Thinking Outside the Box

Post by Jerry Baker on January 14, 2015

Every­thing in your life and busi­ness is per­fect. You don’t have a care in the world, right?

This could be the way it is (or how you think it is), but in my busi­ness expe­ri­ence things are typ­i­cally not this way. Busi­ness could always be bet­ter. Even when things appear to be work­ing, we should be explor­ing if there are new and bet­ter ways to do it.

Some­times we know what we’re doing isn’t work­ing.

We are not get­ting the results we need or we have typ­i­cally had. There are times in our pro­fes­sional career when we have to come up with a new game plan. For you or your team, it may be time to aban­don old tech­niques or pro­ce­dures or mar­kets and find new approaches. Uncon­ven­tional approaches and out­side the box think­ing may be just what you need.

It is never easy to change.

We will encounter oppo­si­tion. I was reminded of this recently in an unex­pected place. It was a ser­mon by Mike Burnidge, Senior Pas­tor at North­ridge Com­mu­nity Church, in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona. His points were a good reminder that when step­ping out­side the box we will face resistance.

Pas­tor Mike offered five ways to approach change and I have revised his E-L-A-T-E out­line slightly to reflect some of my own experiences.

Expect to Ruf­fle Feathers

There have been times in my career when we needed to do something dif­fer­ent. We had to change things up. I would like to think they were all sim­ple tran­si­tions and every­one was quickly on board, but that wasn’t the case. No mat­ter how com­pelling the need or con­vinc­ing the argu­ments there were peo­ple who didn’t like change, who got their feel­ings hurt, or sim­ply wouldn’t go along.

I believe it is best to con­front the issue head on. Lis­ten to all sides, the pros and cons. Encour­age as much input as pos­si­ble. Then make a deci­sion. Com­mu­ni­cate the rea­sons and ratio­nale for change. If it means going with some­thing rad­i­cally new, some­thing out­side of the box, then do it. You will have to work on the resis­tance. Remem­ber, there will be some ruf­fled feathers!

Log Time Under­stand­ing and Explaining

When we take new direc­tions, some­times it’s clear and things hap­pen quickly and pos­i­tively. If it’s like most things, how­ever, it will take some time. It will have its ups and downs before it catches hold. We must have con­vic­tion and belief that the changes are what we need. You must make sure all are pulling in the same direc­tion. Pas­tor Mike would advo­cate prayer, and that may be needed, but stand by your strong con­vic­tions. Get out among the peo­ple doing the work and see if any­thing needs to be tweaked a lit­tle to make it bet­ter. Give new ideas time to gel and for every­one to get on board.

Aban­don Col­leagues When Necessary

When you are con­vinced it is time for change, you may find a need to aban­don friends or co-workers who are hold­ing you back. There will always be some resis­tance to change, and this is espe­cially true when busi­nesses are growing. You will hear that “we are not the same old com­pany we once were”. Of course you are not!

Growth may require change and out of the box think­ing. You are not chang­ing the things that made it a good place to work, but you may be chang­ing pro­ce­dures, prac­tices, and inter­ac­tions and some peo­ple are slow to change. And remem­ber, you will not change your com­pany because of growth, you will only enhance it. Espe­cially in these times of change, it’s essen­tial that you com­mu­ni­cate, com­mu­ni­cate, communicate!

Take Quick Action

I see it in many orga­ni­za­tions; there’s paral­y­sis by analy­sis. The facts are clear, but there is resis­tance to change.

 Once you have decided to go in a new direc­tion, take action, and do it quickly!  

  • Explain why you are changing
  • Get every­one on board with the rationale
  • Explain that you will be bet­ter off by tak­ing quick action
  • Be pre­pared for errors and more change

Encour­age Oth­ers to Think Creatively

It’s impor­tant to fos­ter a cul­ture of cre­ativ­ity and always try­ing to think out­side the box. Whether or not you take the plunge every time, try to get your­self and oth­ers to think creatively.

  • Rally your cul­ture to embrace change
  • Ques­tion exist­ing meth­ods and techniques
  • Always see if there is a new approach or bet­ter way to do things

Busi­ness and life is all about deal­ing with change. Things never stay the same, and if we think they are, we could be left behind. Look around — there are very few com­pa­nies more than 10 or 15 years old. If they are, I sus­pect they have had to change the way they do busi­ness. I was recently at the 150th Anniver­sary of First Ten­nessee Bank and while it is the 14th old­est bank char­ter in the U.S., it has had to change how it does busi­ness sev­eral times in its long his­tory. We must all do the same, some more often than others.

Keep rein­vent­ing what you do to pros­per. Don’t be afraid to embrace think­ing out­side the box!


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Jerry Baker
CEO Mentor

Jerry Baker joined Building Champions as a CEO Mentor in 2009. He has experienced the impact of coaching firsthand as a client and corporate partner of Building Champions. He most recently served as CEO, President and member of the Board of Directors of First Horizon National Corporation and First Tennessee Bank.

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