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Hard-Working People Climb to the Top, Smart People Hack It

Hard-Working People Climb to the Top, Smart People Hack It

Have you ever played the team-building game called Bigger or Better?

The game is like an adult version of Trick or Treat and works in the following way:

You start off with a small item such as a paperclip or pencil, and you have to try to turn it into something more valuable by doing small trades with other players. If you play the game skillfully, you can eventually exchange your small item into something more expensive (e.g., an iPhone or a bicycle).[1]

    The reason the game is often played in team-building exercises, is that it demonstrates how successful people get from the bottom to the top. The game also shows how insignificant items (like a paperclip), after trading with different people, can end up becoming something big and substantial.

    Just as in the make-believe game of Bigger or Better, there is a little-known way of reaching the top in your chosen career.

    Stop Climbing, Start Hacking

    The method involves not just finding a career ladder and trying to climb it, but switching ladders at appropriate times, with the aim of bypassing ‘dues’ and accelerating along your very own Bigger or Better cycle. The idea of switching career ladders has been well developed by author Shane Snow in his book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.

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    Shane Snow is a journalist, web entrepreneur and the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Contently – a tech platform that matches qualified freelance journalists with online media outlets in the rapidly changing world of publishing. He was named Inc Magazine’s “Inc. 30 Under 30” in July 2012, and Business Insider’s “Silicon Valley’s 100 Coolest People In Tech,” also in July 2012.

    The framework Shane created (and showcased in his book) is for anyone who wants to take their career to the next level in the most efficient way.

    His framework is very similar to Bigger or Better. However, instead of switching small items for bigger ones, and bigger ones for even bigger ones – you replace these items with your career choices. The idea is to create a winning cycle that accelerates your achievements and success. After lots of small wins, eventually you find yourself with a major win (think paperclip to bicycle).

      It’s the same for your career. Rather than following the traditional way of going step-by-step along the same straight path – you switch paths when the one you’re on is not working – or you switch based on your previous success to get something better.

      In his acclaimed book, Shane tells the story of how he ‘hacked’ his career ladder.

      He had a goal of becoming a writer for WIRED magazine, but knew that without relevant experience, this could take years to achieve. So, he put his creativity to work, and came up with the following process:

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      1. He put together a list of sites and magazines that if he wrote for, would impress the editor of WIRED.
      2. His list looked like this: The Next Web > Gizmodo > Mashable > Fast Company.
      3. He then applied to write for The Next Web (which is certainly not a simple feat – but definitely easier than trying to become a writer for WIRED).
      4. Once he was established as a writer for The Next Web (and had articles under his name as proof), he then applied to write for Gizmodo.
      5. I’m sure you can guess the next steps, which eventually led to him securing work as a writer for WIRED.

      Now, here’s the amazing part. From starting on the path to achieving his goal of writing for WIRED, Shane took just six months![2]

        It worked for him, and it can work for you too. Let’s see how.

        How This Method Fast-Tracks Your Success

        I’ll say it again, traditional career paths are slow. Mostly, this is caused by the conventional waiting periods needed to move up the ladder to higher positions.

        If you don’t mind spending years in the same role before moving up – then the traditional route may be the way for you. However, if you want to be competitive and innovative, forget the traditional way. It will frustrate you – and your career ambitions!

          So, what to do?

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          Well, firstly, think laterally rather than just vertically. By thinking laterally, you’ll immediately step outside of the career path that most people are trying to move along. This will give you an advantage over them.

          Just to be clear, by moving from time-to-time in a sideways direction doesn’t mean you’re changing your end goal. In reality, you’re just making your route to the top more flexible and adaptable.

          Now, here’s the key thing to remember. Once colleagues and managers see you as a success in one role, they’ll automatically assume that you’ll be successful in any other role that you’re placed in. In other words, success breeds success!

          Let’s dig a little deeper into how this method works.

