Business Problem Solving: Brain Tricks
Is your business stuck ? Could your brain be the problem ?
As a business owner, no one is more expert on your business than you. Hell, you conceived the business in the first place, and nurtured it daily, making every key decision and learning from every mistake. No one else has walked the entirety of this journey in your shoes.. when it comes to your, specific business, you are “it” when it comes to understanding what it does , how it does it and why the world needs what your company does.
If your business is stuck in a rut, surely the best place to find the answer is inside your head !
Unfortunately, the very engine that has powered your meteoric rise, your brain, is the self same instrument that can blind you to the secrets of further success.
The trouble with the brain is it likes to take short cuts. One of the reasons it is so efficient is that it is well practised in the art of pattern matching and précis. It builds a library of core assumptions and will rarely, if ever, revisit these. The more fundamental that pattern is, the more rigidly it underpins the rest of your decision making apparatus.
Now, that core decision, those base assumptions, are usually pretty sound. They were the best answers you could have come up with at the point when they were established and have served you well for many years. However.. once in a while, every so often, particularly if you find yourself frustrated with progress on a particular task, especially if that task is running a business, one of the most powerful techniques you can use to find the way forward is to turn everything, and I mean everything you hold sacred about the foundations of your business upside down ! No, I'm not talking about fine tuning the marketing message, or restructuring the sales management... i'm talking REALLY basic. You need to be prepared to question the very existence of your enterprise and your role in it. Scary eh ? Forcing an existentialist crisis … can things really be so bad that you have to stand completely naked in front of yourself and judge with brutal honesty ?
Calm down though, I'm only asking you to think the unthinkable, you are not obliged to do anything... other than identify, acknowledge and blow the cob webs off those sacred tenets of your business and revalidate their accuracy and worth.
Many, probably all, these foundation stones have supported your business without question since the time you sat round the dinner table with your wife/husband/best friend etc and announced to them “ I've got an idea for a business, and you know what, I think it can actually work “
Relax... the chances are the 99% of these foundation are rock solid...maybe even 100%.... but, you won't know till you've braved the spiders, gone down into the basement of your brain and dared to look. Challenged yourself to entertain the possibility that the same foundation stone could be positioned at a different angle or that another stone, possibly the corner stone its self upon which your entire business was built, could be removed with no structural weakening because the rest of the structure now bares that load.
Two brains are better than one.
The first thing to understand about radical thinking is that you have two brains !
Well, to be accurate you have one brain with two hemispheres, but they hardly
ever talk to each other, so you might as well see them as two independent brains.
The left hemisphere, the dominant one in most people, is like a computer. It is
looking to get to an answer as quickly as possible, it is very logical and,
logically enough, re-uses as many previously processed decisions as it can to get
to a rapid conclusion. Its favourite catch phrase is “ yea, been there, done that.. move on”
The right hemisphere is much more laid back, much more interested in creativity than conclusion, much more of a journey over destination sort of a guy. Its favourite phrase is, “Yea, been there, done that, wow that was fun ! I wanna do it again, but this time with funky new twist.. just to see what happens”.
Techniques to turn your world upside down and inside out.
Chances are that you have built your business with you left brain. Businesses are very logical, process driven entities. If you were completely right brain dominant, you'd be like Vincent Van Gough, producing great innovative products but never having the commercial nous to make any money.
Left brain is good, but once in a while.. just occasionally, it helps to switch it off for an hour and see what crazy shit the right brain can come up with. Before you do, however, you'll need old “Spock brain” first, and to keep it happy, you can let it use a spreadsheet ! ( disappointingly for “Lefty,” you won't need any complex functions or formulas, just a set of boxes to write down subject headings in. TBH, any scrap of paper will do)
Now, go to your diary and book out 1 hour per week for the next 6 weeks. ( jeez, that scared you didn't it )
Write down the 5 key words from your elevator pitch
( for those unfamiliar with the elevator pitch, it is a concise description of your business that can be delivered in under a minute- every business should have one)
Write down 5 words that describe what your competitors would say about your business
Write down 5 words that describe what your customers would say about your business
Write down 5 words that describe what your staff would say about your business
You now have 20 words ( see my lefty can add up like Stephen Hawkins ).
OK, ask a friend, colleague or complete stranger to give you a random word. Anything will do. Go to google images and type it in. Print off the 7th image you get.
On the back of the print out, write down ( in any order) your 20 words, not as a list but as a shape that resembles the image you have just printed off.
( Note, if your word picture looks like this, then it
is probably best to turn on “ safe search” in google images
and start again. This is, after all, a business exercise and
being the boss you do need to maintain a level of professionalism
in the workspace :-)
Get your coat, you are going for a walk !
Not a long walk, maybe twenty minutes/half an hour. Round the block, or in the park... anywhere you like.
Take your picture but not your phone. The idea now is to just enjoy the walk, look at the sky, listen to the birds .If the weather is nice, thats wonderful, if its raining or worse.. still go... enjoy the rhythm of the rain beating down on your brolly, see how the normal scenery of your journey looks reflected in the puddles... just switch you left brain off completely and try not to think !
OK this wont be easy, “Lefty McLeft-Brain” will be pretty pissed off that you are ignoring him, he'll certainly have something to say. Most probably “ Yea, got this now, worked out what all this hippy shit is about, sorted ! You can get back to the office now and get on with some real work “
He's wrong ! Get your picture out and look at it till he shuts up, then carry on your walk, feeling the weather, seeing the scenery, hearing the sounds and smelling the... err... smells ! Every time you get un-distracted, look at your picture till it all calms down and carry on your walk till you get back to the office.
Within 10 minutes of returning to your office you will instantly know the answer to all your challenges !
That's what you want isn't it ? THE answer ??
Oh boy, that is such a left brain attitude !
Sorry, but right brain doesn't work like that. Right brain is like a fine wine, or a great cheese or a classic whiskey. It takes it's time, it mulls things over, and it doesn't come up with answers... it comes up with perspectives ! Left brain likes to microwave, Right brain likes to marinade, it infuses subtle flavours rather than just making things hot as quickly as possible.
“Righty” might take days or weeks to play with the new puzzle you have gifted it and it will never shout “eureka ! “
Don't get me wrong, there will be a Eureka moment. It will come from our old mate Left Brain, but it will be inspired by the smells and music and colours drifting across the Medial Longitudinal Fissure from the party going on in Right Hemisphere's house.
Cool, you're done ! Till your next appointment ( you did book your next walk in the diary, didn't you ?)
Next time will be the same routine. That random image will be new, the key words will be different ( pick a subject you want to work with and look at it from at least three perspectives ) but, in principal, it's the same process.
Oh, and one last thing. Before you start next weeks exercise, make a note of any ideas about your business that you have come up with in the intervening 7 days... you might just surprise yourself.