By Mystie Johnson-Foote, MD, MBA

Since my retirement from healthcare, I have been teaching high school students in addition to providing leadership coaching. As a healthcare executive, we often challenged the organization to think big. No doubt, my students and coachees have been challenged to do the same. I have found myself contemplating what it actually means to think big, how it impacts individuals when their big thinking seems to go nowhere, and what steps to take to move forward.

Let’s start with the basic concept of thinking big. Thinking big is a creative process that allows one to define an ideal state or future. An example of this is answering the question, what do you see yourself doing in 5 years? The process of naming the future, and describing how it looks and feels is thinking big! 

In the rapid pace of today’s world thinking big is imperative to continue innovating and staying relevant. Leaders and teams are charged with the unending task of discovering what is next. So, how do we think big? Sometimes the hardest part is getting started.

Use your imagination. As kids, we use our imagination for everything; there is nothing we can’t do. As we get older, we start to second-guess ourselves and limit our imagination. Look at the problem with child-like wonder and let your imagination soar.

Seek new perspectives from coworkers and other resources. Each individual has their own unique ways of approaching and solving a problem, by seeking additional opinions and perspectives, you broaden the way you think about or approach a challenge, potentially allowing you to find a better, more creative solution.

Take it one step at a time. Sometimes you can’t move beyond “go” because the big picture seems daunting. Take small steps to start and advance to the more difficult aspects of a project or task.

Be curious. Again, go back to the beginning. Kids always ask what if. So, what happens if you continually ask yourself, “what if?”

Think long-term. Make sure you are thinking big enough. If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing well… and it’s worth doing big. Make sure the idea is big enough to move with you into the future.

Now you have your big idea… this is where progress sometimes gets hung up. Once you have it, what do you do with it?

Any great idea must have a plan otherwise it’s just that, a big idea. People and organizations can become frustrated that big thinking results in no action leaving one wondering how can change occur by thinking big. Therefore, it is important that once these great ideas are formulated, a plan of action is put into place so the progress can be seen.  

Following are several steps you can take to help ensure success when thinking big:

  • Define the desired outcome in one simple sentence. This ensures everyone understands the objective and are all headed in the right direction. 
  • Seek feedback about the desired outcome to ensure buy in from individuals and the organization. Without the commitment of the stakeholders, big ideas and change cannot happen.
  • Expect failure first. Yes, that’s right, to come up with solutions that work, you must give your teams permission to take risks and fail along the way.
  • Set goals and targets to meet along your journey to motivate your teams to reach the big outcome. These milestones should be continually checked to ensure they align with the desired end state.
  • Celebrate as you reach your milestones and then again when you see the results “your big thinking” have made when you reach your goal.

If you need help getting started with thinking big, or any part of your systems thinking process, please reach out: We would love to discuss ways to help you create a successful future for your teams and your organization.