Winning in business involves imagining a future for your company, determining what needs to happen to get there, and making sure it happens. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, turn your brain towards what you can. To make this a reality, leaders need to develop transparent thinking in themselves and their team members.
Stop Making Stuff Up
How do we stop making stuff up (MSU) – an instinctual need to fill in any voids in our thinking process that typically result in much more negative than positive – and allowing the negatives to color the glasses through which we view the world?
One way is to make your thinking process as transparent as possible. During meetings and strategy sessions, put everyone’s beliefs and assumptions out on the table and challenge them.
Ask questions like, “What do we think we know to be true about our customers, competitors, and markets? How do we know that these are true? What are the things we take for granted that nobody talks about? What do we need to now learn based on our continually changing world?”
Burst Your Bias Bubbles
Once you tap into some of your underlying beliefs and assumptions (‘bubbles’), consider whether they are limiting constraints or whether they are fueling possibilities, options, and alternatives. Because our bubbles are locked in the past, and it is valid that there are likely to be hurdles or challenges to doing things a different way, most assumptions relate to what you can’t do rather than what you can do. Our brain goes to the issues or challenges we will face; why it won’t work or customers won’t go for it. We tend to spend time thinking more about the negatives vs. the possibilities, and we create limiting constraints that may or may not be true.
For any beliefs or assumptions that are hindering you or are more about what is in the way, change your focus by prompting your brain. Instead of thinking, “We can’t do that,” or “That will never work,” try asking yourself and others, “What if our assumptions are wrong? What if we did it this way? If we were building this business from scratch, what would we do differently to serve our customers better? What is possible? Where can we look for inspiration to figure this out? How can we…?” This shifts your brain to looking for reasons and answers that help you move forward.
Stop Reacting, Start Thinking
As our behaviors are becoming increasingly rote (primarily due to speed), we’re relying more on what we believe about the past rather than taking the time to pause, think, assess the current situation, and make intentional choices and decisions about our future. The world around us is moving so fast and our brains tell us we don’t have time. We are under enormous pressure to just run from the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night.
The more we just react, the more mistakes we make, and the more we have to do things over to get them right. We take what has made us successful in the past and automatically carry it forward, assuming it will continue to make us successful. Which is often true – until our customers, markets or industry change overnight and don’t wait around for us to catch up. Or the whole world goes through a pandemic that accelerates some industries while destroying others and more rapidly than we ever imagined shifts consumer’s behaviors.
Visit Your Brain, It’s Lonely
Pausing to visit and use our brains more effectively via transparent thinking can be as simple as pausing at the start of an important meeting to set an agenda, articulate and agree on the desired outcome, and establish guidelines for how everyone in the room will work together to achieve it. Being transparent about what is most important and why is another simple technique that adds seconds to a conversation and can align individuals instead of having multi interpretations. Exposing our beliefs about what data is most important to us and why we believe what we do is helpful. Asking others to describe why they are supporting an action or decision can help uncover thought processes and beliefs usually hidden. Publicly test your conclusions and assumptions by asking, “What do you think about what I just said? Here’s one aspect which you might help me think through…Do you see it differently?”
The more we are aware of what is inside our own brain and glimpse into what is in others’ brains, the more aligned and engaged we can all be on achieving the same goals to win.
The question for business leaders is not, “Are we making stuff up?” It is, “What are we making up and how does it impact our business?” Being transparent and teaching others to do the same will remove many of the barriers that get in the way of achieving your goals.