meetings, tweet chats, etc (stay tuned at for scheduling details).
    • Look for opportunities to reflect together on the role of MR in a changing world at our upcoming Annual Meeting in Paris (via plenary sessions, secret sessions, etc).
    • Stir up your own eddies of conversation, involving colleagues both within and beyond the traditional boundaries of our field.
    • You are a wildly creative bunch. Feel free to suggest other ways of enriching the conversation.  The more the merrier.

* Some might say that the swirl of collective conversation is incidental to true creativity, and that we can never really predict where and when the next great idea will arise.  I hold that, in the oft-quoted words of Alan Kay, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I believe that this process of invention involves a happy, if messy, combination of deliberation, inspiration, and serendipity.   I see an open Society-wide strategic discussion as a means for us all to make room for serendipity (a frequent admonition to me from a treasured source of personal inspiration – my father, Lester Sodickson.  Maybe I’ll tell you a little more about him in a future post…).

Next time: AI in Asilomar: Notes from the ISMRM Workshop on Machine Learning