Finding the inner resources for creative, strategic thinking

It is hard to imagine ourselves being creative when we are in what feels like a crisis.  However, the same rules apply here as at any time, and let’s be honest people have come through crises far worse than this in the past.

This week, I was interviewed by two journalists for an industry-specific publication. They explained that their industry was expected to suffer badly as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Potentially it won’t recover. They wondered how senior leaders can compose themselves and their minds in order to consider “Plan B”…

Planning at this level is almost always strategic.  We need to be strategic.  Some people find this easy, others find it hard.  Regardless of which you are, constantly keep in mind that you need to be strategic and not drift into tactical tinkering.  There are four keys to creative strategic thinking; keeping an open mind, being informed, engaging with as many people as possible, and communicating.

  • Open mind = you will find this much easier if you eradicate phrases like “must”, “should”, “have to”.  If you can’t stop yourself appoint others to monitor and challenge you.
  • Being informed = gather together, and summarise in bullet-points, anything that you can glean about the BIG picture.  You know your industry – you know what the pressure points are – get as much relevant information together as you can and make sure that anything new will be captured.
  • Engaging with others = effective leaders already have a wide network and an inner cadre of confidants.  Some will be in our industry; others won’t – both have a lot to offer.  Phone them and have a virtual “coffee” together.  Every one of them will relish the moment and appreciate you even more for consulting them.  Don’t restrict yourself.  I took a call, yesterday, from someone quite senior in a charity, who I had never spoken to. He’d looked through his LinkedIn contacts and said to himself; “I wonder what that guy would say.” We spent 20 minutes on the phone.  I would like to think that we both got something useful from the conversation.
  • Communicate = by which I really mean, communicate with your executives, staff, and other employees.  The best ideas almost always come from people who are closest to the problem.  If you are struggling with what to do with a part of your organisation, THEY WILL BE THINKING ABOUT IT TOO.  So ask them! Communication needs to be honest and empathic. If in doubt, if you are planning on writing something to these people get someone else who is [even] more empathic to read through it first.  I have blogged about one person, in recent weeks, who has got this spot on.  She is Louise Richardson, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.  Her weekly messages to all staff have been grounded, honest about things she doesn’t know, and shown genuine concern for the well-being of everyone.  Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has been getting international acclaim for her daily ‘chats’ with the entire population of her country – relaxed, informed, honest, and hugely empathic.

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