Hope /noun/ a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

I oftentimes find myself hoping for the following:

  1. To make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
  2. To earn one million dollars.
  3. To win front row tickets to a Beyonce concert.

In business and in life, I hear people hoping for things. Their wish list ranges from a better team to higher profits, to a healthier lifestyle, to an improved love life, to achieving success.

Ever since my first corporate job, I quickly learned the importance of my favorite motto. At the time, I was working alongside our CFO and extremely involved with our board of directors for a publicly traded, multi-million dollar company at the age of 23.

I vividly remember preparing for an upcoming board of directors meeting with our CFO and hearing the most important line:

Hope is not a business strategy.

Over the years, this line has stuck with me, and has ultimately led me to a more strategic mindset.

I firmly believe a “can-do” positive attitude is necessary. Although when it comes to desired outcomes, hope lacks structured processes to achieve specific results.

When hope is used as a strategy (rather than an attitude), it rejects facts, skims evidence, and believes what must be true. Wishful thinking clouds the solid facts to make decisions and take purpose-driven actions.

So what is the most important business strategy? Creative thinking.

Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems from a fresh perspective with non-traditional solutions. If you do not see yourself as a naturally creative thinker, here’s the great news: It’s a muscle you can strengthen with the right tools.

In an environment where you are shuffling between meetings with your team, below are a few quick tactics to sharpen your creative juices.

1) Train your brain to find new opportunities for growth.

Shift your belief from, “I know this already” to, “What can I learn from this?” Knowing something intellectually is very different from practicing something consistently and mastering it.

2) Sign up for Google alerts.

Keep tabs on important industry topics, competitors, and other areas of interest to stay on top of current trends. These alerts are funneled into your inbox daily and make the perfect five-minute skim to keep you sharp and on the ball.

3) Take a break.

Move onto another activity to keep your brain stimulated. When you’re ten minutes into that workout, you won’t even realize you were thinking of the challenge when the answer comes to you instantaneously.

4) Shift your negative thoughts to positive ones.

Simply switching your perspective can help you be more creative. Try using the line, “I can figure this out” and be open to any idea that comes your way.

5) Avoid being a perfectionist.

Perfectionists spend too much time focusing on getting the details correct that they ignore any creative ideas outside of their comfort zone. Don’t wait for a creative idea to fully form before taking action – focus on improving it.

Creativity has always been at the heart of business. Having the ability to innovate is essential to entrepreneurship and sustains the largest companies after they have reached global scale.

Consistent action, creativity, and commitment all play a role in achieving what you desire and finding a better way forward.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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