Posts tagged "vision"

Doing Nothing is a Choice

May 15th, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post 0 thoughts on “Doing Nothing is a Choice”

In Business is ART, author and Plan Canvas founder, Jon Umstead tells the story of Larry, a former co-worker who used to say, “If at first you don’t succeed, keep on sucking ‘til you do succeed.”

It was Larry’s way of saying that you shouldn’t be afraid to try again. Take the leap of faith that you have learned from past experience, applied that knowledge, and are now better prepared to go after it, whatever “it” is.

Sometimes, we latch on to an idea and, no matter what, we vow to overcome any obstacle to turn that idea into a reality But often, that idea is just a fleeting moment.

Why is that?

Sometimes it just isn’t all that great an idea

The human brain is a marvel. It’s always functioning at levels we cannot understand until it ceases to function altogether. Ideas, imaginings, and creations are invented inside our heads all the time.

How many times do we hear the story of someone who got rich on one simple idea and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Or worse, “I thought of that 10 years ago. That was my idea!”

A lot of the time, the idea is just not that good to begin with. So, we let it go. Other times, it is a good idea but we still let it go.

How come?

Sometimes there is no legitimate path forward

Plans are developed not only to see the path forward, but also to identify the hurdles and road blocks along the way. You then have to make determinations like how to get over or around them and if it is possible to do so.

The trick is in making logical decisions based on reality, versus emotional decisions based on fear.

I can do this – but should I?

It is perfectly normal and even good to have fear, especially when taking leaps of faith. It is not OK to let that fear paralyze you into inaction.

Have you ever been faced with a decision that felt like a speeding truck was headed directly for you? You have no idea what lies on the left or the right side of the road. Jumping to either means jumping into the unknown. But if you continue to stand there, the truck will probably hit you. Unless it swerves. What if you jump left and the truck swerves in the same direction? What if it brakes and stops just short of hitting you?

What do you do? Maybe the jump will leave you in no better condition than had the truck hit you. Maybe you end up in the same condition you were in before you even noticed the truck barreling at you. Maybe you end up in a condition that is far better than the one you just left.

Rarely is there one right answer for any situation. There are simply choices to be made. Doing nothing is one of them.

If Strategy Execution is a People Problem – Who ARE These People?

April 12th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy 0 thoughts on “If Strategy Execution is a People Problem – Who ARE These People?”

A lot of sources say that the problem with strategy execution is a people problem, not a strategy problem. In fact, an article at Harvard Business Review (HBR) is entitled exactly that.

There is a lot of truth to that sentiment, although, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, we believe that a good strategy considers employee engagement (people) and employee engagement is necessary for successful strategy execution. There is no one without the other.

So is execution really a people problem?

Well…could be…isn’t necessarily…lots of other things could go wrong…but could be. Let’s take the case where it is a people problem – then ask a question.

Who are we talking about when we say “people”?

Managers may be apt to say, “They are! Those people out there on the floor are the problem!”

Those on the floor may be apt to say, “They are! Those people over there in the corner offices are the problem!”

The truth is that it may be both, but it always starts at the top.

A recent request from a reporter

A reporter recently asked, “What are 3 things that are really needed for leading a team?” and we submitted the following as a response:

  1. Vision
  2. Purpose
  3. Plan

If permitted, we would have added a 4th – Determination to execute the plan – and a 5th – Flexibility to modify the plan.

Without any of these things, you can hire employees and be in charge, but you can’t lead (big difference) and you especially won’t be leading engaged employees. If you aren’t leading engaged employees, no amount of determination on your end will lead to successful strategy execution.

Why just count on dumb luck? Why not create luck (and outcomes)?

Did you know there is scientific research to suggest that we have an ability to create luck? Doing some of the things discussed in this post are key.

