There is a different way that you should be looking at the next three weeks.

For 21 days, every South African and South African business will be forced to slow down; forced to reframe thinking about the future and the potential opportunities that it holds.

To do that however, there is a need first to quieten the mind.

There is Zen analogy that goes; 'If you throw a big rock into a turbulent sea, you will not notice any ripples as a result. But if you throw a small pebble into a still pond, you definitely notice the waves created from your action.'

This period ahead will be an excellent time to calmly reconsider your strategy, to put effort into thinking purposefully about your plans to innovate and emerge from it more equipped to prosper from uncertainty and volatility in the future; but to do that successfully it needs to be done with a clear mind.

So without sounding too much like spiritual guru, before tackling the task of actively thinking about your future - there is value in spending some time each morning in quiet meditation. Practicing the art of silencing the mind, focusing simply on listening to your breathing, and letting go of the barrage of thoughts and ideas that usually fill your head.

If you feel so inspired, consider downloading and reading Haemin Sunim's book 'The things you can only see when you slow down' or Benjamin Hoff's 'The Tao of Pooh' (funny name - great book) and perhaps consider Alan Watts' 'Tao: The Watercourse Way'.

Once you're feeling calmer - then ask yourself a few key questions that may seem simple, but often we just don't have enough time to answer them properly and honestly. They are also very useful as mental building blocks on which you can then take your strategic thinking deeper.

Here are three to get you started:

#1 What reality are you really facing?

Honestly - how are you doing? How is your business really doing? What challenges are you facing? Where do your barriers lie? Where do you think you might be able to offer more value in the future and what's stopping you from going after it?

All too often business leaders will fool themselves into believing that everything is fine, without ever really being honest with themselves as to what the reality actually is.

#2 What business are you in?

Without reciting the nonsense that you got some ad agency to write for you that nobody actually ever reads - what business are you actually in?

In workshops that I do with clients, I often ask this innocent question, which so much more than any other question, causes lots of debate and discussion amongst people. It may seem obvious enough to you, but it's surprising as to how many divergent answers you get to this one.

#3 What do you understand innovation to be?

Innovation has always been vital for the future of any business, but now it just cannot be seen as a nice-to-have any more. Companies will be obliged to activate their innovation strategic planning resources - else face an almost certain demise.

Part of this process would be for organisations to also find congruency as to what they understand the definition of the word to mean.

As a consultant - I often hold council with CEOs who worry because they perceive that the only way that they can innovate is through the apparent application of high-tech solutions, which for them is risky and capital intensive.

But innovation actually wears many hats - and often huge efficiencies and new productivity can be unlocked in very simple, analogue ways that actually just require a different way of thinking about the problem.  

So what do you understand innovation to mean? What do you perceive it as? What barriers exist in your company to its successful leveraging? Who drives it? What value do staff attach to it?


This 3-week period offers us all a gift. A gift of time to reflect and think intentionally about our futures.

Firstly however, you need to prepare the ground for productive thought.

Take a few days - calm down, let the urgency of the build-up to this time subside, quieten the mind and start from a still place.