How To Get Out Of The “Think Room” And Into The “Do Room”

January 18, 2022By Views

By Dave Wendland, for Forbes Agency Council, as appeared on December 13, 2021

The pandemic has pushed many businesses to rethink their operations. During my most recent executive roundtable discussion, the group focused on business growth, transformation and moving ideas to action. To set the stage for the spirited discussion, I suggested that driving transformation requires that we not only consider igniting growth but also further develop ideas that catch on and rethink how our businesses operate.

When considering a business transformation, you might not associate it with creativity. However, a 2019 report by Forrester Research advised brands to shift $19 billion from technology to creativity to see a $10 billion increase in ROI over six years. It will be interesting to see the extent to which Covid-19 affects and accelerates companies’ creative strategies.

One way to accelerate growth is to make sure you are working on your business rather than just within it. Part of that involves reassessing your decision-making abilities and how long it takes you to make decisions. Using data from over 17,000 assessments of C-suite leaders, the authors of The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders discovered three ways leaders can strive to make decisions faster:

1. Don’t get caught up in the dozens of variables that could affect the outcome; rather, distill information into its simplest form to make a quick but informed decision.

2. Don’t rule by committee. Involve other people in the decision-making process, but don’t expect to come to a consensus. Use that information to make your own individual decision — don’t take it to a vote.

3. Make fewer decisions. Realize that you don’t have to be the arbiter of every single decision. Delegate small decisions when you can so you have the energy to devote to decisions that have a bigger impact on your business.

To accelerate growth, organizations must also move out of their comfort zones. This quote from Robert H. Schuller says it best: “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Or put another way, a friend of mine suggests that we challenge our teams to get out of the “think room” and into the “do room.”

One of my favorite quotes is usually credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” The same can be said for a business. The comfort zone is the known, the familiar. It’s our default and what we can do automatically, without too much thought or difficulty. It feels comfortable, sheltered, reliable and pleasant while keeping us out of danger. It’s also where we seldom need to try especially hard or expend much energy.

Extending beyond one’s comfort zone is not for the faint of heart. It takes intentional effort. Here are four ways that I have challenged myself — and countless others during various keynote presentations — to think differently.

1. Take a new route. It’s amazing what happens when you take a different path. I like to think of it similarly to Robert Frost’s famous words: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The discovery along this new pathway can open your imagination, provide new points of reference and free your mind up to invite new knowledge in.

2. Read voraciously. My role model for reading is my son Harrison — for the past three years, he has read more than 100 books annually, and he commits to reading (and learning) every day. That’s growth in action. It doesn’t have to be a book about your industry or leadership or any other business topic. Simply expanding your thinking with fresh words and different circumstances allows you to stretch beyond your comfort zone.

3. Meditate. My mind is often filled with so much clutter that even finding the time to be creative can be a challenge. However, I have found that sitting quietly and granting myself permission to just be still is not only refreshing but also enlightening. Sometimes I escape from the clutter and noise of the day with music, exercise or a light-hearted conversation. Whatever you need to break away can open your ability to invite invigorating thoughts in.

4. Build your network. Learning from others and broadening your network can certainly pave the way to creativity. In my last article, I discussed ways to build bridges from afar. Don’t let Covid-19 be an excuse to stop expanding and enriching your network.

My last piece of advice is to solicit ideas from your staff members. They likely have more firsthand knowledge about what changes will actually improve their jobs or enhance your deliverables. Don’t dismiss ideas that don’t come from the top. Gathering ideas from all levels of your organization can further push it outside of its comfort zone and inspire you to accelerate growth.