Formulating and communicating a Vision statement, for example. The Vision helps the leader paint the picture for the business or organization. The leader shouldn’t develop the Vision in a vacuum, but has to own it. With a clear Vision (and painted picture), all stakeholders, including employees, can more readily get on board. If they can see it, they can support it. If they can support it, you don’t have to go it alone. If you don’t go it alone, you are more likely to succeed. You create luck.

Having a sense of Purpose beyond the financial aspects of any business or organization is increasingly crucial as the workforce looks more and more to work for companies that can answer the question “Why are we here?” and help the employees answer their own question of “Why am I here?”

Purpose is the emotional hook that gets everyone excited and engaged. For example, our Mission is to provide tools and expertise to help business owners and leaders achieve greater levels of success, but our Purpose is to help people in general feel less overwhelmed and alone.

But you still need a plan. A Vision without a Plan is just daydreaming. A Purpose without a plan is just passion. Both are great for defining where you want to go and why you want to get there, but you need a Plan to serve as the roadmap for the journey.

That Plan cannot reside in the head of the leader. Again, when everyone knows the Plan, it’s easier for everyone to get on board. Duties are more readily delegated. Expectations are more effectively communicated. Everyone knows if what they are doing is moving the organization toward or away from the Vision. You create luck.

Any finally, a Plan without the Determination to execute to it results in chaos

How many times have you developed a plan, perhaps even started executing on it, but then quickly got distracted and just started responding to day-to-day activities rather than executing to any plan.

To really be effective, you have to plan to manage then manage the plan. Even if the plan changes dramatically on a frequent basic due to realities of the day, the act of planning and re-planning helps keep you focused.

That’s what we do

The Plan Canvas process is more than documenting the Vision and Purpose. It’s more than developing plans. It’s tracking results and outcomes, managing the plans, so that you can be more organized and focused, eliminating as much of the chaos as possible.

Contact us to schedule a demo of the software or discuss our consulting services.

Do Have Actionable Plans – Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans

March 16th, 2017 Posted by Business is ART 0 thoughts on “Do Have Actionable Plans – Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans”

Slide1I really wanted to simply call this “Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans” but was afraid you’d get the wrong idea.

I don’t mean “Don’t develop plans.” I mean, if you are going to develop and manage plans, do it in a productive manner.

You can do better…like by a lot

One of the reasons I think so many business owners and leaders don’t have business plans is that someone gave them some bad advice, or set a bad example, somewhere along the way…and now they just can’t see the value – even though the data supports the notion that business plans increase your odds of success – like by a lot.

But one sure way to waste your time with a plan is to fail to do the foundational work that becomes a litmus test for everything you do going forward.

Build a foundation

Before you spend any time developing a plan, first build the foundation for your business. What’s the foundation consist of? Simple. 3 key ingredients, including:

  1. Your Vision Statement. This is how you see things, ideally, out in to the future. See Amazon’s vision statement for a good example.
  2. Your Mission Statement. This states in simple terms what you do. A sentence. Two at most. What you do.
  3. Your Purpose Statement. This is why you do what you do. The emotional hook that gets you and your stakeholders excited.

Many people struggle with defining these three statements. At first, it sounds easy. But then you realize it really requires some deep, critical thinking and often requires a lot of inner reflection. It may also require a lot of discussion with your friends, family and advisors.

But a key to remember…these are yours. No one else’s. Don’t let anyone define them for you.

Frame It

Next, build the frame. The frame is made up of your long term goals and objectives. Goals support the vision, but in and of themselves are immeasurable. They are simply big lofty things you want to achieve.

Muhammad Ali famously declared “I am the greatest!”

That’s a perfect example of a goal. How do you know you are the greatest? Through measurable objectives like: winning the title a number of times, holding the title a number of years, scoring a number of knock-outs by a certain round in each fight (on average).

You have to do the same for your business. Define the measurable objectives that support your big lofty goals.

Now Get Busy

Once you have laid the foundation and the frame, you are ready to get down to some serious business planning and you are far less likely to waste your time.

