7 simple ways to boost your capacity as a strategic thinker
When you reach a certain level of leadership – you are employed to think not just do! Being able to think creatively, solve problems and create new and innovative ideas will have you stand out in the crowd and put you in a powerful position.
Innovation, creative thinking and problem solving are becoming increasingly important skills for all leaders to foster. Organisations are hungry for employees who can see things from a new perspective, solve long-standing problems with simple changes and really drive progress within the business.
I once thought that I wasn’t creative, able to think strategically or to come up with innovative ideas. I now recognise that actually I am … I just hadn’t nurtured these skills or learnt how to create the best environments for me to allow my creative juices to run free.
Here are 7 surprisingly simple ways to boost your capacity as a strategic thinker.
1. Create thinking time.
It is near impossible to be creative, let alone productive when you are surrounded by distractions or on high alert for the distractions that are likely to come your way.
Put aside a chunk of time in your calendar each week dedicated for work that requires thinking clearly and creatively such as specific project work, big picture planning or nutting out a problem. Turn off your phone, shut down your emails and find a quiet space.
2. Manage your mood.
Research has found that we do our best creative work when we feel positive. We tend to be bolder and more focused on solutions and what is possible when we feel good. Think about what gets you in a positive mood. Is it heading out for a quick coffee with colleagues, is it meditating in the mornings before work or hitting the gym?
3. Find your creative space.
Our work environment plays a huge part in our ability to think strategically and creatively.
One leader I worked with was struggling to come up with a business strategy that was innovative or inspiring. She felt bogged down and void of new ideas. Not surprising really… she was working in a classified area of the Defence Force requiring her to conduct all her work in a windowless bunker!
I wonder where your creative space is? Is it a café, sitting on a park bench or your kitchen bench after the kids have gone to bed? Wherever it is … plan to spend more time there. Not only will it be good for your ability to think creatively and strategically, you will also see your productivity take off.
4. Get exercising.
We know exercise is good for us for lots of reasons and here’s another… studies have shown that exercise can improve our ability to think creatively.
I love the way it’s explained in this Psychology Today article:
“Sweat is like WD-40 for your mind—it lubricates the rusty hinges of your brain and makes your thinking more fluid. Exercise allows your conscious mind to access fresh ideas that are buried in the subconscious.”
So … get into motion and notice the ideas begin to flow.
5. Extend your boundaries.
There is a very good reason why training programs usually involve butchers’ paper and colour textas. It is to encourage us to return to our childlike exploration of ideas and to remove the limits and linear thinking that comes with lined paper or the standard work document.
To get ideas flowing ditch the computer and map out your thoughts on flip paper or a white board. Go analogue. Breakthroughs rarely happen on a laptop! And science backs this up. Apparently, paper and pixels access different parts of our brain.
6. Find some friends.
You are no doubt smart. It may be your responsibility … but you don’t have all the answers. Very often the best solutions and ideas happen through collaboration.
Reach out to your team, colleagues and mentors to bounce ideas around with. Ladies, we are known for our strength as collaborators so let’s put that skill to work. Stop believing you need to do it all. You don’t!
7. Be Inspired.
We do not find new solutions or become more creative by maintaining the status quo. New ideas come when we step outside what we already know and experience new things.
Explore new places, seek out new experiences, visit places of inspiration, engage in wild and crazy conversations to extend your thinking of what is possible and expand your horizons by immersing in the works of the brightest thought leaders of today.
Building your capacity to think creatively and strategically is just like building any muscle.
It takes persistence, practice and perseverance. We were all born creative but somewhere along the way it gets beaten out of us. We are told to colour between the lines, to be like everyone else and to follow the rules.
If you want to create innovating marketing ideas, develop game changing strategies or to solve the challenges that are thrown your way day in day out, you must flex your creative muscle. See this as a critical skill you can develop.
Be bold. Be brave and have some fun.