“I’ve really got to use my imagination – To think of good reasons – To keep on keepin’ on”        …..Gladys Knight and the Pips

Have you ever heard this song?  It’s an early version of an almost worn out contemporary expression – think outside the box.  Generally, when we have performance/behavior issues within the business (or the family), we tend to follow a relatively safe process:

  1. Talk to the people closest to the problem.
  2. Listen to their response and then discount their solutions because they are too close to the problem.
  3. Talk to industry experts about the problem.
  4. Listen to their response and discount their solution/recommendation because we’ve been there, done that.
  5. Chalk it up to “that’s just the way it is”.

Now, if you really want to get outside the box, go find some industry inexperienced street smart people you trust and ask them for their opinions.  Since they have no investment in the status quo, you increase the likelihood of receiving responses that give you fresh perspectives. 

When you hear their answers, resist the temptation to respond by saying “But you don’t really understand . . .”  That may be a challenge; but remember the power of “what if”, and begin stretching your imagination to envision ways that their suggestions could have valuable application. 

Frank Kern, a senior vice president for IBM Global Services, released the findings of a recent survey of 1,500 CEO’s regarding their thoughts about the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.  Given the title of this article, the result probably comes as no surprise.  According to Kern, “creativity – not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication”  is the outstanding characteristic required for a bullish future.

Imagination and visionary thinking help distinguish good organizations from great ones.  Leaders – this includes more than the CEO and/or the owners – in great organizations overcome the “play it safe” inertia by doing the following:

  1. They clearly identify what they want to have happen;
  2. They begin itemizing the action steps required;
  3. They give someone authority, responsibility, and accountability for implementation;
  4. They set realistic dates for completion;
  5. They provide resources – people, time, and money – necessary for success; and,
  6. They define what success looks like before they ever start.

The secret seems to be “fear not”.  In the words of Roy H. Williams, “it is by attempting the ridiculous that we accomplish the miraculous.”  Or, as I would say it, suspend disbelief. 

 Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay informed on how to overcome related succession planning issues.