Change Your Environment to Improve Your Business Strategy

Author: Stephanie Taylor Christensen | June 8, 2016

Need to breathe some new life into your business strategy? A change to your environment (internal and external) could be the key. Here are some simple ways to leverage the power of place—how it can inspire new ways to run your business.

Change your perception with positive thoughts

The power of positive thinking can get a bad reputation as a belief based more in wishful thinking than strategy, but there is quite a bit of scientific evidence that supports the impact a positive internal mindset has on how you view your business strategy.

Consider “the broaden and build theory of positive emotions” developed by Barbara Fredrickson, for example. Her studies determined that people who consistently experience feelings like love, joy, curiosity, and contentment tend to take further positive action as a result. Their positive mental state makes them primed to want to do more: play, socialize, explore, read, write, and learn. The opposite is true for negative mindsets. When a person feels fear, for example, his impulse is to put an end to the emotion by fleeing or otherwise stopping the emotion. As a result, writes Fredrickson, they’re less likely to seek out new opportunities to learn and continually experience the world.

Change your thought patterns with this mindfulness exercise designed to take the power out of negative emotions. If you feel anxiety setting in, for example, view it as a casual observer would: “Oh, here comes my old pal anxious Anne.” This approach helps you see the negative emotion for what it is and reminds you that while it may be valid, it’s temporary. You don’t have to identify with it or let it cloud your perception.

Connect with an experienced entrepreneur

When researchers from Stanford University and Boston University examined the impacts of having a mentor, the small business owners who had a mentor reported lower levels of fear of failure, less hesitancy to take risks, and less self-doubt compared to those who had no entrepreneurial mentor.

In a separate study of Harvard MBA students, scientists found that those with access to former entrepreneurs pursued fewer ideas. Upon further examination, researchers concluded that the students weren’t less apt to create or start a business when they had a mentor. Rather, because they had the insight of an experienced mentor who asked probing and strategic questions, the mentees were more likely to fully validate and strategize their concepts before going to market.

Get outside and away from it all

According to researchers at Stanford University, spending time in nature prompts the brain to function differently. When two groups of study participants were sent outside for a 50-minute walk, the group who walked in nature and away from buildings, noise, and traffic showed decreased levels of anxiety, more positive emotions, and increased working memory compared to the group who took their walk in an urban setting. When you have the opportunity to think more clearly, new strategies are more likely to naturally emerge.

Reinvent your workspace and think outside the box

Take note of the physical environments you instinctively gravitate to at home and on vacation. If you choose to sit on the couch to catch up on email when you work from home, for example, why not ditch the desk and recreate the same setting in your office? The same approach applies to scents, textures, and noise levels, all of which can shift how you think. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that people perform better on creative tasks in environments with moderate levels of ambient background noise compared to silent rooms. Because the noise creates some degree of distraction, it increases processing difficulty. In turn, the brain thinks more abstractly and creatively.

Network in unexpected places to improve your business strategy

There’s emotional and professional value in being part of an entrepreneurial community of peers who understand your reality, but Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap of the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management have found that connecting with a diverse network is key to strategic thinking. When your network is made up of those you trust but aren’t “self-similar,” the researchers say you’re more likely to have access to the breadth of knowledge and range of insight that contributes to professional and personal growth.

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