Five Steps to See The Big Picture

“You can observe a lot just by watching!” ~ Yogi Bera

Imagine trying to watch a baseball game through a knothole in a fence. A ball flies by your knothole. You have no idea what it means.

It’s not until you climb up and look at the whole playing field that you get a sense of what is really happening. You see the scoreboard. You know which inning it is, who is on base, who is in the batting box, and who has the momentum. The state of play is clear.

The same thing is true in the world at large. You can’t make sense of things with a narrow Knothole View. You need to See The Big Picture.

This is the secret to a prescient perspective ― CONTEXT. When you understand the circumstances surrounding an event or a bit of information, you are in a better position to understand the implications and make more informed decisions.

Our firm, GEO Group Strategic Services, has a proven five-step process to See The Big Picture for your organization.

The first step to watch what’s happening in your own ‘back yard’.

“The obscure we see eventually, the completely apparent takes a little longer.” ~ Will Durant

What is happening in your own ‘back yard’ ?

• What are the current realities within your organization and with your current customers and the market you serve?

• What are your relevant strengths and weaknesses?

• What actions can you take to leverage your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses?

Asking these questions is easier than getting them answered. That’s because everyone ‘sees’ what is taking place through a different lens based on their role, gender, age, expertise, thinking style, and life experiences.

However, this diversity is a powerful asset. You can ‘harvest’ it by encouraging independent thinking and freedom of expression.

Trend: a general direction in which something is developing or changing.

The second step to See The Big Picture is to Track Trends that could influence your future success. Here are four techniques:

Scan the wider world for new developments. Look for the exceptional, the unfamiliar, especially developments that challenge your current assumptions.

‘Helicopter Up’ to observe change patterns. Separate short-term “fads” that arrive quickly and receive a lot of “gee whiz” coverage from the true long-term, important change patterns.

Imagine the possible impacts of new advances. Construct a hypothetical sequence of events by asking, “What are the conditions under which this scenario might come about? What if…?  Is it possible? Is it probable? What impact could this have on my future?”

Look for dynamic interrelationships instead of taking single-track snapshots that assume a static status quo. Technological, economic, political, and social changes are interrelated; advances in one area impinge on all others. Think about how these dynamic interrelationships impact issues of vital importance to your organization.

“Opportunity: an advantageous circumstance that offers a chance for progress or advancement.”

The third step to See The Big Picture is to Search for Opportunities.

In his autobiography, Richard Branson explains how he earned billions of dollars because of his ability to spot key opportunities. Like other great leaders, Branson recognizes that opportunities are not something you wait for, they are something you search for.

The GEO Opportunity Search Model™ focuses on six opportunity areas:

Customer Needs – What are the articulated and unarticulated customer needs that are not being met? How could we meet them best?

Competencies – Considering your core competencies, what are some potential untapped revenue opportunities?

Market Trends – What trends are visible in the market? What potential new opportunities do these trends present?

Differentiation – What is everyone else in our market space doing today? How could we differentiate what we offer?

Economic Model – What is our current value proposition? How can we increase the perceived value and/or reduce the cost to provide it?

• Growth Spaces – What market spaces (niches, geographies, etc.) offer the most opportunities for long term growth?

“Critical Unknown: something of the greatest importance to the way things might unfold that is not sufficiently understood.”

The fourth step to See The Big Picture is to Consider Critical Unknowns.

A Critical Unknown requires discovery, identification, or clarification. There are three categories to consider:

A limited set of possibilities, one of which will occur. “Candidate A, B or C will be elected next month, but the race is close and we’re not sure which one will be elected.”

An expected event with some unknown specifics (timing, magnitude, etc.). “There will be a decrease in air travel when the recession begins, but we’re not sure about when the recession will actually start or how much of a decrease in demand to expect.”

An infinite range of possible events with many unknowns (aka Unknown Unknowns). “Since we’ll be launching a trail-blazing product, which will be unfamiliar to our customers, we have no way of knowing how well it will be received in the marketplace.”

“Challenge: something that exerts a decisive influence on the likelihood of future success.

The fifth and final step to See The Big Picture is to Identify Your Key Challenges.

Review what you discovered during the first four steps and determine the most significant takeaways.

What might exert a decisive influence on the likelihood of your future success? The answer to this question will be your Key Challenges.

Since knowledge is nothing until you apply it, translate your insights into a Key Challenge Agenda. This typically has three categories:

Category 1 – The challenge is clear and present. Develop and implement an action plan ASAP to meet it proactively.

Category 2 – The challenge needs to be better understood. Research it ASAP and determine what action is needed and when.

Category 3 – The challenge is not actionable today, but it needs to be monitored. Create a “Watchlist”.

The secret to a prescient perspective is CONTEXT. When you understand the circumstances surrounding an event or a bit of information, you are in a better position to understand the implications and make more informed decisions.

Given the dynamic nature of change, it’s smart to look at your Big Picture on a regular basis. Make sure your assumptions are up-to-date and that they are arrived at logically based on verifiable data whenever possible.

Following the five steps below will help you See The Big Picture for your organization:

Step 1 – Watch What’s Happening in Your Own ‘Back Yard’

Step 2 – Track Trends that Could Influence Your Future Success

Step 3 – Search for Opportunities

Step 4 – Consider Critical Unknowns

Step 5 – Identify Your Key Challenges