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Best Practices Entrepreneurship Management Skills

Five Steps to Change Your Thinking

When you make changes, are they coming at you from the outside in or inside out? In my 30 years of working with top leaders from business, health care, government and education, I have found that the majority of change comes from the outside in. When a new law is passed, you have to make changes in order to comply with it; when a competitor comes in offering lower prices, you probably have to change some aspect of how you do business; and when a new technology comes out that changes customer behavior, you’ll likely request that your IT department get you on the new products ASAP.

Most of us are conditioned in both our personal and professional lives to make changes based on outside factors. For example, when the stock market goes down, people often sell, and when it goes up, they buy.

Whenever change comes from the outside, we are forced to react to it. Rather than being proactive, we find ourselves constantly putting out fires and managing the latest crisis.

Instead, let’s look at two examples. Did the crowd-sourcing disruptor Kickstarter become a dominant force because it was fast to react? Was being reactionary the driving force in Facebook’s dominance in social media? Nope.

One reason for Facebook’s success is that it picked up where the limitations of other platforms left off. Kickstarter developers took a popular altruistic concept – used by Caring Bridge and others – and applied it to entrepreneurship. I sometimes call this approach to innovating a new business going in the opposite direction.

So, how do you stop reacting to outside forces and become a disruptor instead? Think about the Hard Trends that are sure to impact your organization. Think about the problems and opportunities that derive from them. What can you do now to not only pre-solve those problems before they become genuinely disruptive, but also leverage those Hard Trends into game-changing opportunities?

5 Quick Tips for Thinking Inside-Out  

It is essential to spend at least a small portion of time thinking about your future in an opportunity mode.

1. Build thinking time into your schedule. Try spending a minimum of one hour a week unplugging from the present crisis and plugging into future opportunity.

2. Find certainty in chaos. Instead of feeling blocked by all the things you are uncertain about in your work and life, ask yourself: What am I certain about? Those are the Hard Trends.

3. Be Anticipatory. Based on Hard Trends, think through these key questions: What is sure to happen in the next two to three years? What problems will your company be facing? What problems will your customers be facing (and how can you address those pain points)?

4. Dream a Little. Another good question to ask is: What is my ideal future? What are the steps to get there – whether it’s a business goal or a retirement dream? Or, it could be a bit of both.

5. Put Ideas into Motion. Once you are clear on your vision and have identified the Hard Trends that will impact you, spend some of your opportunity time solving problems before they happen.

The level of pervasive disruption that you need comes from the inside out (making the first move) rather than the outside in (moving in response to something). What events and developments can you anticipate by using your inside-out thinking?

If you need help getting started, try my Hard Trend Methodology, which is the mindset I describe in my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage.

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Best Practices Body Language Culture Health and Wellness Management

Elevate Your Success with Five Simple Steps

People often convince themselves that highly successful individuals who possess a special gift set themselves apart from everyone else. However, the reality is that your ability to have success, however you define it, can be accomplished with a few simple steps.

Personal responsibility for our actions is seldom championed in society these days, and like it or not, we all live with the consequences of the lifestyle choices that we make every day. We can sit in an office staring at a spreadsheet waiting for our situation to improve or make a few changes that will put us on a path to shaping a better future for ourselves and others. The following are five simple steps you can take to elevate your level of success.

1. Challenge Your Habits and Change Your Routine

It is incredibly easy to fall into the comforts offered by habits and routines, those that make our lives feel like a scene from Groundhog Day, in which the alarm wakes us at the same time every day as we hit the snooze button at least once before jumping into the shower. The familiarity of the daily grind, in which grabbing a coffee as you head into the office before performing the same tasks, can be comforting, yet we often wonder why nothing ever changes.

Our education system tends to encourage everyone to learn one correct answer and basically think in the same way. And when it comes to creativity, only a small number of people might be thought of as “creatives,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology is increasingly replacing laborious and repetitive tasks with automation. Creativity and critical thinking have become essential skills in the 21st century and possess the power to make you stand out from the crowd.

