This article by Jeff Hurt, EVP Education & Engagement at Velvet Chainsaw, originally appeared on the MIdcourse Correction’s blog at velvetchainsaw.com. It is reprinted here with permission. Jeff will be featured at The Expo Group’s upcoming xplore mini-conference in Washington D.C. He will work with attendees on Strengthening Strategic Muscles. For more information about this exclusive event, please email Dana Freker Doody or call 972.751.9644.
It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.
~ The Red Queen, Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Strengthening Strategic Thinking Muscles
Becoming a strategic thinker is not as difficult as it sounds. Although if we’re not careful, it may mean running-in-place, twice as hard.
It just means practicing different behaviors than what you probably already do.
Being more strategic doesn’t mean making decisions that affect your whole company. Nor does it mean allocating scarce budget dollars. And it clearly doesn’t mean scouring the internet for the right response to the problem you face.
If you want to be a strategic problem solver, you have to learn to focus and block distractions. It is also stepping back to let the mind rest.
It means forcing your brain to slow down and work smarter.
Go To The Balcony
Author William Ury gives some of the best advice for practicing strategic thinking. He suggests going to the balcony to get perspective on what is happening and why.
Practicing this mental exercise of going to the balcony for a birds-eye view on a regular basis is a way to adjust our thinking so that it’s more strategic.
Author Liane Davey says that we have to be more diligent and deliberate with our thoughts and actions. She says we need to invest time and energy to reflect on our situation and the decisions that face us.
It requires only that you put the smallest decision in the context of the organization’s broader goals says Davey.
Going to the balcony and understanding how a decision fits within the context of the broader organization’s goals are two behaviors we should practice regularly.
Stop Blinding Your Mind
Some of us are addicted to information.
I’ll admit I’m an information junkie. I read a lot. I mean a whole lot.
But the difference is, when I start to write a blog post, create a presentation or work with a client, I don’t start by using the kitchen sink method—searching the internet to find as much about the topic as I can and dumping it all into the kitchen sink.
I intentionally step away from tsunami of information and stop the information flow. I don’t want to engage in the toxic habit of gluttony of information overload.
According to Dr. Susan Bond Chapman, our brain has to work hard at ignoring and filtering information. Just as hard as it has to work at focusing information.
Our brain works best at solving problems by taking a break from the fire hose of information.
Our brain works for us when we quit working it to the max says Chapman. We have to use silence to think deeply, see differently and solve perplexing issues.
In other words, take your mind off of old thinking to discover a new way of thinking.
Increasing Your Mental Capacity
Here’s the real win according to Chapman’s research:
Strategy based thinking has the potential to enhance your entire cognitive thinking and spill over into real world benefits. Deeper processing of information and using that information in new ways leads to improved brain performance over all!
Which of these steps is most difficult for you to practice and why: Going to the balcony, understanding how a decision fits within a organization’s goals, stepping away from the information flow, using silence to reflect? When do you get your best ideas?