I’ve written previously about Natural Next Steps; the things that when made known to you are intuitively the things you should start doing immediately. These may be personal or business Natural Next Steps, but either way (in hindsight), they will seem blindingly obvious, and you will feel like kicking yourself for not identifying them sooner.
Occasionally, they may come to you through a moment of inspiration or serendipity – but these moments are rare. And in the business environment you don’t have time to wait for these moments to come along. You need to go and actively hunt them down –and the only place I know where to guarantee finding them is in the territory of the three giants.
Like all creatures in a story, these three giants have names, and these giants’ names are Time, Process and Ability. These giants are very demanding on their own, but we have to go to the core of their individual territories, where they all meet, to find the Natural Next Steps for growth that we need. It’s a tough challenge working in this central territory, but certainly do-able, as long as you commit to the challenge of the giants.
The first of the giants to challenge is Time. If you are trying to out-think your competition, then hoping to do it during your coffee break isn’t recommended. Trying to do it in a 90-minute brainstorming session won’t be successful either. It’s going to take more time than is typically available in the normal working environment, so you are going to have to create more thinking time in some way. There are only two ways to do this in the business environment.
The first is to give up your job – which defeats the purpose as when you aren’t employed you don’t have any responsibility to address the issue. The second is to get someone else who has the available time to think for you. This isn’t as weird as it sounds as companies can outsource any aspect of their business if they want to, so why not outsource their thinking too?
The second giant is Process. If, as stated above, your idea of being creative is to do a spot of brainstorming then you had better get used to failure pretty damn quickly. Unfortunately, brainstorming is as effective a creative process as testicular flagellation is an effective form of meditation. You need to use a process that is robust and smart enough to ensure success – or at least use some powerful techniques that offer the likelihood of break-through thinking being achieved.
And the final giant is Ability. The ability of the people driving the thinking exercise to know what to do to ensure success, and the ability of the people who are part of the client’s team to understand the current issues and to recognise the new opportunities when they surface. Business is full of people with ability. It’s the primary filter when you were recruited into your industry or company. Some have more of it than others, but everyone in business has some ability. The skill comes in applying that ability in the right manner and at the appropriate point in the process.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to circumvent any of the giants, as we need to commit to challenging all three of them for success. To prove this, think about the last time you were trying to identify something big and bold like a business growth opportunity. Were you able to successfully challenge all three of the giants? If you weren’t as successful as you hoped, then which of the giants blocked your way forward?
Next time you want real success in your thinking – whatever the issue – visit the territory of the three giants. Just be prepared for their challenges!