As a business leader, it’s easy to share ideas, make decisions, and exert your influence.
What’s harder is knowing when to pause and take a step back — to seek out the opinions of others to gain a new perspective about where your business stands.
Tunnel vision is inevitable. You’re close to the decisions, emotionally invested in the results, and perhaps feeling stifled by the typical busyness of the workday.
Want to ensure you and your teams feel inspired to keep innovating? Sometimes it takes giving an outside voice a seat at the table to help drive momentum. Here’s why.
First and foremost, an external perspective gives you some much-needed neutrality. Where internal teams get bogged down in the closed loop of groupthink and office politics, an outside voice lacks this bias.
The right partner or strategic consultant, removed from any internal baggage, can enlighten you on your strengths, weaknesses, and the possibilities for innovation you might be missing.
“It’s very difficult to solve a lot of problems from the top down,” says Megan Smith, CEO of shift7 and former U.S. Chief Technology Officer, in a Forbes interview. “It’s more straightforward if you can garner the energy of other people and have them collaborate with you.”
Working with an outside visionary, with a dynamic work history, means you can draw from their much broader know-how. So, it’s useful to find someone that’s worked with a wide range of companies or industries. They’ll bring powerful and refined insights that can be gleaned only from their unique experience.
By connecting and combining their ideas with your teams’, you’re sure to engage your employees and unlock their imaginations. It’s the kind of cross-pollination that often produces the new and unexpected.
An outside voice has the benefit of focusing differently from you. That’s because they don’t need to be the experts in your day-to-day operations. Instead, they can spend their energy focusing on specific needs — and what they bring to the table.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business, says there is no shortage of good ideas at most companies. But there is often a shortage of action.
Most teams don’t have the time or resources to spend on truly developing and nurturing their creative skills. To that end, an external consultant can help speed along the process to get your group on the right track.
Bringing in a new perspective forces you to also step outside of what’s comfortable. Internal teams are likely to choose the safe route. An outside voice, however, is willing to shake things up, challenge assumptions, and buck tradition.
There’s a clear line between the environments we create and the behavior it engenders, says Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on creativity and innovation. (He also delivered the most viewed TED talk in history).
If you design a system “based on standardization and conformity and compliance, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does,” Robinson says. “It discourages diversity and creativity and all the things that I think are important to human beings.”
It’s easy to abide by the status quo. But times are certainly changing. An external expert can serve as a bridge between you and your evolving consumer.
Many businesses, even those intimately familiar with their customer base, struggle to innovate in ways that resonate deeply with the people they serve. Someone from the outside can help translate the changing needs of your audience. From there, they can help you explore valuable ways to adapt so that you’re speaking the same language.
Finally, bringing a new voice to your next meeting can spur hope and inspiration.
People get into the habit of arguing and shutting down ideas. And it can leave individuals and teams feeling discouraged by the past.
A fresh perspective from a well-matched thought leader can reignite your team’s creativity. That’s because it brings people together for unplanned conversation. This simple action can push people outside of their comfort zones to ultimately surface the next fresh idea.
Is the American workplace toxic to creativity? See what our experts have to say in our upcoming eBook.
Author Anna Jasinski is a content marketing strategist at WSB. In her former life, she was a content consultant for Fortune 500 brands, and a magazine journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski.