As leaders, we can often get stuck in ruts, talking to the same people every day and thinking the same way as everyone else.
To breakthrough and come up with new and innovative ideas and approaches to problems and issues, we need to seek out and foster fresh and original perspectives.
1. Get out of the office
We need to get out of our offices and into the field meeting with our team and meeting with customers, both current and prospective. Spending time with our employees on the front lines certainly helps us to know about what is really going in our companies.
2. Listen (really listen) to the team
Getting out into the field and interacting with the team is useless if we do not listen to our team’s perspectives and ideas. Two insights to help in our listening:
- We need to always get the views of our employees first. When we give our views first, most employees will just shut down and not give their true opinion as they are afraid of contradicting what we have just said.
- When our team comes to us with problems and issues, we need to ensure that they come prepared with their proposed solution to the problem. And then, we need to hear this solution before giving our viewpoint.
3. Practice diversity
Yes, we want to ensure that we have people of diverse sexes, races and creeds on our teams. But, true diversity is more than that. True diversity means hiring people of diverse ages, diverse backgrounds, diverse experience.
- We want people with industry experience; we want people without industry experience.
- We want company veterans; we want people new to the company.
- We want people who are sales focused; we want people who are operations – focused.
- We want the young and tech-savvy; we want grizzled “old-timers.”
The more diverse a team we have, the more and different ideas and insights that we will get. Thus, each key member of our teams brings their diverse background, life experiences, and expertise to bear in a different way.
4. Study and read widely
We need to continue to study and read widely. Business books, biographies, business and news magazines, and both fiction and non-fictions books and articles will often point the way to different solutions that may have worked in similar circumstances. Importantly, we need to ensure that we are reading several books, studies and articles that no one else is reading even if that means reading what we do not agree with.
It is the mark of an uneducated person to only read books he or she agrees with. The educated person reads books he or she disagrees with. Lord Acton
5. Rest and Vacate
As I have written about previously (The Sweetness of Doing Nothing), we all need to take off (completely off) at least one day a week and at least two weeks a year to get away from the office. This gives us time to get out of the daily tactical battles and step back and think about the bigger issues from a broader perspective. Instead of flying close to the ground, getting away allows us to fly at 30,000 feet and take in the whole picture.
Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen. Leonardo da Vinci
Business today, more than ever, needs us, as leaders, to come up with clever and innovative solutions to our business problems. With these five suggestions, we can foster fresh perspectives and (as Apple said) “think different” to solve those problems.