Why day dreaming is an essential skill for business owners

By spending time dreaming, you’ll get different insights into what’s really going on, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there.

Day dreaming is an important part of the process of strategic planning and envisioning your business’s future direction. It allows you to think big without the constraints of ‘reality’, it allows the mind the wander to places it might not normally go, to see new connections and create new ideas. Day dreaming is important because it has no boundaries, walls or barriers – anything becomes possible.

Walt Disney knew all about the importance of day dreaming. He attributed his phenomenal run of film release successes to his creative three-step process, later termed: ‘The Disney Strategy’.

Andrew Jenkins, author of ‘You Are More Than You Think’ has successfully helped many businesses and their leadership teams to day dream, plan ahead and enrich their thinking by using a version of Walt Disney’s approach.

Here’s how the process works:

Day Dream Stage: This is where the team collectively brain-storms new ideas and explores potential goals and intentions. No idea is to be rejected, anything goes and above all – NO criticism or critique. Ask: What is wanted? Why is it wanted? What are the benefits? How will it be recognised? By when can it be expected?

Realist Stage: Questions asked here are based on: What are main chunks of activity? What evidence is needed in order to know it has worked? How will risk be mitigated? How will it be tested?

Critic Stage: This is where constructive critique, challenge and critical thinking are allowed. Questions considered here would be: What objections might there be? What could stop the plan? What’s the intent behind any critique?

Finally it is important to revisit the day dream stage to determine; does it still stack up, or do we need to reject it and consider a new day dream?

This is a powerful and engaging process that works very well because it engages both parts of our brains at different times. Imagine for a moment that we each have a mental slider in our heads that enables us to use different modes of thinking. At one extreme end of the slider we are able to relax our mind and engage our creative and intuitive thinking parts. At the other end of the slider we better engage the critical thinking parts of us – and this takes mental effort.

Critical thinking is important, however, it doesn’t work very well when people become leaders and business owners. This is because the focus of thinking subtly shifts when people move into these positions of responsibility. A leader’s role broadens from one that is about working ‘in’ the business, to a role that also encompasses working ‘on’ the business and spending time contemplating its future. A business depends upon good leadership decisions.

So as leaders and business owners it is vitally important that you start to give yourself permission to be on the balcony of your business, to day dream and to envision the future. To do this you have to learn to push the mental slider and attend more to developing the capabilities of your creative and intuitive side.

So does this mean, as a business owner, that you no longer need to push your mental slider back to using your critical thinking? Certainly not. Day-to-day operational decisions still need your experience and critical brain. However, your success will come more easily if you deliberately make time for day dreaming too. The mark of a successful leader is one who is able to develop flexibility, and knows how to shift easily from one mode of thinking to another. The more adept you become at moving your mental slider the more your business will benefit.