There are countless self-help books that advise you how to create new patterns and habits to help you achieve your goals. However, simply getting off the hamster wheel of life and allowing yourself to mix things up by both thinking and doing things differently is a great place to start, and it will stimulate creative thought.

2. Surround Yourself with People Who Lift You Up

They say that we become like the five people we spend the most time with, and ultimately they have the power to either inspire or drain us, so maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the amount of time that you spend with toxic individuals who only bring you down.

Surround yourself with like-minded souls on a similar journey or, better yet, those who can see the big picture better than you can. They will help you see failure as an opportunity and will certainly increase your odds of achieving your dreams.

Business is 80% people and 20% everything else, and this illustrates the importance of investing your time in getting to know open-minded individuals who enjoy helping turn others’ dreams into reality. What if you surrounded yourself with inspiration?

3. Fuel Your Creativity

If you begin your day reading the news that reminds you of all the negative aspects of our world, followed by looking at social media sites that show snapshots of lives that are edited to look much better than your own, you will never increase your productivity or creativity. I like to start each day thinking of all the things I’m grateful for. It’s hard to have a bad day when you start your day like this. Try it!

Whether they are stuck in a traffic jam or are on a delayed train or airplane, or even doing household chores, highly successful people unleash the power of refueling their creativity during these moments of “dead time” by reading books or listening to podcasts.

Books and podcasts on subjects that stretch your thinking are a fantastic way to stay inspired and learn new tools you can use to resolve problems that are stopping you from reaching your goals. Try having fewer calls with people who pull you down and don’t help you move forward, and instead call people who lift you up, or watch a good TED Talk or listen to podcasts or audiobooks that offer advice and insights from others.

Removing yourself from a routine or familiar surroundings and going for a walk in a direction where you haven’t gone before instead of staring at a screen will help a lot. Highly successful individuals often find that their brains will naturally join the dots when they expose themselves to new ideas, surroundings and experiences.

4. Bring Focus and Clarity to Your Dreams

Bringing focus and clarity to your dreams while working alone in front of a computer in a dimly lit room is good, but is not enough on its own. Do not underestimate the importance of sharing and communicating your vision with others. It will attract the right people to you who will begin to see where you are going and offer ideas to help you get there.

By sharing your passion for a future vision and communicating the message with transparency on how it will be achieved, you will find people who can help you to create a solid path to achieve your goals.

5. Embrace Marginal Gains

When Dave Brailsford became the manager of Great Britain’s professional cycling team, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France. However, he had a simple concept known as “aggregation of marginal gains” that would revolutionize the sport and lead to his team members becoming tournament champions and Olympic gold medal winners.

The philosophy involved improving tiny areas that were traditionally overlooked by 99 percent in the belief that a long list of 1% improvements would be the difference between being champions or losers.

Researching for a pillow that offered the best sleep for cyclists to take to hotels, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection, were just a few of a long list of improvements that, although they looked tiny, ended up making a massive difference.

Whether you want to lose weight, build a business or achieve any other goal in life, it’s clear that heading straight for the moon with only one step will almost certainly result in failure or demotivation.

Small changes to your daily routine, such as creating a new email signature or changing those boring, stuffy group meetings by asking better questions, could boost your momentum and enthusiasm. All these changes not only deliver long-term improvements but also improve the overall quality of your life.

Will what got you to where you are be enough to take you to the next level? There are entire chapters on how to act in the future in my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. I’ll buy the book, you pay the shipping cost. Click here to order your copy.
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Best Practices Growth Management Skills Technology

Turn Cognitive Challenges into Opportunities With Technology Built the Way You Think

By Daniel Burrus and Neil Smith

(In this blog series on how elevating cognitive performance is a game changer for organizations, I’ve invited Neil Smith, CTO at Think Outcomes, to join me in writing on this important topic due to his expertise and the cognitive performance software his firm has created.)

