Five Steps to Change Your Thinking

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When you make changes, are they coming at you from the outside in or inside out? In my 30 years of working with top leaders from business, health care, government and education, I have found that the majority of change comes from the outside in. When a new law is passed, you have to make changes in order to comply with it; when a competitor comes in offering lower prices, you probably have to change some aspect of how you do business; and when a new technology comes out that changes customer behavior, you’ll likely request that your IT department get you on the new products ASAP.

Most of us are conditioned in both our personal and professional lives to make changes based on outside factors. For example, when the stock market goes down, people often sell, and when it goes up, they buy.

Whenever change comes from the outside, we are forced to react to it. Rather than being proactive, we find ourselves constantly putting out fires and managing the latest crisis.

Instead, let’s look at two examples. Did the crowd-sourcing disruptor Kickstarter become a dominant force because it was fast to react? Was being reactionary the driving force in Facebook’s dominance in social media? Nope.

One reason for Facebook’s success is that it picked up where the limitations of other platforms left off. Kickstarter developers took a popular altruistic concept – used by Caring Bridge and others – and applied it to entrepreneurship. I sometimes call this approach to innovating a new business going in the opposite direction.

So, how do you stop reacting to outside forces and become a disruptor instead? Think about the Hard Trends that are sure to impact your organization. Think about the problems and opportunities that derive from them. What can you do now to not only pre-solve those problems before they become genuinely disruptive, but also leverage those Hard Trends into game-changing opportunities?

5 Quick Tips for Thinking Inside-Out  

It is essential to spend at least a small portion of time thinking about your future in an opportunity mode.

  1. Build thinking time into your schedule. Try spending a minimum of one hour a week unplugging from the present crisis and plugging into future opportunity.
  2. Find certainty in chaos. Instead of feeling blocked by all the things you are uncertain about in your work and life, ask yourself: What am I certain about? Those are the Hard Trends.
  3. Be Anticipatory. Based on Hard Trends, think through these key questions: What is sure to happen in the next two to three years? What problems will your company be facing? What problems will your customers be facing (and how can you address those pain points)?
  4. Dream a Little. Another good question to ask is: What is my ideal future? What are the steps to get there – whether it’s a business goal or a retirement dream? Or, it could be a bit of both.
  5. Put Ideas into Motion. Once you are clear on your vision and have identified the Hard Trends that will impact you, spend some of your opportunity time solving problems before they happen.

The level of pervasive disruption that you need comes from the inside out (making the first move) rather than the outside in (moving in response to something). What events and developments can you anticipate by using your inside-out thinking?

If you need help getting started, try my Hard Trend Methodology, which is the mindset I describe in my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage.

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