The events that have transpired over the years since the onset of the current recessionary cycle, underscore the turbulent times all organizations face. While uncertainty is troubling, the time of greatest organizational opportunity is found when the business environment is experiencing its greatest turbulence.
If one looks at when the greatest industrial giants started, it was during times of upheaval and turbulence. Greats like Rockefeller, Carnegie and J.P. Morgan emerged out of the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer and Microsoft emerged from the shift to an electronic society. This leap to greatness is made possible by the fact that during times of turbulence many of the traditional paradigms that govern business are shattered. Companies and whole markets begin to seek out new solutions to the problems brought about by the forces of change. Creative thinking and decision-making can greatly enhance leaders’ success during turbulent times.
Rather than mourn the loss of business or bemoan internal changes brought about by recessionary pressures or from intensified market competition, leaders begin seeking new opportunities that present themselves in the prevailing market conditions. One thing is certain: organizations are not going back to the business models that governed them prior to 2007. They are seeking new ways to enhance productivity and profitability, and therein lies the opportunity for any leader who wishes to seek it out.
However, each should acknowledge that in times of turbulence, the ability to anticipate problems, situations and opportunities dramatically increases their chances of success.
If leaders wish to take advantage of the turbulence in their markets they must apply creative thinking skills that enhance their decision-making and enable them to step ‘outside the box.’ The resultant shift in thinking allows them to design and develop new solutions to address their workplace and organizational problems. It is also a necessary component for pinpointing available but oftentimes hidden opportunities. These demand a creative thinking process consisting of the following steps:
Understanding Personal Influences
All leaders are influenced by their own impressions of reality. This creates a personal bias that shapes their perception of the present and future. Typically these perceptions are created from personal and professional past or recurring experiences. This is exemplified by military generals who plan for future wars and conflicts based on lessons learned from past engagements. The leaders that emerged from World War II—Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton—began as colonels and majors. The conflict gave them the ability to shine as leaders.
This highlights the crucial importance of managers transforming themselves into positive and effective leaders. More than ever, today’s leaders need to be driven by their zealous view of the possibilities held by the future, as defined by their vision. Leaders learn to rid themselves of their personal biases and look to what is possible and then actively, consistently and passionately work toward specific goals that will achieve it. In this way their perceptions of the past do not negatively influence their outlook on the future: this is where opportunity resides.
Once leaders understand that which impacts and influences their personal perceptions, they can take them into account as they anticipate the future. This allows them to actually step outside of their self-imposed limitations to see things in a creative light as never before—and to think and plan accordingly.
Leaders must apply divergent thinking skills to understand and discover more than one right answer to any problem. Included in this classification is the “what if” thinking scenario. Divergent thinking allows leaders to seek the possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. Additionally, polished divergent thinking skills allow leaders to remove the personal biases and perceptions that normally work to distort or eliminate creative possibilities. Doing this aids them in fully exploring all possibilities, thoughts and ideas from various perspectives and angles.
Once leaders have examined all of the possibilities available to them, they must use convergent thinking skills to focus on the integration of data and prioritize available choices. This is where leaders apply analysis skills to determine the economic feasibility of each choice and determine its impact and the ramifications upon the organization and workplace.
Mapping, another word for planning, is the leader’s capacity to draw the pathways that show how he or she will get from the present to the future. In others words, it is the ability to formulate objectives that lead the organization toward the accomplishment of the overall goal or desired outcome.
Imaging is the ability to draw visual pictures or representations using words, graphs, models or drawings to effectively communicate the vision and intended course of the organization. This allows a leader to effectively communicate his or her vision of its future direction and to highlight opportunities as they present themselves. It is vital that leaders present options, opportunities, ideas and pathways to the vision’s attainment in a way that can be easily understood by their employees and others.
Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 16.95 USD