One last bit of advice – make your plans actionable. That means, define actual initiatives and action steps you will take to tackle your plan. Track and update things as you go. Plan to manage, but manage the plan.

Don’t stop game planning when the game begins

I hate it when people say they only need to develop a plan once, then they get the loan or start the business and throw the plan away. That is a way to ensure you do not maximize the benefits of planning.

Think of it this way. A football coach walks in to a game with a game plan. With the first snap of the ball, the coaching staff makes adjustments to the game plan, and continues to do so throughout the game, until the last second ticks off the clock.

We wouldn’t think of coaching a game any other way. So why do we think it’s a good idea to start a business with a plan, then toss it aside on opening day – or ever?

As with sports, keep adjusting the plan until the day you shut the doors for good.

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Define Success on Your Own Terms

February 28th, 2017 Posted by Inspiration 0 thoughts on “Define Success on Your Own Terms”
success on your own terms

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

It doesn’t matter how you define success. It’s critical that you do.

On your terms.

This is the advice I close every business presentation with. Each of us have opinions on what success looks, smells and feels like, but a hard thing for us to remember is that no one [should] cares about that opinion except ourselves.

We don’t care what others think our own definition of success is, so why should anyone care what we think success should look like for them?

Always define success on your terms

In business, is success limited to revenue, sales and profit? No. Those are certainly motivators and when you valuate the worth of a business, they are extremely important. But in all likelihood, there are many other ways to define success.

This article at Inc. by Jeff Haden is entitled “Want to be genuinely likable and charismatic? Do any one of these 12 things.”

Number 12 on the list? Always define success your way.

Haden goes on to say, “How successful you feel is based on your answer to one question: ‘How happy am I?’ How successful you are is based solely on the answer to that question.”

If true, then it really does not matter how you define success because that feeling of success comes from a sense of what makes you happy.  And only YOU can say what that is.

Who’s hungry?

A really good cheeseburger makes me happy. If I can earn enough money, otherwise eat healthy enough and exercise such that I can enjoy a really good cheeseburger once in awhile without fear of breaking the bank or giving myself a heart attack, then hey…I’m happy and successful.

But you might be a vegetarian, disgusted at the very notion of my delicious, juicy cheeseburger smothered in blue cheese, bacon and jalapenos. Or you might hate blue cheese. In either case, it doesn’t matter if you think my definition of success is ridiculous and it doesn’t matter if I think you ought to order a burger just like mine because…

Success is personal

Your definition of success is your own. It’s personal. No one can define it for you. Which means…you have to do it for yourself.

If you carry on without identifying what success means to you, the chances are very high that you will never feel successful. You’ll just move from one thing to the next, seeing if that makes you happy, only to discover it doesn’t.

Why not try a different approach? Why not begin with the end in mind? What makes you happy? What does success mean to you? Define that first. THEN devise a plan for getting there.

Do it with Plan Canvas

That’s what Plan Canvas is for. It comes preloaded with over 50 key performance indicators to help you discover, for yourself, your definition of success.

If you’d like to be a part of our beta test user group, please click here. There is no cost to you and you walk away with actual, actionable plans for your journey to success – on your terms.

7 Tips for Entrepreneurs

June 24th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan, Entrepreneur, Owner 0 thoughts on “7 Tips for Entrepreneurs”
hello

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

This week on the Business is ART podcast #37, our main topic of discussion was SEO. But as the conversation went, we also touched on several other points for business owners and entrepreneurs to think about .

Know Who You Are

My guests on BIA #37 own and operate a web development company in a rural Ohio town – Berry Digital Solutions. The work they do can literally be done from anywhere in the world for any business located any place in the world (where there is commerce and internet). Yet they choose to remain local and do business primarily with local customers.

Why?

The answer is quite simple. Because it is part of their mission to buy and support local. It is part of their company culture to meet with clients face-to-face, even in a technologically driven world that enables something else. In short, it is a component of their definition of success.