          Every time you move to a new role or company, you’ll meet and attract new and varied people. And if you’re doing a good job, then these people will become your allies and partners. Think of it this way: you’ll be rapidly building your own personal network of individuals who can help support your goals and dreams.

          On the other hand, if you choose to stick to the traditional career ladder, it’s likely that you’ll have a limited network of contacts, as you’re only growing within a small department – or within the same organization.

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            The method is really just common sense. But it’s not something that we’re taught at school or college.

            So, are you ready to fast-track your career? Here are my recommended steps:

            • Know exactly what your end goal is.
            • Meet a minimum standard of credibility for any required tasks (either show years of experience, or show that you’ve ‘made it’ somewhere comparable).
            • Once you start off at the ground level, think of ways of how you can get to the next level (don’t limit yourself to the same ladder).
            • Keep going upwards by using new ladders and with the help of your ever-increasing network of contacts.

            Don’t Leave You Career to Chance

            Climbing the traditional career ladder is often a slow, laborious and frustrating experience. You may wait years for a promotion, only to find that a younger, less-experienced colleague has been given the job.

            So, decide on the big goal that you want to achieve, and then implement the methods suggested in this article to help you reach it. By following these little-known methods, you can enjoy a fun, adventurous and rewarding career.

            Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on March 30, 2020

            What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

            What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

            Have you ever wondered why some can come up with amazing ideas while others can’t? The ability to connect the dots and see the larger picture all rest in a certain skill – creative thinking.

            Creative thinking is our ability to look at ideas presented or a scenario, and find new alternatives that solve the problem. Best of all this skill isn’t bound to the creative people like designers, musicians, or other artists. A lot of people can benefit from thinking this way from time to time. They can also receive a number of benefits on top of a wide variety of ideas that can spark change.

            What Is Creative Thinking?

            Defined by the Business Dictionary, creative thinking is:[1]

            A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

            Creativity is, therefore, our ability to form something new out of what’s presented. It’s our ability to think differently and provide new angles and perspectives to a solution.

            This can translate to a new solution that wasn’t there or even the realization that a problem doesn’t need a solution at the moment or at all.

            The Importance of Creative Thinking

            True that many people may not care so much about new solutions or angles but that’s the point. Our brains have a natural tendency to fall into certain ‘shortcuts’.

            Have you ever been in a situation where you hear or learn one piece of information and you use it all the time?

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            I bet you have, since we don’t need to relearn how to use a knife or a fork.

            That way of thinking does have its perks in those situations but has some drawbacks in other situations. This is especially true with problem-solving.

            Creative thinking and creative thinkers are needed in those situations because it pushes out of that linear way of thinking. It encourages us to look at other perspectives and even open up to the idea of new solutions.

            Creative thinking is also important for other reasons:

            Thinking creatively provides immense freedom.

            When we create, we have the opportunity to engage with the world without judging ourselves. It’s similar to what we felt when we were a child. Back then we didn’t care what people thought of us.

            Creative thinking provides self-awareness.

            We start to think with authenticity as we use our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This creates biases in our ideas, but we can learn to set those aside and deeply learn about ourselves.

            We become more confident in our ideas.

            Maybe right now, you don’t present ideas or your ideas get shut down. By tapping into creative thinking, we can build our confidence in our ideas and start to contribute to the group and our work at large.

            What Are the Creative Thinking Skills?

            Creative thinking isn’t barred to those who learn in creative fashions. Anyone can pick up creative thinking skills and use them to enrich their lives and those around them.

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            Because anyone can learn this, there is no one “right” method or a set of skills you absolutely need. Some of us may need to strengthen one area while others may need to do more. Regardless, here are some skills that can complement creative thinking.

            1. Perception & Empathy

            Feeling surprised that this is one of the creative thinking skills? Being perceptive and empathetic works hand in hand with creative thinking. Being able to read the mood of a meeting or a discussion you’re having with people can help immensely.

