I don’t have to tell you that the business world has become much more competitive today. Increases in expense budgets, a cutthroat hiring environment, and increasingly demanding customers are causing companies to think harder about their short-term and long-term business strategies.
The stakes are real. Regardless of your industry, everyone from the small, scrappy startup halfway around the world to the largest player in your sector is trying to steal some of your market shares. Creative destruction continues to occur—especially from the rise of disruptive technologies.
Because of all of these challenges, it is all too tempting for companies to cut corners. The “easier route” becomes compelling, whether that means buying followers on Instagram or buying a ton of fake views on YouTube. These strategies may seem promising in the short run. You may think that they can give you sustainable traction.
However, these strategies are like sugar highs. They are false positives and will end up leading you down a path of frustration and unfulfilled expectations.
My Dubb colleagues and I prefer to think of business differently. We like to view business strategy through the lens of altitude thinking. Altitude thinking helps us determine a plan that is not only effective for the next week or two but the next decade. In other words, altitude thinking simultaneously provides us with both the short-term and long-term perspective that is necessary to accomplish our business goals.
Ultimately, there are three steps for successful altitude thinking, whether you work at a small or large organization. Those steps are: (1) reverse planning, (2) avoid shortcuts, and (3) create an evergreen strategy. Focusing on all three legs of this stool will help you and your colleagues best leverage the power of altitude thinking.
Altitude Thinking: Reverse Planning
First, let’s talk about reverse planning. In our day-to-day work, it is natural to focus on what is happening at this moment. We get stuck in the microdetails of a project or initiative. We triage, trying to put out the fiercest fire before moving on to the next.
While it feels good to check off these pressing items on our to-do list, it comes at a cost. That cost is our biggest vision, not only for our companies but for ourselves. By focusing on the absolute near-term and ignoring our vision, it is easy for time to slip away. Five, ten, or fifteen years down the road, we may be shocked at how fast time has gone and how little progress we have made toward our most important goals.
Instead of succumbing to this depressing reality, we can engage in reverse planning. It’s pretty simple. All we need to do is start at our end vision or goal and work our way back. Figure out the path that you need to take, the choices you need to make, and the resources and tools you need to make that vision come to life. From there, we create a step-by-step plan to reach that goal or vision and then execute according to that plan.
How long do you execute? Until you accomplish that goal or make your vision a reality. However, there may come a time where a sudden event may change the course of your business. A key supplier of your business may offer onerous terms or a group of key team members may decide to work for a competitor. In some of these difficult moments, you may need to significantly pivot your business to survive. It helps to take a step back and take a 30,000-foot view of the business strategy. Think about the changes that you need to make that can keep you on course for your long-term vision. Then, as always, work back from there and begin to execute.
In sum, this process of reverse engineering is extremely powerful. It gets you out of that mindset that causes you to focus on the minutiae (which likely won’t make or break you in the long run). Instead, by leveraging reverse engineering, you can make visionary decisions that will help you achieve your ultimate goals.
Altitude Thinking: Avoiding Shortcuts
The second component of altitude thinking is avoiding shortcuts. As I referenced above, there are many different ways that we can cut corners—especially on the challenging things that we need to do. Buying Instagram followers or YouTube views is one of those strategies, but there are countless others. Desperate companies try to spamming their audience in order to generate more revenue. They may even make it more difficult for audience members to unsubscribe from email lists.
These tactics don’t work for several reasons. One of the most important, however, is that they are not created for the long game. These tactics result in small, quick wins, but they are not sustainable. The confusion comes from self-described “gurus” and “marketing experts” touting the effectiveness of these strategies. In the end, however, these individuals are in the business of selling a service.
The unfortunate reality is that there are no shortcuts. There are no cheat codes. Instead, achieving your business goals or vision requires hard work, full stop. As the old saying goes, “It takes twenty years to make an overnight success.”
Altitude Thinking: Create an Evergreen Strategy
Finally, the third prong of altitude thinking focuses on creating an evergreen strategy. Evergreen content, as you likely know, is search-optimized content that is continually relevant for readers. In other words, it is valuable content that does not have a shelf life.
Evergreen strategy, meanwhile, adopts this concept of evergreen content and applies it to your entire business. Simply put, it means that you should do something good for today but also good for the future.
The former is more natural than the latter, yet the latter is critically important to achieving our business goals. We must take a step back from our business to think about those goals and how we can best serve our clients. Once again, it helps us make better choices because we aren’t stuck in the minutiae.
The simple reality? If you have a vision and a path to execute that vision, customers are more likely to jump on board. They are willing to be patient and become forgiving because they want to see your company grow and expand. Altitude thinking is about getting that perspective and sharing a larger vision with people because it is what people connect to the most.
So think about ways that you can combine both your short-term and long-term strategies. Try to develop some synergies so that your day-to-day work gets you closer to your ultimate vision. Even though you may be taking baby steps, you are nonetheless getting closer to your objective.
How it All Comes Together
Altitude thinking can be helpful in a wide swath of situations. That said, it is especially helpful when you are finding it difficult to separate yourself from the business.
It’s safe to say that most—if not all—of us have been there. We are looking at our Excel spreadsheets and are trying to think of some way, any way, to get more sales. We are feeling the heat from our boss or customers. At this point, it is all too easy to resort to one of the seemingly-effective hacks that I mentioned earlier in this post.
Altitude thinking can be extremely helpful here. It forces you to take a step back and get out of your current line of thinking. With altitude thinking, you must ask yourself: “Is this potential strategy going to be effective not only tomorrow but also in the long-term?”
All of this can potentially cause pain or drama in your organization. Some people avoid long-term thinking because they don’t want to confront some awkward or challenging issues in their organization. Often, it simply feels better to put off those conversations “for another day.” The unfortunate reality? That other day never arrives.
But by adopting altitude thinking, you are forced to think about these short-term and long-term challenges. You are required to put pen to paper and think about how you’ll get from point A to point B—all without any shortcuts. You think about ways that you can develop an evergreen strategy, where all your actions are in concert with your goals. While it may be difficult to adopt (or convince others to adopt) altitude thinking, you will undoubtedly see tangible results so long as you are consistent.
A New Framework For Your Organization
Altitude thinking can be a new, game-changing intellectual framework for your organization. Instead of paying an influencer an exorbitant fee to promote your company tomorrow, it is much better to avoid these shortcuts. Put in the hard work by thinking about your goals, reverse engineering them, and creating an evergreen content strategy. This may mean making videos over time, building up your YouTube channel, and/or building genuine, authentic, one-on-one relationships with your customers.
While we can’t help but notice and work on those day-to-day pressures, I recommend that you take a broader look at your work. Adopt altitude thinking and place a larger emphasis on the long-term future of your business. Even though we live in a world that gets faster and more competitive, one of your competitive advantages can be adopting this patient, long-term perspective. Whether you adopt this framework yourself or start by convincing several other team members to participate, the best way to proceed is to take action today.
At Dubb, we love thinking about altitude thinking and how it can move our organization forward. If you would like to learn more about altitude thinking, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
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