They know who they are and what they want to be. When you have determined or defined that, it becomes a very easy thing to do to say “no” when faced with business opportunities that just don’t feel as comfortable as you’d like.

Have an Online Presence

During the podcast, I gave an example of the small town baker with a shop on Main Street and asked why this baker needs an online presence. The response from my guests was staggering. At present, 90% of purchases are researched online prior to purchase. Think about that for a minute. 90% of what Americans buy is researched online prior to the purchase.

You don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year for an online presence, but when only 10% of purchases are made without any online research whatsoever and you don’t have an online presence, you have severely handicapped your business. Maybe not today, but at some point, it will come back to bite you.

Focus on the Thing You do Best

Diversified services help to keep you from being 100% dependent on one particular source of revenue but, especially for drawing attention to your business through an online presence, trying to feature everything you do only confuses the shopper.

Focus on your primary business or what you are really great at, then more casually mention or list your other services. But draw the bulk of the attention to your primary business. If that baker is known for donuts, the website shouldn’t go on and on about cake.

Keep it simple, “If you think our donuts are great, wait ’til you try our cake!”

Some Final Tips for Entrepreneurs

Listen to the podcast for more details, but here are a few more summary points to take away from it:

  • Pay attention to your website’s analytics (and act accordingly)
  • Go into business knowing it is hard work, not because being your own boss means you get to live on easy street
  • Have a passion for either what you do, or why you do it
  • Embrace the freedom that comes with business ownership

My book, Business is ART, is designed to help you get a firm grasp on who you are, what you want your business to be and how to lay out a plan to get there. It’s available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both paperback and ebook form.

After you’ve read it, contact me and let me know what you think. Let’s start a dialogue.

How to Do Acquisitions – Successfully

May 1st, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Entrepreneur 2 thoughts on “How to Do Acquisitions – Successfully”

Acquisitions – Each week I will identify a different theme of the week and provide you with content, some original and some from external sources, around that theme.

Acquire

Theme of the Week – May 1, 2016

This week’s theme is “acquisitions.” There are all kinds of approaches to acquisitions and reasons for doing them, including:

  • Natural expansion of or complement to existing business
  • To start a new business of your own
  • To get your hands on certain technology, products, capability, markets, customers, etc.
  • To snuff out the competition
  • Because you see growth opportunity

A Word On This Week’s Theme

I’ve been involved in a number of acquisitions on both sides (the side doing the acquiring and the side doing the selling). I’ve seen them done in ways that build upon the value of the acquired business and I’ve seen them done in ways that destroy the value.

I’ve never understood the latter, believing that, unless you strictly bought the business to kill it as a competitor, you bought it because it had some perceived value…so why would you purposefully destroy it? Sometimes it is nothing more than hubris that gets in the way.

“We want the best of both worlds, but, we are the ones acquiring you so in this case the ‘best way’ is our way.”

In Business is ART I somewhat jokingly say that my next book will be entitled Acquisitions and the Assholes Involved (hint: one of them might be you). But there is a lot of truth in the sentiment. As the acquiring party, you want to be careful not to be the one to destroy the value in what it is you are acquiring.

On the flip side, if you are the one being acquired, you have to be willing to accept that things are about to change. If you were “the boss” you won’t be any more. Seek to understand the changes but don’t be too aggressive about changing the ways of the acquiring party nor about stubbornly trying to hold on to your own ways.

It’s a new reality after an acquisition so before the deal is struck, and shorty thereafter, ask yourself, “Can I live with it?”

This Week’s Links

Successful acquisitions take in to consideration several things, such as:

  • Why am I doing it?
  • What do I want things to look like after?
  • How do I properly valuate the acquisition?
  • Who is critical during and after the acquisition?
  • How do I maintain the customer base after the acquisition?

Included in the following list are several links to articles and videos that I found interesting on the subject of acquisitions, many of which address the aforementioned considerations of an acquisition. I love the quote from Rick Milenthal in the article from Smart Business – “Don’t let opportunity trump strategy.”

