Getting into a Breakthrough Frame of Mind

During this time of economic recovery it can be an opportune period to rediscover and even reinvent your business. The following ideas can help create the conditions for breakthrough thinking:

1. Unlock yourself from your expectations and be open to possibilities. Stay objective and open to many solutions. Locking in on one pathway or solution too early prohibits you from potentially discovering a much more effective way forward.

2. Review the opportunity or problem as you understand it. Review any data and information gathered, and ask if there are any untapped sources of further information.

3. Engage in experimentation. Make small investments in these trials and observe the outcomes. Outline the goal, but don’t dictate the solution prematurely. For example, we sometimes become so fixated on meeting financial goals that we forget that they were targets. We focus on the number, and not the assumptions behind the number that can change with current conditions.

4. Focus your attention on what you want to see happen, rather than what you do not want to occur. Rather than stating, "We don’t want to disappoint the customer" (which may result in you and your staff focusing on ways you are or could be disappointing the customer), reframe it as, "The customer will be thrilled by our product," which will turn your attention to all the ways the customer will be satisfied and retained. Make "Wouldn’t it be great if…" statements and avoid playing the devil’s advocate, especially early in the process.

These steps help lay the groundwork for breakthrough thinking and action, particularly during times of economic uncertainty.

Lisa Gundry Professor of Management Director, The Center for Creativity & Innovation DePaul University, Chicago

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