Why you need to think differently to succeed in business


The secret to succeeding in business can be summed up in three words – do the work.  Have you ever met anyone who really was an overnight success? As a coach, I’ve worked with entrepreneurs, CEOs, innovators and high-impact leaders from around the world, and there are definite links between success in business and thinking differently.

There are some common attributes that people who perform highly in business have, such as a growth mindset; a clear vision of what success will look and feel like for you and your people; and a courageous attitude, which goes a long way to creating opportunities and knowing your market.

So, is there a magic ingredient to the ‘success in business’ formula? Yes! An ability to think differently can be the difference between failing and achieving more than you thought possible.

Usually, by the time a human reaches adulthood our brain pathways are becoming ‘hard wired’. We become habituated to, and protective of, how things ‘are’ and we subconsciously look for evidence that all we’ve already learned is true and the best way forward. Our egos can get in the way too.

As a business leader, you think you’re meant to know the answers and be right. When you’re under pressure, you are also more likely to revert to strategies that you feel have worked before. You become more risk adverse and less dynamic in your thinking and there are consequences if you play it safe and do what you’ve always done.

In my work as a success coach, I’m frequently calling on clients to change their mind, flex their thinking and adapt their behaviour for better results. Thinking differently could be your business’s greatest superpower because when you pay attention to your current thinking, you will have an awareness that allows you to create new thoughts.

Don’t go along to get along! Group thinking is one of the greatest dangers in business. Sometimes it’s easier to be polite and hear everybody’s view and we forget that robust discussions are required to stimulate thinking. Conflict can be valuable when done with respect.

Here are some useful questions to explore:

  • When was the last time you had a brand new thought about your business?
  • Can you remember a time when someone in your team asked a question nobody knew the answer too?
  • What do you need to unlearn about the way your business currently operates?

Businesses that build a capacity to think differently are often more resilient and tend to attract leaders who are more innovative. They are more agile when crisis hits and their people have already developed the skills to look for new solutions. Today’s business environment is extremely competitive and we’ve never had access to more information and technology than we have now, but it’s the brain power of your people that will tap into the true potential of your business.

Here are my top 10 strategies to ensure your business and your people think differently:

  1. Be passionate about finding a different way
  2. Ask questions about everything
  3. Create a culture that rewards new ways of thinking
  4. Provoke change in processes and people
  5. Collaborate in a way that is robust, rather than polite
  6. Get uncomfortable and see what you learn
  7. Broaden your network by proactively seeking out experts from different industries
  8. Make imagination more important than logic (sometimes)
  9. Do a business reality check on whether you have people in your business who can think differently to each other
  10. Agree what your business non-negotiables are in terms of delivery and review everything else.

Throw out the standard meeting agenda, read a new book and find someone in your business network who is known for their dynamic thinking. Take them for coffee and ask great questions about what makes their approach different. One of the greatest challenges in business right now is how busy everyone is. What is possible for your business if you step away from being busy and create dedicated time and space for new thinking? Do this and watch the benefits flow.


Lisa Stephenson is the founder of Who am I Projects and author of Read Me First (Major Street Publishing), a book filled with thought-provoking coaching questions, strategies for success and life’s must-haves.