There are many more things to consider, but the bottom line is you have to have a vision and a plan for doing an acquisition successfully. Without them, you will just be throwing money away.

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Improve the Quality of Your Life

April 26th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Inspiration 0 thoughts on “Improve the Quality of Your Life”
Ivan Misner

Who’s In Your Room?

How would you rate the quality of your life?

Dr. Ivan Misner has been called the father of modern networking. He is the founder of Business Networking International (BNI), the world’s largest business networking organization and a New York Time’s best selling author.

He is a dedicated family man, world traveler and a black belt in karate.

By all indications, the quality of his life is pretty good.

I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Annual National BNI Conference Member Day last week in Cincinnati where Dr. Misner spent time speaking in various breakout sessions, one of which was based on the book he co-wrote with Stewart Emery and Rick Sapio entitled Who’s In Your Room?

Once In, You Can’t Get Out

The book and the presentation begin with a simple scenario. Imagine that you spend your entire life in just one room and that whoever and whatever you let in to your room will be there with you forever. Once in, they can’t get out.

As the lyrics to the Eagle’s song “Hotel California” say, “You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave.”

If this were how you were to live for the rest of your life, who and what would you let in? Would you be more selective? Most of us probably would be.

The Room is Real

Indeed, our brains are that room, and whether we are consciously or unconsciously aware of them, everyone and everything we have ever let in to our lives are now part of our room. They are there and they aren’t going anywhere. So shouldn’t we be more selective about who we let in? Of course we should.

As the book states right up front, “The quality of your life depends upon who is in your room.”

The Importance of the Doorman

It goes on to discuss the concept of a virtual doorman to control who gets in. In the case of professional groups like BNI, this may be a membership committee that reviews and checks all applicants. For an individual like yourself, YOU are the doorman.

The job of the doorman is to ensure that anyone allowed entrance to your room should share the same values, not necessarily the same beliefs, but the same values as you. Anyone allowed entry will support you and what matters the most to you. New entrants often bring the very talents and skills you are looking to add to your room.

The doorman has to know who and what gets in, and that all starts with you. You first have to get to know yourself, define yourself, and be comfortable with who you are and who you want to become. You need to define a clear vision, mission and purpose for yourself so that you can more clearly define the criteria for entrance in to your room.

But don’t wait around to do that because, in the meantime,` the one-way door is wide open and the room is getting crowded.

Who’s In Your Room? is a quick but invaluable read. You can find it in the BNI Member’s Store by clicking here. If you aren’t a BNI member and have trouble locating the book, please contact me and I’ll help you get it.

How to Establish Trust (Part 1)

April 14th, 2016 Posted by Behavior, Business is ART, Business Plan, Strategy 0 thoughts on “How to Establish Trust (Part 1)”
Kevin West

Kevin West – Your Home Comfort Guy

The following is part 1 of a 2 part series on establishing trust.

On segment #27 of the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network, my guest was business owner Kevin West of Your Home Comfort Guy, a heating and air conditioning company. Kevin is also the president of the Champion City Chapter (Springfield, Ohio) of BNI (Business Networking International). Our topic of discussion was “Trust” and during the course of the conversation, Kevin listed several means for building trust in your business, summarized in this 2 part series. To listen to the podcast in its entirety, follow this link and click on Segment #27 – Trust Me.

You Home Comfort GuyTrust is vital to launching and sustaining a business. Without it, you won’t be in business for long. Trust includes:

  • Customers trusting you (in every aspect)
  • You trusting your customers
  • Trust between you and your suppliers
  • Trust between you and your business’ other stakeholders
  • Trust between you and your community

Ultimately, trust is established by providing the right product/service, at the right place, at the right price to the right person. But how else can you establish trust? Here are a few simple, cost free means for doing so.

Know Who You Are

Before starting your business, take time to define who you are and who your business is. It is perfectly fine to revise and tweak that definition as you go. In fact it is encouraged. Things change rapidly, so you and your business need to change with them. But make time to ensure you have a clear definition.

