Vision: How to Exercise Your Mind’s Eye and Creative Genius
By John J. Murphy, Guest Contributor
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein
Last month I shared an article on Reflection and I introduced a model called The Cycle for Ongoing Improvement Reflection: A Key Element of Mindful Leadership - Mindful Leader. This model highlights the value of taking time to examine our past experiences and it reminds us to look forward, exercising Vision as well. Otherwise, we can easily fall into The Experience-Decide Trap, a habitual condition whereby we repeat what we have always done, leading to results and comfort zones we have become accustomed to. In an ever-changing world, this is a recipe for extinction. Note that many once-great organizations, like Sears and Blockbuster, have suffered this demise.
The Experience Decide Trap:
I now want to share a few insights on the value of Vision. Unlike the animal kingdom, we as human beings have the gift of directing our minds to the past and the future as well as the present. Mindful leaders use this gift to learn from past experiences, visualize a better world, and execute with a more thoughtful and comprehensive strategy. Put simply, we exercise positive vision to solve current state problems and mitigate risk in the future.
Note that I emphasize positive vision. In a world full of pain and suffering, crimes and crises, economic strife, environmental discord, and host of ongoing calamities, it can be tempting to “see” a dark and depressing future. How often do we hear things like, “What is the world coming to?” or “It seems like the world is falling apart?” Just turn on the news and your mind will be flooded with one troubling story after another. Mindful leaders are mindful of this. We recognize that there is danger in the world. Yet, we also recognize that it has been this way since the beginning of time. It is the perfect Yin-Yang balance of life. We cannot know the meaning of up without down, or day without night. We need contrast and context to understand content. We need problems to find solutions.
I have also written articles about the work of Dr. David Hawkins and The Map of Consciousness in earlier articles. Courage: The Bridge to Higher Awareness - Mindful Leader and Why Gratitude is So Important to Success - Mindful Leader. Dr. Hawkins’ insights are important because each thought and emotion we hold onto has an energetic value or “frequency” to it. For example, negative thoughts like fear and doubt calibrate at a very low vibration. Therefore, when we are in the presence of this “vibe” we can feel anxious and insecure, doubtful, and discouraged. Thus, a leader who paints a picture of a hopeless world or bleak situation is anything but inspiring. Mindful leaders see problems as solutions-in-disguise and world challenges as opportunities for innovation and improvement. This positive vision emits an energetic frequency of creativity, excitement, enthusiasm, and possibility. Loosely translated, it sounds like “We got this!”
Exercise: Envision the Possibilities
Consider a recent problem you solved that initially seemed doubtful or even hopeless. For example, this could be a team challenge you were facing at work, a parenting struggle at home, a financial setback, or a health scare. Take a moment to contemplate how you felt as you faced this challenge and what images were running through your mind’s eye:
- How did you look at and approach the problem?
- What did you see – a negative situation or a positive opportunity?
- How many different options did you explore before choosing a path?
- To what extent did you tap into your imagination and “creative genius?”
Option C: The Third Right Answer
One of the creative problem-solving techniques I use with my clients is what I call the “third right answer.” So often we debate over Option A and Option B – a common duality mindset – that we lose sight of other alternatives. We approach these challenges with a closed-minded, right-wrong attitude and argue over whose position is best, Option A or Option B. This attack and defend mentality stifles creativity and innovation and it divides the team. It’s like voting where one party wins and the other party loses (until next time!).
However, when we are challenged to put both options aside temporarily and explore other alternatives, we are essentially forced to get more creative. Here is an example. Years ago, I was asked to help negotiate a new Labor Agreement between Management and a labor union. The two parties were at an impasse over this one issue: Management wanted to consolidate six skilled trades job classifications into one master classification. The intention here was to offer more cross-training, career opportunity, and higher pay to employees who wanted to advance, and it was believed that this would give the company more flexibility and the capacity to complete work for customers faster and at a lower overall cost. The union insisted on keeping six job classifications, arguing this is what most of the employees wanted. To summarize, the impasse was due to a “Six vs. One” debate.
When I came in to help the organization was close to a strike. Both parties had dug in and were preparing for battle. Using the “third right answer” approach I just described, we explored alternatives and arrived at a 7th Classification – the Master Technician. Instead of 6 vs. 1, we shifted our thinking to 6 and 1. At first, the president of this company thought I was taking the organization in the wrong direction. He wanted to reduce classifications and complexity, not add to it! However, when he realized that it wasn’t really the number of classifications that mattered. It was the flexibility, the career opportunity, the growth, and the culture that mattered most, he quickly agreed. So did the union. Within days, the new labor agreement was ratified and accepted, and over 40% of the employees signed up for the cross-training that would allow them to advance themselves in the new classifications. The other ~50% took a wait and see approach, many of whom were very happy where they were. This decision – and the opportunity for each employee to decide for themselves (culturally) what direction they wanted to go – made a huge difference. It was truly a win-win solution rather than win-lose fight. We exercised vision and the collective, creative genius of the team to find a brilliant solution that would have been lost if we had limited ourselves to the 6 vs. 1 box (e.g. “Maybe we can agree on a 3 or 4 compromise?”).
When we exercise positive vision, we attract positive performers. We tap into the spirit, the innate “inspiration,” in people. Sure, there will likely be some doubt and skepticism but that is part of the cultural “shift” taking place - the awakening, the transformation we experience when mindful leaders “make believers” out of people. There is nothing more powerful than bringing hope, promise and faith to team of people who are afraid. Indeed, this is what true leadership is all about. Happy 2023!
John J. Murphy is an award-winning author and the Founder (1988) and CEO of Venture Management Consultants, Inc., a firm specializing in transformational culture change, mindful leadership, Operational Excellence, and high-performance teamwork. Visit his website www.johnjmurphy.org for more information.