Strategic thinking is the future of discovering the breakout performance you want for yourself on an individual level and what will be required for businesses–small and large–to compete in the future. Strategic thinking is a cognitive process; you cannot allow your life to be driven merely by subconscious thoughts. To perform at your highest and best requires taking the appropriate amount of time to imagine, dream, design and think about your future.
1. Ask questions.
1. Where are we today?
2. Where do we want to be in the future?
3. What obstacles stand in our way?
The result: These three powerful questions will boost your performance at work simply by igniting your imagination.
Motivation and performance are closely tied together. We crave new challenges and new opportunities. Goals are powerful. Choose to step out of the daily noise, distraction and chaos of your daily work. Schedule time to envision your future. Paint a vidid image of who you are in five years. What new projects will exist? When you stop to think, what do you see? How clearly can you see the image of your future self?
The result: Strategically thinking about where you want to be in the future becomes the internal or self-activating motivation that boosts excitement, enthusiasm and performance.
3. Be happy. You choose what you think about.
When you think about your work, are you happy? Are you finding meaning and value in the work you do? Life is too short to focus your time and attention on negative thoughts. Ernest Nightengale said, “You become what you think about most of the time.” Regardless of the current project you are working on, you can choose to be happy. You are the only person who has the ability to choose what you will think about and whether you will choose to be happy.
The result: Happy people are much more productive. The are more engaged in the work they do and they accomplish more than an employee who hates his job.
4. Be bold. Step away from the logical into the creative and new.
Strategic thinking and performance thrive on creativity.
- Be new.
- Be different.
- Be very very different.
- See in pictures
- Embrace emotions
- Think ahead
- Tell it in a story
- See the big picture
- Ask, what if…
- What could you change if you chose to be outrageous
The result: The last 100 years of innovative productivity has come from improvements in planning, budgeting, automation and the beginning of technology. Many of these concepts can be outsourced, the future of boosting performance will come from inside the heart and souls of individuals. Break throughs can be brought to life through corporate backing, but revolutionary increases in performance will come from break through ideas from individuals who have been given the freedom to think outside the box.
4. Be inspired. Innovate.
There is nothing more powerful than excitement about a new concept. Creating something that did not exist until your team thought of the concept. Inspiration is one of the core elements of strategic thinking. Be inspired. Innovate.
The result: Being on the ground floor of turning an idea into a finished work is incredibly rewarding. Meaningful and fulfilling work will boost performance, work ethic and self-esteem.
5. Step away from the project.
Projects often come to a stand still when unexpected obstacles appear. One of my friends is a judge in Arkansas. When he was practicing law in my hometown I would regularly see him meandering aimlessly down the street. His gaze was always the same–distant and intense. He has always worn his suits at least one size too large so it was easy to spot him. One day we passed on the street and I asked him why he was outside so much, rather than at the desk in his office. He replied, “This sidewalk is my desk. I am paid to think.”
The result: Sitting at a desk in the midst of clutter and old ideas can stifle your ability to strategically think up new solutions to the obstacles you were facing.
The human brain is bombarded with millions of bits of data every second. You receive data through your five senses–what you see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Isn’t it amazing that your brain acts as a gigantic filter–receiving so much information it cannot possibly focus on every single input? For example, do you remember the color of the last car you passed on the way to work? Do you even feel the shoes on your feet until I remind you of those shoes? If you just bought a new white Honda four-door sedan, you will begin to see white Honda four-door sedans. Why? Because the excitement and emotion tied to the novelty of your new car has subconsciously primed your brain and you begin to see white Hondas everywhere.
The result: White Hondas were always there, you just didn’t pay attention to them because they were unimportant to you. When you prime your brain with exciting goals that are deeply tied to your personal emotions, your subconscious will be primed to seek out answers and solutions that have always been right in front of you. You just hadn’t seen them before.
7. Be outrageous with the number of ideas you can write on a whiteboard.
Imagine the shear number of ridiculous ideas that percolate through the minds of advertising agencies and marketing departments all across the world. How many all night thinking sessions have the creatives and executives of various corporations spent collecting as many ideas as the human brain can generate? Get rid of all the filters. Assume the world is level and all opinions carry the same value.
The result: Taglines and slogans so closely link with our lives that some of these have not been used in twenty years:
- Got Milk?
- Where’s the Beef?
- Absolutely Positively Overnight
- Just Do It
8. Accept risk. Encourage failure.
If you choose to remain the same, your performance will remain the same. In order to boost your performance at work you must be willing to try new things. Break old models. Accept risk. Encourage failure. Innovation comes with a price. Perseverance, effort, the willpower to try not just one more time but thousands of times if it is needed.
The result: Businesses who want to grow must embrace the concept of strategic thinking and to embrace calculated risk, anticipate failure and encourage constant challenges to the status quo.
10. Study and learn from strategic thinkers who changed the world.
Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Leonardo Davinci, and Steve Jobs. What did these people have in common?
- They had dreams without roadmaps.
- They had answers without questiions.
- They had powerful instincts and they were willing to follow their guts.
- They had perseverance and endurance.
- They chose a life of continual learning and growth
- and, Each one of them had a personal willingness to fail.
What made these men and women so different?
They didn’t just look foward. They looked inside themselves.
Featured photo credit: Head Silhouette View Direction Color Diamonds / geralt via pixabay.com