3 Ways Exploring the World Challenges Thinking and Betters Business

3 Ways Exploring the World Challenges Thinking and Betters Business

John Roa visits a moss-covered lava field in Vatnajökull National Park in southern Iceland.

Image credit: John Roa
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Whether you’re a corporate leader, a serial entrepreneur or a little bit of both, you must maintain focus, stay inspired and find the time to re-energize. Distancing and even periodically detaching yourself from your everyday life (not just work) lets you see things from other angles and provides new perspective for formulating novel solutions and navigating uncharted business landscapes.

Staying engaged is only half of the equation. You also must discover things and put on new lenses once in a while as you take your business to the next level. The executive team at my company, ÄKTA, notices when stress starts to make me feel lethargic and uninspired. Usually I know this means it’s time to leave Chicago and explore new worlds.

When I’m traveling, vacationing or simply exploring new places and experiences, my psychological readiness to collect, assimilate and make use of fresh information increases. I immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture so I can see and do things with a new point of view.

Having this frame of mind to openly welcome nuance and learn new things sharpens my creativity. Entrepreneurship is so taxing that exploring the world helps reverses job-related stress. I come back from my trips with new ideas and courage to face challenges.

Here are three things to embrace when exploring new worlds:

Related: Burned Out? 4 Destinations to Bring Back Your Entrepreneurial Spirit.

1. Lessons passed on by other leaders.

While in Israel acting as a technology delegate for the United States, an Israel Defense Forces official told me an amazing story about the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The IDF created a “Red Team” called the Intelligence Control Division whose main task was to challenge assumptions. To prevent groupthink, this team would argue the opposite of whatever the established decision was, regardless of how silly it seemed.

I implemented a similar program for members of the executive team at my company, ÄKTA. When we unequivocally agreed on a major decision, someone would be tasked with trying to convince the group to rule otherwise. This trained us to fully evaluate every choice and provided the assurance that the final decision genuinely incorporated multiple viewpoints. 

2. Different ways people communicate.

English isn’t the primary lanaguage in most of the countries I travel to. I have relied on nonverbal communication cues to accomplish simple tasks like ordering food or finding my way around town. When those around you think you cannot speak or understand their language, you develop new communication skills and quickly learn how to overcome barriers.

In business, being on the same page with all stakeholders, even those who view things from a different, even competing, vantage point is critical.

Exploring the world increases the willingness to modify communication style when the context changes.

For me, the resulting learning process has been challenging but also instructive.

Now, no matter whom I'm speaking to, I step back and assess if I’m getting my point across. I then adjust my communication style if I sense a listener is not following my thoughts.

This has also taught me how to approach problems from different perspectives.

I’ve even taken this to the extreme a couple times and given up verbal communication for days while traveling. It creates a fascinating dynamic with strangers and taught me a lot about communication. 

Related: Why a Hiatus Is Key to Preventing Job Fatigue

3. Extreme experiences outside your comfort zone

Once I hiked for eight hours to the top of an active volcano in Leon, Nicaragua, and rode a wooden sled to the bottom. I was traveling about 60 miles an hour. The experience was a high-risk adrenaline rush. Though I naturally seek adventurous things to do, some experiences take me further out of my comfort zone.

Anyone who leads a business knows about the limitations that press against goals. The mere attempting to do something that is new or scary, extends the limits of what a person psychological thinks is possible to achieve.

Proactively seek out such experiences and challenge yourself to go all in. Most of the limitations people erect around their lives are artificial but they can have very real negative effects on how they do business and live. Exploring the world trains the mind to identify comfort zones as much as it provides opportunities to step outside them.

As an entrepreneur, I am predisposed to handle greater amounts of stress compared with others. Nonetheless, there are limits to what people can handle when juggling the daily demands of work and personal life.

To continually keep getting better at what you do, know what those limits are and have a process in place when you start feeling the need to hit the reset button. It can be dangerous for you and your business if you don’t take time to intentionally disengage. For me, exploring the world has always been a reliable solution.

Related: The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off