Key Points

· Foundation strategy is hampered by a failure to recognize and engage with the complexity and uncertainty surrounding foundation work. This article identifies three common “traps” that hinder foundation capacity to learn and adapt: 1) linearity and certainty bias; 2) the autopilot effect; and 3) indicator blindness.

· This article urges foundations to alter their mindset, questions, and processes to foster a more committed approach to strategy and adaptation. In essence, it argues for learning as strategy.

· This article draws on literature from systems theory, business strategy, and philanthropic practice as well as data from foundation benchmarking surveys.

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