When was the last time you looked up? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.
Amid endless to do lists and nonstop distractions, we spend our days overwhelmed with urgency. We’re so focused on what matters right now that we rarely take the time to look ahead and consider what will matter next.
What we all need is more time to spend thinking, to prove an idea, to do the things that inspire us. But time is the one thing that we’re not often afforded.
As business leaders, our success is often measured by delivering immediate results. So it’s no surprise that we spend the majority of our time focused on the day to day. According to a recent CMO survey, two out of three marketing leaders tend to focus on “managing the present” rather than “preparing for the future.”
Of course, we all know we need to look further ahead to promote long-term success for our businesses. History has proven this again and again.
Think of Disney. The company that launched as an animation studio took the notion of entertainment and film and brought it to life across experiences from theme parks to travel to stores. Today, nearly 200 years after launching, Disney is one of the most successful companies in the world. Or consider IBM. A decade ago, they made a decision to stand apart from competitors and stop selling hardware. Instead, they focused on their intelligence products like Cloud and Watson that imbued that hardware with value and functionality.
Disney and IBM have one thing in common. They looked up from the present, and in doing so, they charted a path to long-term success. This is what I mean by having a higher perspective and how you can apply these principles to your own ways of working to drive success in the decades to come:
Investigate deeper human truths
It’s easy to get caught up in trends, but brands of substance that endure can separate fads from fundamental shifts and uncover the underlying drivers of change.
We can all do this with a mindset shift. Rather than fixate on the present, create space for higher order thinking. Get into the habit of asking why an issue or story is resonating, why certain behaviors are changing. What you are missing about your audience and how their attitudes are evolving.
Find the answer to these questions and apply the learnings to evolve your brand to meet consumers’ changing needs.
Stand apart from competitors by taking a bolder, unconventional approach
A recent study shows that 63% of global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose. That shouldn’t surprise anyone reading this, as purpose has become paramount across the industry.
However, it’s becoming increasingly harder to stand out. Only 12% of consumers can link brands and the causes they support.
Purpose-driven brands need to take a bolder point of view and apply unexpected perspectives or lenses, to stand apart, even on mainstream issues.
Remember the medium is the message
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” The media landscape is vastly different today than it was 50 years ago, but we’d all be wise to remember McLuhan’s advice. The channels through which a message is shared can say a lot about a brand. Choose credible partners that not only elevate the perception of your brand but connect with an audience using a conscious, engaged mindset.
Create time for clarity
As leaders, we need to create space for our teams for higher perspective thinking. An average worker spends 1,700 hours a year in front of their computer, but great ideas don’t come from sitting still. They come from experiencing the world, collaboration and cultural insight.
Encourage your teams—and give them the time—to leave the office. Schedule an offsite devoted to hacking an issue that’s been unsolved. Go on a field trip to inspire more creative thinking.
The beginning of a new decade creates the opportunity to look up and look ahead. It is essential we not only make the time do so but absolutely hold ourselves accountable; we are creating and living our own future now.