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Effective Leaders Think Like Explorers

By and

Thu Jan 04 2018

Effective Leaders Think Like Explorers

The key to being an explorer lies in what you do with your creative thinking abilities and attitude. Consider the words of journalist Robert Wieder, “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.”

But oftentimes we need to challenge our mental blocks because our minds recognize patterns and causes us to think “more of the same.” We get locked into one approach, one method, and one strategy—without seeing other approaches and other points of view. Creative thinking, though, allows us escape from obsolete ideas and explore new ones.


But what does this look like in action?

For you to strategically turn probabilities into possibilities, you need to present the facts and figures to others as proof of merit. This means looking at issues from different perspectives.

Learn From Example

A former client had the challenge of updating and improving the process engineering documentation. Some different points of view she needed to consider were:

  • Manufacturing engineers. This group is concerned about reviewing these documents again. The feel resistant because they have never looked at the process and documentation at this level of detail before, and they don’t always have the necessary access to software to complete the job. They also are concerned about the time investment and worried about when they will find the time to work on the task

  • Quality engineers: This group is concerned because once they update one document, other documents will need to be reviewed and updated to match. They feel frustrated because they don’t have access to the software to complete the job, and are worried about when they will find the time to work on the task.

  • Manufacturing engineering manager: This person is concerned because resources are already spread thin between multiple projects and departments and doesn’t know if there will be enough time to complete the job. She also is worried that the engineers will not buy in to the new process.

  • Quality engineering manager: This person is concerned because resources are already spread thin between multiple projects and departments and doesn’t know if there will be enough time to complete the job. However, he is interested in the opportunity to review processes to potentially identify and prevent potential quality escapes.

  • Company: This group is delighted that we will be more proactive in identifying and solving problems. In turn, leaders are interested in the positive financial impact on the company.

Another client launched OEE and Vorne System a few years ago. This launch changed the way the company viewed and attacked losses in the business. The challenge was data integrity, as well as using the data consistently to its advantage in making improvements. Some different points of view to consider were:

  • Operator: This person is required to scan a code when a downtime event occurs. The operator may not see the benefit in this extra step; therefore, the correct code may not be scanned.

  • Company: This stakeholder wants loss reduction to ultimately reduce operating costs; reduced operating costs leads to competitive advantage and job security.

  • Consumer: This person wants price reductions and quality products on time.

  • Engineer: This person wants data integrity to lead improvement projects.

Did both clients look for lots of possible right and wrong answers from different points of view? Did both pay attention to their inner voice while strategically thinking about all the possible right and wrong answers?


Follow their example the next time you’re launching a change initiative. Be sure to stop and give yourself time to think about the big picture. Give your mind time to analyze and comprehend all information. Ask a friend or co-worker to review the information, and then ask for their feedback. Once you receive feedback, begin to review your possibilities and identify potential problems you may have overlooked at the beginning of your exploration. Armed with this information and varying perspectives you can start to look for solutions.

Key Take-Aways

Explorers use both hemispheres of their brain. They manipulate their experiences to bring into existence something new, and they listen to their inner voice about what is most or least important. The big question is why do they rest of us—non-explorers—not think something different more often? It’s probably because we are creatures of habit and routine, and we are rarely taught to think outside the boundaries.

Are you guilty of having a negative attitude, excessive stress, or making iron clad assumptions? If so, stop it. Learn to use the plural voice to consider different options. Ask: What are some answers? Don’t ask: What is the answer? What’s more, don’t fall in-love with a particular style. Ask: Why is this method used? Then ask: Do these reasons still apply? In other words, give yourself some options.

To be sure, most of us have learned to avoid ambiguity because of the communication problems it can cause. Too many specifics, however, can stifle our imagination. For example, cultivate your own source of ambiguity by reading outside of your area of expertise. Bottom line: Think like an explorer and become an adventurer.

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