Don’t Fall Back – Spring Forward as You Prepare for the New Normal
I recently read a great article about the “New Normal,“ how our world will never be the same as it was after we get through the current recession. It struck me that as we head into the end of 2009 and change our clocks, we might be inclined to hunker down even further and just wait until the “storm blows over.“ Au contraire!
When you study previous recessionary periods, you discover that they all follow a classic “boom and bust” cycle. We have clearly been in the thralls of the bust, which makes it difficult to see beyond the negativity of the current news ticker to imagine our lives beyond today, in a different and a new normal.
We all instinctively know that those who will come out stronger on the other side of this bust will have shifted their thinking to a more strategic and creative mindset in order to take advantage of the opportunities that will be emerging from the recessionary debacle we are still enduring. So how do you get your brain to think about the New Normal?
Creativity and strategic thinking have an inherent paradox: it is when you most need them, that they seem hardest to get it. When we feel we are losing or have lost something, our brains kick in with a safekeeping approach. We will often regress into a survival mindset with our emotions in fray and our stress levels rising. This mindset moves us toward short-term, rather than the needed long-term, thinking.
In addition we tend to become more risk averse and much less inclined towards a “possibility” mindset. Stress plays a very powerful role here, as we “go reptilian” – we shift to a fight or flight mentality. Never has it been as important to deal with the stressors in your life! (See the March, 2009 issue of BrainBytes™ for tips.)
Try A Zero-Based Mindset
A great example is when we go through a budgeting process. Perhaps you are in that process now. I always struggle when we need to cut something rather than add it due to the issue above. In contrast, in a zero-based budget process, where you move everything down to zero and then add back in the items that are most crucial, you completely shift your thinking away from the losses and replace it with a more future-focused reinvention mindset.
In fact, using a zero-based approach will work for other aspects of your personal and professional life. Feel overwhelmed by the never-ending number of commitments you have made? Zero-base your activities: Imagine you had a totally clean slate to work with. What are the value-added activities you would choose to have in your life? Feel that your team is riddled with baggage? Give yourselves permission to zero-base your team’s world. Start as if you were onboarding together as a new team. What meetings, processes and structures would you need to be most effective? You could even go so far as to zero-base your life. A friend who is in transition anyway, having lost a job, home and key relationship is starting over with a totally new life, and is choosing what she wants in it.
Get Out the Magic Wand
Not ready to go quite that far? Zero-basing is very similar to a creativity technique we teach called magic wand thinking. It goes like this: If you had a magic wand and could solve the problem you are facing with virtually no constraints, what would you do? Even if your ideas seem crazy, as long as they work, go for it!
The reason this technique works so well is it shifts your mindset away from our “curse of knowledge” about the problem (as Chip and Dan Heath of Made to Stick fame have coined it) to a new starting place unencumbered by all the reasons why this or that idea won’t work.
Finally, to access a more strategic perspective, Spring Forward to next year so you can begin to look at your world as it can and will be, and then start working on what you need to do today to get ready for the New Normal.
First, it is helpful to “get out of your own head” by scanning the environment for trends that can impact your world. If you feel mentally stuck, then visit a local bookstore and look at the huge magazine racks that now populate a large section of the store. Flip through magazines you would never normally look at. You will be surprised at the number of niche specialties that exist.
You might also seek out a group of people who are in different parts of your business and your world, and ask them what they think the new normal might look like, what they see as opportunities. Then imagine yourself a year from now, having been 3 to 4 months into the new post-recession economy. The world looks different – in what ways? Imagine the possibilities. What doors will open that were not open before? Which will close? Better to know now than later.
At the end of the day, you can choose to have a mindset of an ostrich, head in the sand, or an eagle, soaring above to see far beyond today to the horizons of the Spring ahead. Which would you rather choose?
Are you a certified practitioner looking for a way to spring your initiatives forward and get ready for the future?
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