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Can you Out-Think?

Your bosses, your clients, your competitors and yourself

Can you out-think
Can you out-think

Last week, I had an opportunity to interact with Madan Bahal, Managing Director of Adfactors PR Pvt Ltd. Of the many things that we discussed, one of thing that caught my attention was a topic that he chose to brainstorm with his account managers, at one of the monthly brainstorming sessions he has with his employees across all levels. This topic was quite different from what you can expect from a brainstorming session of a PR firm. He asked a very simple question to his managers – “Can you Out-think, Your bosses, your clients or for that matter yourself?” The answer was a quick – Yes! The next obvious question was then why don’t we? There were many answers given by each one but the most common was – ‘FEAR’. Most people said that the primary reason, they don’t try to out-thinker even think differently than their bosses or clients, is the fear of being ridiculed and laughed at.

After the interaction, I was stuck with the thought – on why we normally don’t out-think? What really stops us from thinking differently? Why don’t we come up with solutions that surpass the intelligence of our bosses or our clients? Hence decided to explore this topic further with the help  of this forum and learn how best we can inculcate the habit of out-thinking in everything that we do.

While researching on this subject, I stumbled upon a book called – ‘Outthink the Competition’ by Kaihan Krippendorff, which hid real gems within it. The author said, “Out-thinkers, see opportunities others ignore, challenge dogma others accept as truth, rally resources others cannot influence, and unleash new strategies that disrupt their markets.”

Today our business is slowly but steadily undergoing a paradigm shift in the way we do business. For many years we have been practising the business of public relations in the same manner and little had really changed. But with the emergence of new technology and new media, the way people consume news and information is drastically changing. Social Media, Brand journalism, content marketing will leave little room for traditional run-of-the-mill strategies or laundry list of tactics to gain visibility or safeguard reputation of our clients. We will have to soon equip ourselves with new ways of thinking and acting to become and stay effective in this newly defined environment.

But the devil is in the routine, after some years of being in business, we start doing things by habit. Our thoughts on what is possible and what is not; get constrained by the paradigms we create around us. We create rules in our heads for working in our organization and in the overall industry based on our past experiences.

In our daily lives, we are constantly bombarded by a multitude of never ending jobs. We are by default multi-tasking. While attending a meeting, we check/write reports, answer emails, send out reminders to clients & associates. While traveling or even walking we – sms/chat, while working on our computers, we simultaneous shuffle between 10 different windows. Such daily routine only takes us away from applying our minds to think differently while approaching a problem or new situation. We need to slowdown; we need to sometimes pull ourselves out of daily rigmarole and try to think, removing all our blinders. To be an out-thinker, we need to challenge the existing norms and the everyday way of doing things.

For our own and organisations’ benefit, we need to overcome our fear of being ridiculed or labelled stupid. Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” People who try and stop us, most of the times do it out of their own insecurities; if we stop then they win. Finally the choice is ours; companies like Apple and Google would have been never successful, if they would have stopped when the so called thinkers asked them to or ridiculed them for their efforts and ideas.

Organisations need to create an atmosphere of free thinking within their teams. Leaders should encourage team members across levels to ideate. Some of the things that leaders can do to build a culture of out-thinking within their firms are as follows:

1)      Schedule time for casual brainstorming, preferably out of office, may be in a nearby coffee shop or for that matter, even on your staircases. You can select one client, per meeting, for whom you can come up a real good out-of-the-box creative idea, generated by active participation of your entire team. Give space for introverts to revert later on their ideas, if they wish to do so. The client may or may not implement the suggested idea, but let the creative engine keep running.

2)      Introduce the team to the new knowledge beyond the daily chores. To facilitate this, companies need to provide their teams with information on how innovative companies do things differently. Empower your team with information on:

  • What is changing in the global economy.
  • New technological innovations and social networking trends.
  • New social trends.
  • How your industry is changing.
  • What your competitors are doing.
  • What delights and frustrates your clients and their customers.

3)      Schedule workshops for your team on creative thinking; lateral thinking; brainstorming etc., your team members may  have the capabilities to dish out new ideas but lacking the skills involved in creative problem-solving or articulately expressing.

4)      Collaborate: Write client problems literally on the wall, call for innovative solutions from across the practises, create contests and reward out-thinkers

5)      Create exchange programs within your firm across practices, sometime your mind restarts ticking by simply observing how others solve their problems, the learning can be later implemented within your team.

6)      Your way should not always be the Highway – I have had heard from some section of bosses saying clearly to their team, “leave the thinking part to me, just do what is being told” or some clients directing their PR partners, to do stuff as they expect them to do, without having a window for any interaction on the way forward. This not only kills creativity, but also severely damages the motivation to work with such a boss or a client. Be supportive, encourage interactions and most important tolerate mistakes. Another thing seniors should remember is that, there can be more than one right answer to any problem or situation. While your answer may be right, not necessary the solutions suggested by your team members have to be wrong. Creativity can be cultivated in an organization, where you give a chance to however outlandish idea to be aired.

I would like to hear about your experiences and viewpoints. By sharing your own experience, you can help make this topic richer, more practical and more relevant to different situations and cultures. This will help us all to learn and imbibe the insights in our day-to-day working. You can either comment on my blog www.vikypedia.in or share your experience on twitter @vikramkharvi

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