The famed CEO of GE for 20 years would say we get stuck in a period of mediocrity. We feel like what we’re doing is nothing special – it really isn’t standing out from the rest. So, how do we get up from the pile?

Welch recommended thinking.

He observed that 99% of people don’t actively think. Rather, they react to the situations that are around them. Maybe you’re in the 1% minority. Then this message may be useful for your peers and staff who make up the 99%!

It starts with asking a question that enables you to think…really think. It’s the start of deeper insight into the situation, the path out of the pile.

Thinking takes time, it takes intention and it take courage to face things you haven’t wanted to face before. Thinking is the hardest work you will ever do as a leader. It’s also is the killer app that separates the highly successful from the rest of the pile.

Einstein Thinking

Here are some Tips to get you into the Habit of Intentional Thinking:

  1. Find a Quiet Place – Unless you can intentionally get away to a quiet place with no distractions, no interruptions and one seeking answers from you, you won’t be able to get the benefits from thinking. The less technology you drag along, the better this will go – you know that.
  2. Focus the Time – Purposely schedule it at a time that’s your most productive, creative and energetic time of day. Set a timer for 30-40 minutes, no more. Focus on one question you want to think into deeply. Bring just a blank legal pad and a pen.
  3. Shape Your Thoughts – Write down 20 ideas to answer the one question. At first, this can feel daunting. It may take most of your allotted time to come up with the first 10 ideas. Just write down everything that comes, regardless of how ridiculous it may seem. You’ll get better with practice. Don’t stop with 20 – your best ideas often come after you think you’ve tapped out.
  4. Test Your Ideas – When you’re done pouring out ideas, submit them to a fitness test by asking:
    • Does it come from reliable assumptions?
    • Does it align with the values and vision of my organization?
    • Does it make sense given the structure and strengths of the organization?
    • How would the idea actually take shape in your organization?
    • What would it cost to pursue?
    • What other resources would be required?
    • How long would it take to implement?From this kind of scrutiny, you can narrow the original list of ideas to one or two viable concepts to further flesh out with your team.
  1. Stretch Your Ideas – It’s no secret that some of my best thinking has been done by others. Maybe you too? Sharing your ideas with others on your team or in your inner circle helps to expand your thinking into strategies and plans that have real teeth in them.
  2. Land Your Concept – Now your refined concept must become a concrete strategy. You’ve got to decide who will own it. Who will champion the idea and move it forward? Who will relationally prepare the way for the idea to touch down safely? There will be ramifications, and not all of them will be welcomed. People naturally resist change that’s imposed on them, but embrace change they help to create. Practically, this means winning the support of key decision-makers and communicating clearly with those most likely to be affected by the strategy’s implementation.
  3. Fly Your Strategy – Years ago, I had a desire to learn to fly an airplane. I took flying lessons where I was actually in the plane, in the air, learning from an experienced pilot. He let me charge down the runway and take off. He taught me how to keep the plane in the air and get from place to place. And he taught me how to land the plane. Let’s just say I’ve lived to tell about it. Likewise, to fly a strategy, you first need to learn firsthand how it’s going to work. Testing your idea on a small scale exposes its weaknesses and strengths before a major roll-out.

This whole process starts with asking yourself a question and setting the stage for you to actually think deeply into the question. If you are having some trouble getting started, this is where the services of a highly qualified business coach can help. If you need to find one of these, let us know – we know where you can find one!

Inspired from friend and mentor, John Maxwell, in his article entitled, “Thinking Your Way To The Top.”