When a word is so over-used (I’m looking at you, Strategy), I like to bring it back to its hometown and remind it of its roots (hello, Critical Thinking). The journey reminds us of some of the key ways Thinking, so often neglected in a world demanding intense productivity, solves some of our greatest challenges.
And remember, when I refer to Thinking, I’m also talking about Strategy – business, marketing and brand strategy. Relationship, networking and prospecting strategy. Balance, health and lifstyle strategy.
When you pause to listen, observe, reflect and avoid the temptation to get distracted or “do” something that feels more productive, important details will float up from your unconscious to your conscious, critcial thinking mind. A simple walk around the block does wonders to dislodge that stagnating thought just waiting for you to stop harassing yourself with to-do’s and action plans.
Budgeting time to think allows us to truly observe and appreciate the subject – be it a content, a conversation, or the personality of your favourite client. When we consciously appreciate something, we are programming our minds to look for more of those qualities in the world. As problem-solving machines, we tend towards the negative qualities. When we consciously think – or again, strategize – we are shifting that focus towards the positive qualities we want in our business, our relationships and in how we present ourselves to the world. As the infamously wise “they” said, “what you focus on grows.”
Case in Point:I asked a Wealth Management client: “Describe to me your favourite past or present client, starting with their name and personality.” Pause. This client, like so many, had been so conditioned to think about their “target audience” as vague demographics, that it took them a moment to get into a meaningful description. Once they thought about it, they considered how their best clients are in their case “exhausted perfectionists” and “totally lost but don’t know it.” And my client loves them because they help them feel heard and educate them during every financial consultation.
3. Sunshine After the Brainstorm
Ideas get tossed around like so many wildflower seeds during a good brainstorm. The magic really happens when the idea people let those seeds germinate after the meeting. Critical Thinking is the sunshine that coaxes those seeds into life and clarifies whether they’re going to be precious ideas or distracting weeds. To act on a few hot topic ideas right out of a brainstorm is a gamble.
4. Process Feelings
Even our most straightforward tasks are tethered to our emotional state. However, feeling foggy, insecure, upset or excited will divert your energy away from idea-forming thought bubbles. At other times, the very frustration of feeling stuck trying to forge an idea will be the thing that stop you (aren’t brains fun?). Giving yourself space to think freely, even if it’s about perfecting your pasta salad recipe, or the 3 things you love about your favourite person, will take the baby idea out of the corner.
Case in Point:One of the Tech Startup companies for whom I am a fractional CMO contacted me in a blaze of excitement – leading to launch, there was an avalanche of ideas and must-do’s and must-have’s. The genuine trepidation of launching coupled with an undercurrent of fear led to them wanting to throw all their money at anything that could appease their nervousness. After laying out their list of deliverables, starting with the top 3 most valuable and pressing items, I told them to ruminate and consider what would be most valuable for the launch. I then got a wonderfully predictable email back: “After some thought – yes, let’s start with #1, #2, and #3, and go from there. Phew, I can breathe now.”
5. Echoing Voices
Perhaps most importantly when working with others or in a team setting, is allowing your mind to recite what others contribute to the conversation, whether in passing or at “the big meeting.” Diversifying your thought is as much about listening when someone is sharing an idea or thought, as it is about entertaining those concepts in your mind in a quiet moment, and allowing that clear reflection to help you decide what to adopt.
With all that said, Critical Thinking is the crux of strategy, so be skeptical of anyone who already has a million ideas for your design or content needs. They’re probably recycled, and we don’t want that.