Here is your December Brainstorm bulletin, with best wishes for the holiday season.
1. Look for the unusual
In an issue of Competitive Intelligence Magazine, Bradley Hoyt writes about a CIA operative who was assigned to read Russian newspapers during the Cold War.
He noticed that a small-town soccer team that always lost suddenly was winning all of its games. He ordered satellite pictures of the area and they revealed that a nuclear weapons plant had been built there. The influx of workers had given the team new and better players.
Tip: In every area of life, changes are presaged by small indicators and often, Hoyt writes, these are in the form of anomalies. To be a good strategist, keep your eyes and ears open for what’s happening in your areas of interest that doesn’t seem to fit. Then consider how these anomalies may be indicators of bigger changes about to take place.
2. Try the opposite
I have previously suggested a creativity technique in which you think of what is usually done, and then think about what is the opposite and let that lead you to a new idea. I have recently come across a great example of this, as told by film executive Peter Guber.
He was planning to make the movie, Gorillas in the Mist, but realized that it could easily go far over budget if the gorillas (which were to be filmed in the highlands of Rwanda) did not behave the way the script wanted them too. The studio was about to shelve the project when a young intern suggested letting the gorillas write the script. Asked what she meant, she suggested sending a cinematographer to get lots and lots of footage of the gorillas doing whatever they were doing, and then writing the script around that. That is how the film was made - for half the original budget!
This story illustrates not only the try the opposite technique, but also that often it is the least experienced person, in this case a young intern, who comes up with an innovative idea.
Tip: If you have not done so already, give the try-the-opposite technique a try. Do not rule anything out too quickly, instead question the assumptions you are making that someone new to the situation might not make.
3. Are you a USP?
Gerald Kushel, Professor Emeritus of mental health counselling at Long Island University, has studied Uncommonly Successful People and found that they have three important traits in common:
1. Inner calm that allows them to focus their attention and energies;
2. Clear goals and a sense of purpose;
3. A sense of adventure that allows them to take risks and cope with setbacks.
Tip: If you are missing a sense of inner calm, try meditation; if you have no goals, try writing out what you would like to achieve in your personal and business life in the next year, three years, and five years; and if you are missing a sense of adventure, find some safe ways to do something new, and determine whether risks that might be good for you can be broken down into steps to make them feel more manageable.
4. A one-minute NLP workshop
If you’re not familiar with Neuro Linguistic Programming, here is a one-minute introduction to its approach that you can use to deal with any challenge:
First, decide on your outcomes. What do you want? Be as specific as possible so you’ll know when you have it (and in the meantime, whether or not you’re moving closer to it).
Second, brainstorm a variety of ways you can reach this goal. Don’t stop at the way things are usually done—be creative to come up with other ways that might be faster, less expensive, less work.
Third, choose the actions that are most likely to lead to success and implement them.
Fourth, assess whether not these actions are taking you nearer your goal at an acceptable speed. If not, don’t just do more of the same, but do something different and compare the results it brings you. Keep up this feedback and adjustment loop until you reach your goal.
Tip: This process may sound so simple as to be only common sense…but how many people actually follow it in practice? For an excellent introduction to NLP and its key techniques, I recommend NLP Workbook, written by Joseph O’Conner and published in the U.K. by Thorsons in 2001. However, any NLP books by O’Conner, John Seymour and/or Ian McDermott are good.
5. Focus, focus, focus
According to New York Times journalist Lisa Belkin, focus is to this decade what time management was to the last one. Originally everyone lauded multi-tasking, but lately it has been derided as trying to do too many things at once.
Belkin mentions the example of the Boston doctor who left a patient mid-surgery to go to the bank for twenty minutes. The article cites two practical tips. One is turning off your mobile phone when you really want to work, but avoiding phone rage on the part of your callers by leaving a message that states when you will be returning calls. The other is booking into a hotel to work for three days, incommunicado, every couple of months. The woman who recommends this, Vickie Sullivan, claims she can cram three weeks of focused time into three days and get major projects done that wouldn’t get done otherwise.
Tip: Consider whether you are giving yourself enough time each week to focus on the things that really matter. If you cannot do this in your normal environment, consider how you could vary your routine and your locations to make this easier.
6. Closing quote
"Anybody can come up with new ideas. What's in short supply are innovative people - persistent mavericks who believe so strongly in an idea, they will do whatever it takes to make it a working reality. - Michael LeBoeuf
Til next time, Jurgen