It's that time of year where many leaders will ramp up their business planning for the upcoming year. You'll go through and evaluate what worked well, identify goals for the year ahead, and possibly work with agencies and strategic partners to come up with big breakthrough ideas to help you reach your goals.
Back when I had a corporate job, I was tasked to lead this process for my department, and it consumed my whole summer. We held a series of on and off-site meetings where people tried their best to stay engaged and bring their best ideas while popping in and out to attend other important meetings or respond to urgent emails. The process looks similar for many companies.
Even with the best of intentions, the distractions and divided focus often result in brands only making minor incremental changes to what they are already doing. They struggle to come up with big ideas that will transform their business and how they serve their customers in a meaningful way.
There's one approach that many of the world's most successful leaders use to break from the chaos of the day-to-day, so they can produce some of their best work. You can do the same.
The simple action these artists and leaders took to create their masterpieces
During a flight earlier this month, I finally watched the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. I was struck by a scene where iconic band Queen went away on a writing retreat to a secluded house to pen the songs for an upcoming album.
It reminded me of a process Beyonce went through when she released her self-titled album in late 2013. The writing process started more than a year earlier when Beyonce and her team rented a house in the Hamptons and invited collaborators to join her. Here's how Lee Anne Callahan-Longo, general manager of Beyonce's production company Parkwood Entertainment, described the process to Harvard Business Review:
We rented a house for a month. Everyone would have dinner together every night and break off into different rooms and work on music. She had five or six rooms going, each set up as a studio, and would go from room to room and say things like "I think that song needs that person's input." Normally you would not see songs have two or more producers, but it was really collaborative.
In her memoir Becoming, former first lady Michelle Obama recounted how early in their marriage, Barack Obama went off to Thailand to finish writing his first book, Dreams from My Father. It's been reported that President Obama also visited an island in the South Pacific to work on his latest memoir of his time in the oval office.
And every year, I go on a mastermind retreat with my girlfriends, where we take the time to do business planning for our respective companies each year. We've gone to places like Cambridge in the U.K., Buenos Aires, New York, and Martha's Vineyard. This year, we're scheduled to go to the Bahamas.
The process has been so transformative for me that I'm adding another mastermind session with a different small group of business owners this fall. We rented a beach house in Los Angeles where we'll dig into our respective businesses.
You don't have to go to an exotic location to make a creative or planning retreat work for you. You just need to go to a place where you'll be free of distractions so you can give yourself the head-space you need to focus. The change of scenery will help you tap into your creativity. It's hard to do when you're surrounded by the familiar.
You also don't have to leave for months at a time. A week or even a weekend trip can work wonders if you focus your energy. You can go alone to do the planning, or you can take a team of people with you to get the benefit of collaboration.
Schedule the time away. Give your mind the space it needs to get inspired to create the kind of solutions that allow you to solve your customers' problems.