Leaders in creative professionals often feel the squeeze to come up with great ideas at a moment’s notice. And leaders of all stripes, in every sector, feel pressure to bring more creative thinking to work in the midst of quarterly goals and the immediacy of keeping the business running under a crush of email and zoom meetings. No wonder people feel caught up short when it comes to strategic thinking and long term planning.
Just in time, reinvention expert and top business thinker Dorie Clark brings us The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World. Consultant, speaker and author of three bestsellers about how to thrive at work, Clark packs these pages with success stories and practical tips to reframe your thinking for long term career success.
Here are only a few suggestions that will help you win your long game.
Increase your “at-bats.” For international readers, like my Uruguayan husband, at-bat is a term from baseball that indicates a player’s turn to step up to the plate for a chance to hit the ball out of the park, strike out or variation in between. Clark’s premise to increase our at-bats is a great way to look at experimenting with different ideas.
The framework of increasing at-bats indicates a bias toward action. Too many aspiring leaders want more training, more research, more everything, before taking action. This is a recipe for stagnation, because you’ll never feel completely prepared. Clark suggests that you need excellence, of course, but more at-bats will increase your chances of success.
Determine when you keep your head up or down. You’ll want to figure out when you should be scanning the horizon for opportunities and new ideas, trying small tests, and when it’s time to buckle down and crank out the work. When it’s time for heads-down mode, you’ve discovered what’s working, so put on your blinders, avoid distraction, execute a smaller, maybe introductory version before integrating additional ideas. Too many creative types get stuck in what I call the swirl, where they continue to be overwhelmed by new ideas coming in, rather than testing to see what’s viable and moving the work forward.
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Everything takes longer than you think. Clark writes about Jeff Bezos thinking in seven year increments, which he believes will put him in front of the competition because so few companies think that far ahead. To further illustrate his point about long-term thinking, Bezos tells a story about a woman wanting to learn to do a handstand. Her handstand coach told her that it would take six months of practice, whereas most people anticipate it should take two weeks. Of course they quit, maybe even before week three, because they expected faster progress. The bottom line as you define your own long game, is that things will take longer than you want. You’ll fall short of your expectations. To address this, build in smaller milestones to measure your success. It’ll keep your spirits up and help you sustain even small momentum.
Cultivate long game habits. I’m a big proponent of habits that will help leaders be more creative at work, to identify and nurture all the ideas along your long game journey. Clark outlines three “habits of mind” that will help advance your long-term thinking by building character. In other words, by becoming the person who is a long term thinker instead of a reactor, or a chaser of the next shiny object. These habits of mind include:
· Independence: Stay true to yourself.
· Curiosity: Identify what you find fascinating and follow that.
· Resilience: Experiment and don’t look at one failure as the end.
I will add the combination of patience plus bias toward action. Keep moving, continue to experiment and look at stumbles as what Simon Sinek calls falling, where a setback is simply a way to learn.