How To Cultivate Big Picture Thinking
Big picture thinking can benefit any person in any profession. When somebody like Jack Welch tells a GE employee that the ongoing relationship with the customer is more important than the sale of an individual product, he’s reminding them of the big picture. When two parents are fed up with potty training, poor grades, or fender-benders, and one reminds the other that the current difficult time is only a temporary season, then they benefit from thinking big picture. Real estate developer Donald Trump quipped, “You have to think anyway, so why not think big?” Big picture thinking brings "wholeness" and maturity to a person’s thinking. It brings perspective. It’s like making the frame of a picture bigger, in the process expanding not only what you can see, but what you are able to do. Spend time with big-picture thinkers, and you will find that they:
Big-picture thinkers are never satisfied with what they already know. They are always visiting new places, reading new books, meeting new people, learning new skills. And because of that practice, they often are able to connect the unconnected. They are lifelong learners.To help you maintain a learner’s attitude, spend a few moments every morning thinking about learning opportunities for the day.
An excellent way to broaden your experience is to listen to someone who has expertise in an area where you don’t. Search for such opportunities. Listening has taught me a lot more than talking.When you meet with people, it’s good to have an agenda so that you can learn. It’s a great way to partner with people who can do things you can’t.
Writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Many an object is not seen, though it falls within the range of our visual ray, because it does not come within the range of our intellectual ray.” Human beings habitually see their own world first. Big picture thinkers realize there is a world out there besides their own, and they make an effort to get outside of themselves and see other people’s worlds through their eyes. It’s hard to see the picture while inside the frame. To see how others see, you must first find out how they think. Becoming a good listener certainly helps.
French essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne wrote, “The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little.” The truth is that you can spend your life any way you want, but you can spend it only once. Becoming a big picture thinker can help you to live with wholeness, to live a very fulfilling life. People who see the big picture expand their experience because they expand their world. As a result, they accomplish more than narrow-minded people. And they experience fewer unwanted surprises, too, because they are more likely to see the many components involved in any given situation: issues, people, relationships, timing, and values. They are also, therefore, usually more tolerant of other people and their thinking.
If you desire to seize new opportunities and open new horizons, then you need to add big picture thinking to your abilities. To become a good thinker better able to see the big picture, keep in mind the following suggestions:
1. Don’t Strive for Certainty
Big picture thinkers are comfortable with ambiguity. They don’t try to force every observation or piece of data into pre-formulated mental cubby holes. They think broadly and can juggle many seemingly contradictory thoughts in their minds. If you want to cultivate the ability to think big picture, then you must get used to embracing and dealing with complex and diverse ideas.”
2. Learn from Every Experience
Big picture thinkers broaden their outlook by striving to learn from every experience. They don’t rest on their successes, they learn from them. More importantly, they learn from their failures. They can do that because they remain teachable. Varied experiences—both positive and negative—help you see the big picture. The greater the variety of experience and success, the more potential to learn you have. If you desire to be a big picture thinker, then get out there and try a lot of things, take a lot of chances, and take time to learn after every victory or defeat.
3. Gain Insight from a Variety of People
Big picture thinkers learn from their experiences. But they also learn from experiences they don’t have. That is, they learn by receiving insight from others—from customers, employees, colleagues, and leaders. If you desire to broaden your thinking and see more of the big picture, then seek out counselors to help you. But be wise in whom you ask for advice. Gaining insight from a variety of people doesn’t mean stopping anyone and everyone in hallways and grocery store lines and asking what they think about a given subject. Be selective. Talk to people who know and care about you, who know their field, and who bring experience deeper and broader than your own
4. Give Yourself Permission to Expand Your World
If you want to be a big-picture thinker, you will have to go against the flow of the world. Society wants to keep people in boxes. Most people are married mentally to the status quo. They want what was, not what can be. They seek safety and simple answers. To think big picture, you need to give yourself permission to go a different way, to break new ground, to find new worlds to conquer. And when your world does get bigger, you need to celebrate. Never forget there is more out there in the world than what you’ve experienced