Three Tips for Thinking Positive

Last Updated Oct 23, 2008 2:09 PM EDT

We're all agreed now, even the pathologically optimistic. Business may be tough for the foreseeable future, at least in the developed world.

Already, we see our customers cutting their cost bases and controlling expenditure for the next budget cycle. This gives us a direct line of sight to the job cuts and changes we will choose to make in order to lead our businesses through these times. We can also see that we will personally be affected by this. At best we're likely to change the way we run our division or business. At worst, we could lose our current job.

So here are some principles to bear in mind:

  1. The Stockdale Paradox, as described by Jim Collins in "Good to Great". I still love this book, despite the 20/20 hindsight which makes me question Fannie Mae as an exemplar organisation.

    Jim Stockdale was a military leader who spent long periods of time as a prisoner of war. His approach while imprisoned was always to confront the brutal truth. He used the difficulties facing him during a harsh internment and helped fellow prisoners deal with torture and communicate without their guards knowing.

    He never lost the belief that he would be able to turn the experience into a defining and positive event in his life. He used the detailed knowledge of the facts to create opportunities that others could not see.

    The takeaway: Face up to reality and have the resilience and creativity to move through it. Exploit the current economic instability, turning it into a time when you really learn how business works. This resilience is completely different blind optimism, which is passive -- this is about finding ways to control or influence the performance of our businesses.

  2. The second principle is that we can control how much of the news coverage we choose to take on board. Consuming too much of the 24/7 coverage is unhelpful.

    The takeaway: Thanks to technology, you can filter the news to get a higher proportion of useful information.

  3. The third is comes right back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It is hard to concentrate on making our businesses successful and secure when we fear for ourselves and our families.
    The takeaway: Take direct and immediate action to get in as good a place, personally, as possible. Then turn your attention to the business. As an economy and as individuals, creative and positive commerce provides the best outcome for us all.

    (Image by Pinkarman, CC2.0)