It has become something of a very worn-out cliché, but the concept is still valid: business owners must be able to innovate and think beyond their habitual ways of thinking in order to survive, to grow, to thrive. It is no surprise to anyone that the world seems to change daily.
Things Change. Do You?
Social media, technology, cultural mores – what was accepted as true a year ago may not be true today. What worked wonders in sales when you launched your business might not be nearly as effective today. And who knows about next year?
What does it mean, really, to “think outside the box”?
For a small business owner it means, among other things, breaking out of the reactionary and myopic thought patterns that have been rehearsed and ingrained for years. It also means confronting the fear and discomfort of unfamiliar approaches and potentially risky considerations. Safe is easier. Familiar is comfortable.
That’s the “box”.
How to See Outside the Box
Here are three tactics that will help you to look outside of your box:
1. Take Time Away.
This means literally taking time – during your work day – and stop working. Go somewhere that is not your office, your shop, your store. Go outside and take a walk. Catch a bus and ride a route and back again. Go away and take some time to think outside of and away from the familiar crush of your work environment. And take a notebook…
2. Read Other Books.
Business owners are an interesting lot when it comes to reading habits. Some consume business books and self-help books like candy. Others avoid books – all books – like dental appointments. And most make a valiant attempt to keep up on whatever business books are currently hot or have been recommended.
First, if you own a business or are any other kind of leader, you have to read. Leaders are readers.
Secondly, you need to learn to read WIDELY and read DEEPLY. Your mind, your character, and your leadership are not two-dimensional. Stretch and expand your horizons. Regularly.
3. Shop Your World.
We’ve all heard the admonition to “shop your competition”. You should do that, but there is far more in your world than other business owners who are probably busy thinking away inside their own boxes.
Look around you at all the businesses, museums, government agencies, non-profit entities, social events, schools – your world is jam-packed with a myriad of people doing things in new and different ways, selling their products, services, causes, etc. in any number of ways, using any number of techniques, tactics, and tools.
Your world is a playground of ideas, inspiration and knowledge. Go check it out, ask questions, think about it, take notes… and take it all in.
Give Attention With Purpose
There is one other facet that needs to inform and direct these three activities. That is the approach of what I call Attention and Intention.
You should purposely be acutely aware of what you are seeing, hearing and experiencing. And you should approach these with singular purpose.
In other words, pay attention not only to what you think, read, or see, but how it resonates with you, what it triggers in you, and how it connects with your world, your business, your needs. And be very intentional in your thinking time, in your reading, and in “shopping” your world. These are not simply random activities that will magically cause you to become an innovative genius.
It is work.