            This is key because there are times and places to share ideas. Specifically, you may find the best opportunities to share ideas when:

            • You’re facing a major problem or issue and can’t seem to find a way to proceed and solve it.
            • During times of change, when the future is more obscure than usual and you’re thinking of possibilities.
            • When there is a clear divide between what people think needs to happen. It’s especially needed when no compromises can happen without considerable effort.
            • When something new is needed and hasn’t been tried before.

            Empathy also helps with how an idea is presented. Maybe in your workgroup, people aren’t always receptive to your ideas. However, there is that one person who always has a plan and people support.

            Empathy is letting that person take “ownership” of that idea and be the voice behind the idea. In these sorts of scenarios, you build up more than empathy. It also builds the belief that your idea will prevail in the hands of someone else.

            2. Analytical

            Analytical skills help us in understanding many other situations outside of the social environment. Being able to read text or data and have a deeper understanding of what they mean will serve you in a variety of ways.

            I find that with creative thinking, the first step is being able to intake information and digest it in various ways. Being able to analyze information is often the first step in the creative thinking process.

            3. Open-Mindedness

            Once you’ve taken in the information, it’s important that you have an open mind. This means you need to set aside your biases or assumptions and encourage yourself to look at a problem in a new way.

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            Biases and assumptions are some of the mental barriers you’ll face. But looking at the other barriers, they often stem from that sort of thinking. A strict and “this is how it should be” way of thinking. Other examples of limitations are that you’re thinking of a problem too logically or that creative thinking is somehow breaking the rules.

            These are limiting because we know that to have an open mind is to succeed. Every successful entrepreneur in the world today had to break rules at some point in their lives. Consider Richard Branson or Elon Musk whose work revolutionized or created an entirely new industry. All because they didn’t back down to how things were. You can do the same thing within your own group in some fashion.

            4. Organized

            The last thing people associate creative thinkers is that they’re organized. While we think of great minds have messy rooms or desks, that’s not the case at all.

            Being organized plays a crucial role in creative thinking in that it allows you to better organize our ideas. Not only that, but it also helps to present it as well. When we present ideas, it’s similar to a speech. There ought to be a structure, a vision, and have it easy to follow and understand.

            Furthermore, if your idea is given the green light, you’ll need to form an action plan, set goals, and have specific deadlines. Being organized will keep you on your toes and prepared for almost anything.

            5. Communication

            Communication plays a vital role in all this as well. You can’t sell a group or an individual on an idea if you can’t communicate effectively. This applies to both written and verbal communication skills.

            This goes back to empathy a bit in that you need to understand the situation you’re in. This also means you need to be a good listener and being able to ask the right questions.

            6. Dissect Ideas

            The last skill I’ll offer is a challenging one but can pay off in so many ways. Sometimes creative thinking means taking two ideas and merging them.

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            This helps because in most situations ideas in their base form might not be able to satisfy the original goal or problem. That or maybe the idea is outright terrible but, there are some good pieces of information in it.

            The ability to look at ideas and be able to break them down and dissect them and merge with other ideas is a great skill to have. This could easily help solve disputes and help to find a middle ground.

            Some Examples of Creative Thinking

            The list of creative thinking examples is endless. In most situations, these examples will boost your creative thinking as well so I encourage you to try them out yourself:

            • Designing anything from a logo, to a simple webpage layout, to a poster and more
            • Creating a lesson plan for a group training course
            • Writing in a journal, a blog, or any social platforms
            • Creating a test or quiz from scratch just for fun
            • Brainstorming project ideas at work, or decor/renovation ideas at home
            • Finding procedures to improve the quality of a product or service
            • Suggesting solutions to improve a product or service

            Bottom Line

            The number of examples of creative thinking is endless but they are all challenging. This is a good thing as the world continues to change and grow. This pushes us to learn new skills, to think differently, and to start asking the more important questions. “Why?” and “Why not?”

            These are skills and abilities that can change the world and that anyone can adopt. So long as you have the patience to learn and develop yourself, you too can be a creative thinker!

            More Tips to Boost Your Creativity

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

            Reference

            [1] Business Dictionary: Creative Thinking

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