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Jump Ahead of the Curve

Access Continuum’s COVID response toolkit for leaders, teams and organizations

Continuum Consulting Services LLC

The rapid pace of change, and the increasing uncertainty leaders face today as they make decisions about the future, requires new tools and strategies. At Continuum, we have found “The Squint Factor” to be an essential framework as we innovate and lead in this current COVID environment.

Why You Should Care About “The Squint Factor”

No one knows exactly what the future will bring. Given the amount of challenges we all navigate daily, the focus often remains on the present situation. But that’s not the entire picture.

To effectively lead, it’s critical to learn to deal not only with today’s challenges, but also, simultaneously, to look and plan for two steps ahead.

This is where the art of squinting comes into play.

What is “The Squint Factor”?

We all squint at one time or another, closing our eyes and looking for something we sense is there, even if it’s fuzzy. It’s a simple act, and one most people often don’t even think about.

It is also an apt metaphor for a critical leadership competency required today—being able to, if not predict the future, at least take a best-guess outcome about it, course-correct along the way, and help create it.

How to “Squint” Your Way into the Future

1. Encourage Collective Squinting.

Convene a group of people and introduce a provocative topic for discussion.  Then, encourage the group to share what they see when they squint.

Examples may include:

  • The future of the organization
  • The next product people will need during the pandemic
  • How to best optimize a virtual workplace.

Ask people to tap into their knowledge, experience and intuition. Then, together, begin to squint and talk about the hot topic and what they see will be needed two steps ahead of where you are now.

Be prepared for magic: The group will feed off of others’ ideas and suddenly see new possibilities for the future.

At some point in the conversation, the group will also reach a collective “Ah-ha!” moment of clarity when everybody gets it. We call this the “Squint Breakthrough Moment.” It is from this new point of clarity that the group can make decisions and take action.

2. Change the Conversation.

When people talk about what they’re squinting at, it refocuses them in a positive direction. Right now, people are frozen in fear. So much attention and focus is on the present problem—what's not working, and what's on the plate to tackle today.

By changing the conversation, and encouraging people to focus on what's emerging and what's possible, suddenly you release some of that fear.  When potential scenarios crystalize, you have something solid to work toward.

Once people know what the possibilities are, they know what the potential is. Reaching that “A-ha! Moment” releases positive, innovative and creative energy. With that energy comes the motivation to go past those fearful places, and take more positive action.

3. Squint Repeatedly.

Once a group decides where they need to head, they begin to take their best steps forward in that direction. However, conditions are changing fast and the route isn't a straight line anymore.

The skills needed to maneuver through this ambiguity include:

  • A steady eye on the destination point
  • Taking the next best steps
  • Regrouping
  • Squinting again and deciding whether the landscape has changed
  • Assessing your direction by asking:
    • Is this still the direction we need to head?
    • Is there a different opportunity out there that we may not have seen when we were back three steps?

Today’s work world requires constant reassessing. Instead of a straight line, it demands that you constantly change course, often by steering toward, rather than away from, the current. You go a few steps, look around, decide if this is still the right direction, and course correct as needed

In those acts, you will ensure that you survive and thrive.

How We Can Help with Squinting

  • Squinting is an essential tool for navigating “What Now” and “There’s More?!” phases of the COVID Leadership Model. Read more to learn about additional tips and tools for leading through these important phases.
  • The Institute for the Future has compiled a guide for creating new visions of a common future. The article offers some excellent concepts to stimulate your thinking and deepen your Squint conversations as you stay two steps ahead!

Wendy B. White is a Founder|Partner of Continuum Consulting Services.