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Eight top tips to develop your personal external perspective

By Cranfield School of Management

develop external perspective

Most businesses lack managers who have an external perspective despite executives valuing the capability highly, according to research from Cranfield's School of Management. This contradiction is due to a lack of understanding about the concept and company politics forcing it down the priority list.

Instead of encouraging the practice of thinking outside the box, which reveals new possibilities and keeps businesses ahead of the game, organisations often develop ways of doings things that simply reinforce habitual managerial responses and decisions, irrespective of their appropriateness to the rapidly changing business environment.

Rising business demands make it hard to find the time to proactively nurture external perspective on an individual level, and company development agendas ironically typically favour an internal focus, but businesses and their leaders need to look outward to see the future, then shape and secure it. 
The following points are designed to help executives build external perspective development into their busy schedules.

1. Make time to develop

Set aside short but regular periods to find out about your industry and how others innovate. By nurturing your personal external perspective, you will increase your creative business strategies and develop on a personal level.


2. Establish the external perspective level most useful to you

Use the suggestions in chart two of this article to identify the most appropriate level for your development right now, and get to grips with how you can innovate to benefit your business. Three external perspective levels have been identified: business perspective, industry perspective and extra-industry perspective, each of which have distinct qualities and advantages.


3. Get back to basics

Identify gaps in your knowledge of your business. Look externally at how others innovate within these areas and use this information as a foundation for your personal development. Through identifying areas to improve you will become receptive to the most relevant types of innovation.


4. Stay abreast of industry developments

Network with other professionals from your industry at events or conferences, look out for the latest industry reports, publications and updates, and use external meetings to learn best practices outside your business.


5. Pinpoint how to improve your business

Consider what your business could do better, then discover how competitors and other industries meet these challenges. By learning how external organisations innovate to overcome organisational challenges, you may be able to resolve issues within your workplace – or learn from the lessons of others to identify ways to prevent them arising in the first place.


6. Investigate how other industries function

Some of the most innovative thinking comes from bringing in ideas from outside your industry. You may want to try a managerial exchange, shadow a counterpart working in a different organisation, return the favour and discuss your different experiences, learning and observations to develop one another’s thinking, or volunteer then integrate the things learned from your experience within your business. This will drive positive change and has the potential to stimulate radical and industry-leading ideas.


7. Learn from others

Find a personal mentor from another business or industry or sign up to an external course to develop alongside senior managers across other industries. Lots of the best learning comes from external perspectives – by extending your antennae, you may pick up new signals that develop you as a professional.


8. Don’t be afraid to be different

Allow yourself to think outside the box. By breaking away from the everyday habits ingrained into organisations, you will leap from conservative strategy to ground breaking trains of thought.


Unlocking the power of external experience to fuel strategic innovation requires radical ideas and the capability to cultivate them within an organisation. There are means of identifying and developing competencies, approaches and individual blockages, which if utilised can drive executive development to another level.


Cranfield School of Management offers General Management programmes which are designed to offer a comprehensive and integrated personal development experience for people at critical transition points in their managerial career.

Join managers from a diverse range of industries to learn from each other and develop an external perspective. 

Tags: Cranfield School of Management, exec-feature, developing leadership, executive development, general management, leadership capability, share knowledge, knowledge management, external perspective