I was surrounded by mid-sized business leaders from around the world at the recent EntreLeadership Summit when I was reminded that kiwi businesses are really good at innovation. We have to be, as the New Zealand market is too small to provide sustainable business growth for anyone with big aspirations.
However, whilst we may be great at thinking of new ways to do things, New Zealand businesses are still not thinking big enough. Overseas contemporaries do not allow the market to place constraints on their business and are adapting faster to global markets and trends than we are. They are thinking global rather than local, right from the outset – and are getting a competitive advantage by doing so.
Simon Sinek attended the leadership summit and spoke confidently of how he saw the business leaders of tomorrow acting. One of the pieces of wisdom he offered, which has stuck with me, was the idea that CEO’s need to change their names to CVO (Chief Vision Officer) and adopt the mantra of “I didn’t come this far only to come this far”. This simple idea – conveys the need for business leaders to keep their vision within sight and not let small thinking get in the way of the goal.
So what do you need to do to shake off small thinking, compete on the world stage and achieve sustainable business growth? Here are my recommendations:
When we set goals we tend to overestimate what we can achieve in one year and underestimate what we can achieve in 10 years. So forget about the realities of now and think about what will be possible tomorrow, no matter how improbable it might seem. Where do you want your company to be in 15 years, 20 years, 30? In other words, what is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)? Remember though, that your BHAG must still be in line with the purpose of your company.
Think of Possibilities, Not Possibles
When thinking about where you are going to be in 2035, do not get caught up in the how and what you need to do to get there, just yet. Otherwise, you will get pulled into thinking small again. When you commit to a BHAG, the questions you ask yourself are different from those you ponder over with small goals.
Play to Win
When you focus too much on what can go wrong, you can fall into the trap of being a possum in the headlights and not go anywhere. Ask yourself “are you playing not to lose or are you playing to win?” If you are playing to win, then you tend to focus more on options and opportunities. If you play not to lose, you tend to be reactionary, cautious and close-minded to possibility.
Test the boundaries
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Thinking big means thinking outside of the norm and Outthinking your competitors. If you are not a little scared or feel sick about the ideas you are having, then you are not thinking big enough. As Simon Sinek said, “if you are not willing to blow up your own company, the market will.” Sustainable business growth, innovation and disruption often go hand in hand.
Take an OE
New Zealand is geographically far away from the rest of the world and sometimes this means that we become quite isolated in our thinking, and think small in terms of the scope of our business. Having a small population does not help either. So take some time to visit your overseas suppliers, attend seminars and/or simply take a look around at what else the world has to offer. Being in a different setting can also help you identify new possibilities that you are not exposed to in your own environment. Get away from the office and go somewhere where you can be distracted by something new for a short time. It is true – travel does broaden the mind, especially in business.
Talk to Others
Sharing your ideas with others is important, but make sure they are people you can trust. You also want to stay away from the following personalities whilst you are thinking big:
- The practical person – practicality narrows a team’s vision. Their intentions are good, but they keep the team looking at the problem that needs solving today and not the possibilities of tomorrow.
- The expert – they have seen it all and want to prove it. They only restrict thinking outside of the square, however, and you will miss seeing new opportunities when they are around.
- The ‘stick with what works’ person – their catchphrase is “why bother thinking about this when we already know that what we are doing now works.” This type of thinking just keeps you small and stuck in the same pattern.
Thinking big is best done with the support of others, either with your leadership team or a business advisor. If you need help to guide you through this process and help to keep the ideas flowing and in line with your purpose – give me a call.
For more reading on translating big ideas into competitive advantage and business growth – check out my recent article: Why Thinking Big Is Not Enough To Sustain Business Growth.