A good way to do this is to define your vision, mission and purpose statements.

Pay Attention to Your Appearance

You never have a second chance to make a first impression, so, make sure that impression isn’t DOA simply due to appearance. It does mean something, and it is dependent on your business. What works just fine in one type of business setting may not work well in another, so pay attention, dress and groom accordingly. Start by imagining what kind of image works in your industry and what kind of image you want to portray. There is nothing wrong with being your own person, so long as you are aware that depending on what that means to you it may have an impact on your business or career.

Behave as Though Someone is Watching

This suggestion isn’t meant to imply that you should be paranoid. To the contrary. You should be confident in what you are doing. But operate in a fashion such that if you wouldn’t do something when someone is watching, don’t do it on the job when no one is watching. Act as though someone is always watching. If your business provides home or public services, there is a good chance that someone actually is.

We will discuss more in part 2 of this series on establishing trust.

The Secret to a Great Elevator Pitch

March 16th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, CEO, Engagement, Leadership 0 thoughts on “The Secret to a Great Elevator Pitch”
elevator pitch face

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

An elevator pitch is a very succinct means of stating what you are all about. The concept is that if you had just a few seconds to make your case to a stranger in an elevator before the doors open, what would you say and how would you say it? It is commonly referred to as a “sales pitch” but more and more, people are catching on to the sentiment that the best sales pitch is no pitch at all.

So, as stated, I think of it as a succinct means of stating what you are all about, rather than a succinct sales pitch. Meanwhile, several books, articles and TED Talks have become very popular, encouraging us to emphasize “why” rather than “what.”

For example, Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire” urges us to communicate our ideas, goods and services by starting with why anyone should care, how it satisfies the “why”, and finally what “it” is, rather than the reverse order we commonly see.

His New York Times best selling book Start with Why explores this concept further.

Creating a succinct message can be far more difficult than creating a lengthy one. There are many schools of thought on the subject but here is one more that I stumbled upon in my own work. Just as the best sales pitch is no pitch at all, the best way to write an elevator pitch may be to not write one…at least not directly.

Here is a process to explain what I mean.

Step 1 – Write a vision statement

Your vision statement should be simple. A sentence or two that looks in to the future and defines what it is you see. There is no right or wrong because it is your vision. There is “more effective”, but there is no “wrong.”

Amazon’s vision statement is often used as a good example and is as follows – “Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

My own vision statement is – The vision for Business is ART is that small to medium sized businesses (SMB) are dramatically more successful – improving their odds by at least 30 to 50 percent.

Step 2 – Write a mission statement

There is a difference between a mission statement and a vision statement. The vision statement is what you see in an ideal world, sometime out in the future. The mission statement is what you do. Not why you do it. What you do.

As an example, my mission statement is – To provide entrepreneurs, businesses and organizational leaders with the easy to use tools that they need.

Step 3 – Write a Purpose Statement

Now write your purpose statement. Your purpose is different than your mission. Purpose is the emotional hook. It’s why you follow your mission. I know, I know. Simon says, “Start with Why,” and here I am including it as Step 3, but stay with me for a minute.

My purpose statement is – To help others to feel less overwhelmed, get organized and focus.

Step 4 – Write the Elevator Pitch

Now you have everything you need to write your elevator pitch and it becomes a very easy task because all you need to do is mash together the vision, mission and purpose statements you just wrote. The difference? We’re going to start with why.

In other words, we will create the elevator pitch from the purpose, mission and vision statements in that order.

In my case, that becomes:

“I help entrepreneurs and small to medium sized business and organizational leaders to feel less overwhelmed and be dramatically more successful.

By providing simple to use tools, information and the experience they need to get organized and focused, Business is ART can help them increase their odds by 30 to 50 percent or more.”

