by Jacqueline Hall on 12 June 2020 8:43am : 322

We are in a time when family business leaders’ flexibility of thought is important.  It is vital because you are contemplating not only what is best for your business, but also your family system.  Your ability to visualise and plan, whilst dealing with the daily minutiae and tests of business and family life is influential to maintaining hope.   

In a confusing situation such as where we are now elastic thinking is a must for leaders at global, national, and local levels.  Those who manage only one train of thought and stick to that track stand out for the wrong reasons.  The ability to think about and develop strategies for the quick changes happening as we wake each day will contribute to your business’s sustainability.  As a family business leader how elastic is your own thinking?  What are you doing to encourage those you lead to develop this asset?

Elastic Thinking is Healthy
What is elastic thinking?  Also known as cognitive flexibility, it is the capacity to move from one train of thought to another very quickly or as the situation demands. Rigid thinkers do not adapt quickly to the shift required to manage the succession of changes presented. In their world F must follow E which has to have followed D. Elastic thinkers imagine other combinations and their potential outcomes, acknowledge the negatives, recognise the benefits and act accordingly. They have ability connect unconnected ideas.  Rigid thinking relies on past experiences and proven answers to solve new problems. It can lead to a type of brain freeze, negativity, and anxiety.  Your cognitive style is a mixture of analytical and elastic thinking. Problem-solving and the ability to elicit conclusions comes from this blend.  

Semi-rigid Thinking Limits Imagination
Family businesses, like other enterprises are threatened with financial hardship.  For some their sustainability and longevity are in question. In what is described as unprecedented times, the whole world has been caught out because we practiced semi-rigid thinking.  Comfortable with the mantra that “Change is a constant.”, the reality is we stretched our minds so far and no more. We were unable or maybe unwilling, to countenance seemingly remote possibilities. However, certainties have become uncertain, shocking our external and internal systems, and affecting our collective wellbeing.

Increase Your Cognitive Elasticity
How do you move yourself from rigid or semi-rigid to elastic thinking?  Here are some suggestions.

  1. We are experiencing a mixture of peril, promise and instability and people want immediate solutions. Become comfortable not always having the immediate answer.  
  2. Your brain is always processing even when we are idling, so at random times innovative ideas and approaches may come to mind. Write these unconnected thoughts so you do not forget them.
  3. Exercise regularly since it helps to improve your memory and skills. 
  4.  Look at objects from more than one angle. Consider what you notice about them from different viewpoints, and the thoughts and feelings that come as you do.
  5. You may not agree with other people’s ideas and views.  However, give yourself space to consider them, even if in you finally conclude to agree to disagree. 

As your cognitive elasticity improves, your leadership capacity will increase, and your family business and family system will reap the benefits. Brain elasticity will also help you to keep your hope alive. 


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