Technology can function as a key enabler for higher cognitive performance. Technology is as important for cognitive roles as it is for transactional ones, since cognitive work in organizations drives transactional tasks. With performance gains realized through transaction management software, the next game changer is to evolve the cognitive infrastructure in the operating model.

While machines learn, disrupt and occupy the defined and known cognitive tasks of humans across industries, technologies to advance cognitive performance in the mind and with teams have remained relatively stagnant to move uncertainties into higher certainty frameworks.

Professionals utilize many technologies in their cognitive work everyday, but were not built to advance their cognitive performance. These every day technologies include:

  • spreadsheets
  • presentation software
  • documents

The Tools Leaders use for Critical Thinking in your Organization Today

All too often, critical thinking runs through spreadsheets. You may be surprised to discover the collage of spreadsheets your enterprise utilizes in its operating model — hundreds and thousands of spreadsheets (depending on the size of your business).

With spreadsheets, it’s challenging to arrive at informed decisions with 85%+ effectiveness. It’s also challenging to manage future uncertainties with 50%+ effectiveness.

How Leaders Communicate with Stakeholders in your Organization Today

Beyond their voices, leaders and managers communicate with stakeholders primarily through multipurpose presentation software. A tremendous amount of time, money and effort is expended to build presentations as snapshots in time for stakeholders. Presentations to equity investors, lenders, internal management, operations teams and supply chain partners, among many others, do not provide a framework for dynamic communications that shape the thinking in the minds of your stakeholders. Their questions are all too often unresolved during meetings, which delay decisions. When additional meetings are scheduled, you resolve the initial questions from stakeholders without a clear understanding of the impact on outcomes.

Presentation software makes it challenging to communicate perspective and address stakeholder concerns in real time with 90% effectiveness.

How Stakeholder Expectations are Conveyed in your Organization Today

Professionals primarily express their expectations verbally. They also write them in reference documents that are accessed infrequently, such as job descriptions, performance reviews, supplier agreements and annual reports, to name a few.

As documents are not actionable frameworks, it’s challenging to achieve expectations in dependent thinking with 85%+ effectiveness.

Imagine if the Stock Market Operated the Way Business Operates Today

The stock graph transforms how you synthesize information in your mind to arrive at informed decisions. Let’s go back to the time when you couldn’t visualize stock graphs for your decisions. Before stock graphs existed, imagine you met with your wealth advisor who expected you to make decisions to invest your monies and said:

I’m glad you are interested in investing in the market. We have over 10,000 companies in our exchange. To help you make an informed decision, I’ll introduce you to the analysts; there are hundreds of them. Each of them will show you their spreadsheets. Then each will walk you through your options via presentations, while attempting to answer all your questions. I thought you’d want to know this will take time because the analysts structure their spreadsheets their own way; there isn’t any consistency between them. Nor is there consistency among their presentations. After you synthesize all this information in your mind, you should be in a position to arrive at an informed decision about how to best invest your monies.

If decision processes for investors worked that way, individuals could not make high-fidelity decisions effectively. They’d be attending a lot of meetings to gain insight. As a result, many stocks wouldn’t have performed as well and many portfolios wouldn’t have grown. Nor would have the market evolved as it has.

Yet this is Exactly How Decision Processes in Business Work Today

As executives continue to invest in their transactional operations over decades, it’s time they prioritize and invest in their cognitive operations. The technology in the transactional operations is far ahead of the technology in the cognitive operations. Yet the cognitive operations drive activity in the transactional operations.

Is ‘Being Human’ Enough Today in the Cognitive Era?

Historic methods to advance critical thinking and stakeholder communications using human mental models, past experiences, personal networks and fundamental analytics are no longer enough in today’s business world. As machines increasingly coexist with humans, anticipatory tools and advanced performance analytics are needed to survive, differentiate and grow businesses and their professionals.

Learn how to elevate your planning, accelerate innovation and transform results with The Anticipatory Leader System and how to maximize the cognitive performance of your team with Cognitive Performance Software.

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