Seven Tips For Imagining Your Company's Future

Post written by

Amanda Brinkman

Amanda Brinkman is Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe and Exec. Producer of the Small Business Revolution. @amandakbrinkman

What will your business look like in 10 years? Twenty years? One hundred years? Does it seem lofty and unnecessary to think that far in the future? It isn’t. Letting yourself imagine the possibilities of tomorrow can help you unlock insights that you can use today.

If it sounds like I’m asking you to be a futurist, I am. But that doesn’t mean you need to be Carl Sagan and ponder the cosmos. Just ponder your business.

I’ve had instances in my career where thinking big thoughts have paid off. One was when I was at UnitedHealth Group, where I built an in-house agency devoted to incentive and engagement-based communication. Another is in my current role at Deluxe, where my team and I created the Small Business Revolution, which helped reposition the company as a leading advocate for small businesses.

The key is to not think about it too hard. Instead, dream. Turn off your checklist-oriented brain and try these seven tips to get into the right headspace.

Realize that there are no wrong answers. 

Start by accepting all ideas. Don’t censor yourself. Don’t get caught up in how you will get there. Focus on what could be there. There are no wrong answers.

Follow Walt Disney’s lead and find yourself a tree.

Breakthroughs often come when we’re not searching for them. They happen while taking a walk, driving a car or, in the case of a young Walt Disney, relaxing under a tree. According to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum’s website, Disney would often daydream under a large cottonwood tree while growing up, and it’s where his ideas for Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony were drawn from.

Disney wasn’t the only daydreamer inspired by a tree. According to common legend, Sir Isaac Newton got bonked on the head with an apple while sitting under one and came up with the law of gravity. Pretty good insight he had while doing nothing.

You might be thinking that this all sounds swell but you don’t have time to fantasize under a pine. Fair enough. But keep in mind these two tips: You don’t have to actually sit under a tree -- you could start by just finding a quiet place to sit, away from notifications -- and it doesn’t have to be for very long, even 15 minutes. And here’s a third tip: Don’t be afraid to schedule it. Put it on your calendar. And then sit there and do nothing. You might find it’s the most productive time of your day.

Embrace your wandering mind.

A study out of Georgia Tech indicates that participants who are prone to daydreaming have more efficient brains. Eric Schumacher, the co-author of the Georgia Tech study, says the results show the value of a wandering mind. He finds people with minds that float around more capable of providing value since they’re often able to manage immediate tasks as well. It’s not a lack of focus. It’s a multiple-track focus.

Daydream with purpose. The goal isn’t to dream to the extent that your mind floats completely away from business concerns. You don’t want to end up distracted with personal concerns. Instead, train yourself to follow your business thoughts. Here’s a tip: Allow yourself just one thought per daydreaming session. Pose it as a question. Try this one: What would I most like to be doing in the future? See where it takes you.

Make dreaming part of your routine.

When there is so much on your plate, it can seem superfluous to have unstructured time. It isn’t.

Think of it this way. You spend so much of your time on the dance floor of your business, maneuvering with your colleagues on the front lines. Spend some time on the balcony. Check out the perspective from up there, with some distance, and with your head in the clouds. This will help you see your business in a whole new light. You may even find your future business up there

Dream with intention.

This is where you can apply your left-brain business training to your right-brain dreamworld. It’s possible to set a framework for your dreams. Research reported on by Psychology Today has found that we daydream in specific styles. One style is called positive-constructive, which “is associated with openness to experience, reflecting a curiosity, sensitivity and exploration of ideas, feelings and sensations.”

This is the type of dreaming you want to engage in. When given the freedom to daydream, we can think about our long-term goals. That means that if you give yourself the time, you will almost certainly think about the future, which will likely include the future of your business. Just let it happen.

Keep a notepad by your bed.

Some businesspeople find insights not only in daydreaming but also in sleep-dreaming. It can help to keep a notebook by your bed. Learn to value your subconscious. Often, your thoughts are trying to tell you something. Again, don’t judge. Just write it down.

I like to start each day with a self-assessment, which I sometimes do before my feet even touch the ground. I just do a quick audit. How did I sleep? Do I feel rested? Was I ruminating on any thoughts through the night? If so, what were they? You might be surprised at how useful it can be to write down fresh thoughts as soon as you get up.

Let yourself be bored.

Finally, a smart fellow by the name of Socrates has been credited with saying, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” In other words, let yourself be un-busy, if only for a little while. It can be the secret to unlocking your path forward and keep you from living your business life on auto-repeat.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

Amanda Brinkman is Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe and Exec. Producer of the Small Business Revolution. @amandakbrinkman...