Too much busyness keeps us from becoming who we might have become, had we given ourselves the space. This is a tricky reality for modern enterprises and the people tasked with strategic thinking within them.
My area of specialty is collaborative business culture. I am a strategic advisor to senior executives at some of the world’s biggest companies, many of which are in a state of transformation.
Culture is a complex issue. While every organization faces its own challenges, I can share a few that are common to most senior executives within enterprises in the midst of a modern transformation.
Strategists Need Time to Think
Chaos will always be easier than simplicity to achieve, and as a result, we will often feel frazzled, with our backs against the wall. But if you are in charge of strategy within your organization, you need to give yourself time to concentrate. Period. If you aren’t regularly scheduling blocks of time to focus and allow your brain to play out various future scenarios, then you’re just toggling back and forth and losing the opportunity to live up to your full potential as a strategist.
The Corner Office Fantasy
Someone once told me that in the military, as soon as someone has a star on his shoulder, he starts managing his career and loses sight of the organization’s goals. I don’t have military experience, but I understand what he meant. It’s like the old corner office fantasy, and the steps once taken to get there. In an enterprise, as budgets shift and shrink, those who can balance their own short term perspectives, frustrations and ambitions against the long term health of the organization are the most valuable leaders.
The path now has changed, and the ones who get ahead now are those who see new opportunities in new dynamics. Advancement has shape-shifted. The new leaders are energetic, visionary, and not afraid to take risks on their way to the top.
Seeing the Big Picture
The complexity of some of the world’s biggest companies is staggering, and in the past, the sheer scope of so many moving parts required silos. That’s changing now, thanks in large part to creative thinkers and great algorithms. This new dynamic has created the crushing need for a matching mindset shift on the same scale. This isn’t easy, and it requires trust.
Lots of teams claim to have it, few do. Trust is a hard concept to nail down. What does it mean, really? That you believe someone will do what you’d like them to do, and when they don’t, they’ve violated your belief in them? No. Trust means that you believe in someone else’s ability and strength. With things changing so quickly, no one person knows or understands everything. Many large companies are now focused on learning to take risks, which is an unusual leap for many big enterprises accustomed to moving at a slow pace. It’s important to cultivate a level of trust that gives team members at the most senior level the sense that they have space to explore this new mindset, and to rely on each other’s strengths as they go.
I don’t mean to suggest that putting these concepts into practice is easy–but it is necessary. And when you’re at your busiest, surprise yourself by giving yourself space to think, to walk on the beach and find empty chairs that seem as if they were put there just for you to stop, catch your breath and let an idea arise. It just might be the thing that changes your team’s focus for the better, contributes to the big picture, and justifies all the trust your colleagues have in your abilities.
Rita J King is the EVP for Business Development at Science House, a cathedral of the imagination in Manhattan focused on the art and science of doing business. She is a strategist who specializes in the development of collaborative culture by making organizational culture visible so it can be measured and transformed. She is a senior advisor to The Culture Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, and a Fellow at the Salzburg Global Forum. She makes Mystery Jars, writes about the future for Fast Company and invents story architecture, characters and novel technologies for film and TV as a futurist for the Science and Entertainment Exchange.