3 Tips On Adapting and Thinking Outside the Box
By Doug Meyer-Cuno
“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”
– Dr. Wayne Dyer
We are truly facing unique times. The effects on business from the COVID-19 pandemic are profound.
Change is mandatory, and change comes fast. Business owners, managers, and employees must adapt, but not everyone will or can.
The pressure is on the leaders to show the new way. This time of immense and immediate change has created new expectations for what leadership will look like as the world begins to recover and find its footing once again. Technology is causing disruption across all industries and is altering the way managers communicate with colleagues and employees. It’s a clear indicator that the future success of leaders—and their businesses—will be dependent upon their ability to adapt to this new normal. In fact, the winners will have already started the process and embraced it, while others will simply be left behind.
So, how do we as leaders meet and address these new challenges head-on? How do we adapt and lead our people into a new age that has caught everyone off guard but demands that we stretch ourselves, seek much more knowledge, and apply it in ways that will move our companies forward? We should consider three concepts to assist us in shifting our paradigm and thinking outside the box:
- Separate fact from fiction. In today’s world, you’d think that task would be easy. But it’s not. We have more access to social media commentary, professional pundits, and industry association articles than we can possibly imagine. Therefore, it’s increasingly difficult to filter through the noise and discern fact from fiction.
Generally, it’s good to leverage the “three Ds” when evaluating information you are reading:
- Diversify your reading material. It is essential we read articles from different media sources. For example, make sure you’re reading articles from different industry sectors, media outlets, and countries.
- Is the information coming from an expert or a pundit? Is the speaker or journalist providing their opinion, or are they providing factual data? Are the sources providing material from historical data or from models projecting the future?
- How does the information impact your customers, employees, and stakeholders?
- Break the paradigm. Remember, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This maxim applies to these rapidly changing times and the need for leaders to push forward into places they hadn’t thought of before—or if they did, they weren’t brave enough to go there in front of the group. Example: Ask your senior management team to come up with three ways to disrupt your industry. Hold a brainstorming session with the senior management team and perhaps a few other influencers. The idea is to share everyone’s ideas and present them on the whiteboard.
Brainstorming means we don’t provide feedback on the ideas; we simply list them on the board and eventually start analyzing the merits of each idea. It is critical to remember that we want a group that thinks, not groupthink. We must be willing to break the paradigm by accepting other unconventional ideas, then provide critical feedback without throwing a wet blanket on the idea. During the process we should consider: How do these ideas impact our customer in a manner that is faster and more efficient than it is today? Can these strategies be implemented today, and if so, how? Finally, we should assess the likelihood of the strategy being profitable. Will it be profitable today, and can the margins be sustainable?
- Recognize your emotions. When chaos is surrounding you and your team is beginning to panic, it is time for leaders to be the calm force. The first step is to be reflective, not reactive. Our experiences teach us how to think things through. For example, if we hear a gunshot while hunting, our experience tells us we don’t need to duck or hide. However, if we are shopping in a mall and we hear a gunshot, we either hide, run, or look for the shooter. Why is that? Because over time, our experiences give us reference points to make better decisions. Thus, be reflective before making a knee-jerk decision.
Be proactive rather than impulsive. Many people will make a quick decision based on their natural impulse, which may not be the correct decision. Being proactive allows for your team to consider the options in detail and outline the potential effects down the road.
Lastly, it is important to leverage the experiences of the team rather than rely on one data point or your personal belief. A variety of viewpoints and experiences allows a team to flesh out better long-term solutions.
We are certainly facing challenging times. Is your company poised, prepared and equipped with the leadership to embrace change and take advantage of new opportunities? Or will you and your company be left in the dust, standing and watching while other leaders and their businesses adapt quickly?
About Doug Meyer-Cuno
Doug Meyer-Cuno is an entrepreneur, mentor, and ForbesBooks author of The Recipe For Empowered Leadership: 25 Ingredients For Creating Value & Empowering Others. He founded a food ingredients distribution company, Carolina Ingredients, and expanded it into a nationally recognized and award-winning industrial seasoning manufacturer before it was acquired by Mitsubishi in 2019. Since then he has founded Empowered Leadership, which helps entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs scale their companies by empowering their teams. Meyer-Cuno earned his BA in International Commerce from Furman University and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program.