Breaking our limits

One of the most common mistakes people make is that they become stuck with only one view of the future. Whether you are a sports coach, a small business operator or are planning a weekend holiday, predicting what may or may not happen next is part of life. The skill of opening your mind to the future is vitally important if you wish to organize your resources and capabilities to meet the next challenge.

As already explained, our level of preparedness is a major factor in how well we will cope. We need to encourage people to open their thinking to new thoughts and perceptions. As Gary Haseldine from Haseldine Winners International says, success is only a new thought away. However, if we paralyse ourselves by unnecessary limits our capacity to evolve and adapt will struggle. Expanding our thinking requires us to question our self-imposed labels, values and attitudes. Winning the knowledge game is a process of growth based on critical review and examination. Business can only change direction or people can only change their lives by altering and adjusting their attitudes.

The best chance of expanding our thinking is to allow the unthinkable or uncomfortable to be said. A low tolerance for different or eccentric thinking is a recipe for business demise and stagnation. Similarly you cannot expect people to be thrown in a meeting room and asked to be creative, leading edge and ground-breaking. You need to create the environment and a system to help toss ideas around. We need to ensure that people have the right energy and inspiration to expand their level of thinking. Brian Garrett, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), requested when he first arrived in the business in 2000, big, hairy and audacious goals for the future. In doing so he helped to shape a new direction for the future.

Understandably, people are uncomfortable thinking away from the present. Ann Andrews from a business called Teams From Woe to Go recently shared the remarkable results from a survey of Fortune 500 companies. In the study, they were asked, what percentage of their time did they plan for their future? What would be your answer? Perhaps 50 per cent, 20 per cent, 10 per cent or even less? Well the answer came back as 3 per cent. Needless to say, if you feel uncomfortable about future planning you are not alone and it is perfectly normal to feel anxious and a little nervous about the process. However, modern business managers must do much more in the area of thinking about their future. It is my experience that most career, life and business planning is at best scratchy, shallow and conservative. Typically, the limited thinking manifests itself as simple predictions based on known events, which leads to very few surprises and rarely prepares people for what happens next. People may have been able to rely on such thinking a hundred years ago but it is certainly fraught with danger in the chaotic world of the twenty-first century.

To help people sharpen their thinking about their limits and possibilities, teams need to be established to help people study the future. I have found that encouraging people to reframe their thinking can be a major asset to building expanded imagination and insight. For example, asking ˜What if questions can be very worthwhile, that is, taking the time to frame questions using the words ˜what if as an opener . Recent questions I have asked with a banking client included:

  • What if the interest rates drop by 0.5 per cent?

  • What if funding is slashed by 15 per cent?

  • What if we do not get the new staff member by July?

In a similar vein, IBM like many other businesses has learned to use ˜So what questions to grow their business capacity. For example, let us assume a competitor is launching a new product or service in the marketplace . The response to the competitor action might be, ˜So what? In doing so, the ˜So what? question may create a new insight that might better prepare the business for the future by fine-tuning its response.

Winning the Knowledge Game. Smarter Learning for Business Excellence
Winning the Knowledge Game. Smarter Learning for Business Excellence
ISBN: 750658096
Year: 2003
Pages: 129 © 2008-2017.
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