OK, It’s About Critical Thinking, But Hopefully, You Get the Point

While you might be correct in assuming I’ve read too much science fiction and fantasy, it turns out two skills they don’t teach you in most professional development programs are essential for your success. I’m referencing altitude adjustment and time-travel. While I’ll grudgingly agree that the two are related to critical thinking, it’s much more fun to think about cultivating the ability to raise your altitude and then travel forward in time literally.

Line-of-Sight—It’s Not Enough

Most individuals in organizations focus on line-of-sight issues and obstacles related to their role. They operate anchored to the ground by gravity and mentally present in the here and now. They effectively have blinders on to help avoid the distractions around them. They focus on their mission, invest time and energy appropriately, and execute on their core tasks. Rinse and repeat.

However, in an era where radical change converges with an extreme crisis, line-of-sight and here-and-now presence aren’t enough. You need to learn to adjust your altitude by rising about ground-level skirmishes to see the broader field of play. Armed with this view, you can time-travel just enough to envision emerging opportunities and threats.

You Don’t Need to Attend Hogwarts or Starfleet to Develop Your Abilities

Learning to adjust your altitude to see the bigger picture and strive to make sense of it is a learnable skill. Challenging, but learnable.

As part of the process, you’ll be called upon to stretch forward in time and peer at future possibilities. Effectively, you will connect today’s visible dots to tomorrow’s picture.  

For all of us, we can practice adjusting our altitudes and skipping through time by asking and seeking answers to the right kind of questions—the type that challenges us to think differently.

Seeing Trigger Events Over the Horizon

While I’ve lost track of the source, one of my favorite prompter questions ever is: Why will the rise of autonomous vehicles create incredible demand for artificial hearts? Think about it.

The question challenges you to focus on the impact of trigger events. The rise of autonomous vehicles will likely dramatically save lives, thus reducing the supply of organs for transplantation just when demand is skyrocketing based on an aging population. The implication: now might be a great time in the finance and bio-medical world and related sectors to begin investing in technologies to solve this anticipated shortage.

Every industry and organization will be impacted by the powerful advancing force of technology mingling with other powerful forces in our world.

What are the trigger events likely to change everything for your industry, customers, and firm?

Raise your altitude and travel forward in time, or you’re likely to arrive in the middle of a black hole. 

Redefining Your Leadership Approach Daily 

Accomplished video gamers know it’s essential to flex between leading and contributing depending upon the needs of the situation. The same thinking increasingly applies in our organizations, with different types of leadership demanded in different circumstances.

Adjust your altitude and travel through time by asking your team Angela’s Question: At the end of our time working together, when we’re, and you’re successful, what will you say I did?

And then do it!

Ask Yourself Catalyst Questions for Daily Success

While we’re accustomed to maneuvering through our days in a series of scheduled meetings or responding to emerging issues, the most successful professionals deliberately strive to adjust their altitudes and travel forward in time every day. They do this by asking what I term: catalyst questions. Consider incorporating these into your daily routine:

At the end of the day, when I review my successes, what will I say I did?

For maximizing impact, great professionals challenge themselves to listen and engage more effectively every day. I love the forward-looking theme of this commitment to listening empathically: I’m glad you sought me out to talk about this topic. I can see it’s important to you. What do you want to accomplish with my involvement? 

The altitude comes down to ground level, but the time-travel involves helping the individual get to their desired accomplishment.

Other Performance Promoting Questions: 

To increase your effectiveness and performance: How can I accelerate my learning. Learning demands deliberate actions, and we can all learn faster if we focus on it.

For personal development: How might I apply my accumulated experience and superpowers in the future? What must happen for me to get there? 

For developing others: I’ve seen what you can do. What do you want to do, and what steps can we design to help you test this path? 

For turbocharging motivation: I’m trying to create a brighter future for my (firm, customers, coworkers)What must I do to make it so?

The Bottom-Line for Now:

One of my clients uses her professional journal (a best practice for personal development) to challenge herself to ask and answer one new forward-looking question every day. She’s teaching herself to think critically, to adjust her altitude on command, and to travel forward and peer at the future and then return to instigate action. My guidance is to model her behavior and start pushing yourself to shift your altitude and peer forward into the future before it metaphorically clubs you over the head. 

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