Why, How, What

Now, using Sinek’s approach, let’s break it down:

  1. Why? You are overwhelmed and would like to be more successful (purpose).
  2. How? With simple to use tools (mission).
  3. What? Business is ART (vision).

Hopefully the response is, “Gee, I DO feel overwhelmed and alone at times. And I do want to be more successful. 30% to 50% you say? Tell me more.”

4 Secrets to Creativity

February 13th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Inspiration, Leadership, Vision 0 thoughts on “4 Secrets to Creativity”

creativityCreativity and inspiration. Where do they come from? The answer may be as unique as the individual providing it. In this excerpt from Business is ART, 4 secrets to creativity are suggested – for those times when it just doesn’t come naturally.

Business is ART Excerpt

“But this stuff doesn’t just come to me. My brain doesn’t work that way,” you might say [when challenged to develop a creative solution].

Just remember, any plan is ART [Articulate, Revise, Track] and anyone can be an ARTist. We just all have different methods. So find or create one that works for you. Here are some suggestions to help you along:

  1. Take time out. Set aside time to remove yourself from the shackled environment to just kind of free your mind. That could be literally or figuratively. Maybe an afternoon on the water. Maybe a walk on the bike path. Maybe yoga. Maybe a treadmill. Maybe lying down on your couch with no TV or distractions. Whatever works for you. I personally have to work at finding ways to make my mind just shut down for a while. Not thinking is one of the hardest things to do because there is always something going on up there. But I find some of my best ideas come to me in the shower, riding in silence in the car, floating on a boat, or at that point between being asleep and waking up in the morning: those times when my mind is not racing on any number of subjects.
  2. Brainstorm. Now, some people think the term “brain- storming” is old, tired, irrelevant, and even politically incorrect. The cool kids are trying out all kinds of alternative words for it, like “mind showers.” But it’s a fruitless religious argument. Call it whatever you want; it’s how you do it that matters. The one thing you want to avoid is “groupthink.” This is when the most vocal or senior people in the room dominate the idea-generation session and, due to either their volume or their title, everyone else becomes robotic and automatically says, “That’s a great idea.” Find a way that works for you and your group in which all voices are heard and all ideas at least get on the table for consideration. For me, that method is the trusty old yellow sticky pad, for two reasons. One, it gives everyone a voice and two, as previously stated, there is tremendous power in writing something down. A method you might try is to hand out yellow sticky pads to everyone and ask them to write single ideas on single pieces of paper for whatever the topic or question is. Set a time limit. I like one to three minutes, depending on what I have asked them to respond to. Then tell them “pens down” and collect it all. Now you can stick all the ideas up on the wall and even begin to categorize them before moving on to the next topic. This works for me, but you have to find whatever works best for you. Maybe it’s this. Maybe not.
  3. Reverse Engineer. In Double Double, [Cameron] Herold suggests starting with the end state in mind, then working your way backward to determine the path forward. Instead of saying, “First, I need this,” think, “Last, I need this. Right before it, I need that.” Go from point Z to point A rather than points A to Z in your planning process to avoid the trap of doing the same old things the same old ways, hoping you will get different results. J.D. Salinger said, “I am a kind of paranoid in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.” While there is humor in this statement, it is also very profound and perfectly parallels what Herold is saying. Salinger’s destination in this case is people making him happy. Narcissistic? Maybe. Selfish? Perhaps. Clever statement? Definitely. He starts with the destination. So what is he likely to do? He is likely to start from that destination and consciously or unconsciously work his way backward, ultimately engaging and surrounding himself only with those people who make him happy.
  4. Don’t “exception handle.” It drives me crazy when we’re trying to figure something out and there is that one person in the room who constantly says, “Well, that only works if this is true.” Pretty soon, we are so deep down a rabbit hole that even the rabbit has to carry an oxygen tank. So if you can’t go from Z to A and just have to go from A to Z, then stay focused on getting to Z by assuming everything will work just fine. You can exception handle on the next few passes, but on the first go, just go.

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