Gary Player’s (iconic golfer, for the non-sports fans among you) famous mantra sums up nicely how it pays to put in the groundwork. There are many other sporting examples: David Beckham, Victoria Pendleton, Johnny Wilkinson…

In the world of Design Thinking, we talk about the many and varied factors that can affect your business: long range, macro trends, mega-trends, consumer trends, short-term… It takes time to gather and understand all this information, let alone build a plan from it. The answer is not to try to do everything, but to do something.

There’s a model of effort that offers a time split you may be able to manage: dedicate 70% of your time to what you do now. This is your bread and butter, and it must be done.

Spend 20% of your time on what needs to happen next. This is how you’ll deliver your plan. It may be buying kit, or working out a collaboration, or advance-buying media. This is important too.

Finally, assign 10% of your time to stuff you don’t know. Look at the changing market. Step away from your business and read around technology and consumer activities. Look at non-related subjects. Read magazines you’d never otherwise pick up. Go to a conference. Visit a trade show. Go on holiday. Any one of these might throw up a new perspective for you to consider as an opportunity.

The reason for thinking far and wide is as important to your long-term strategy as cutting invoices is to making the payroll today. It’s also contagious. If you start talking about things you’ve seen on your travels and new ideas that are appearing in other markets or countries, you’ll find that your team does too. There’s no mystery to this. It’s just what happens.

Start talking about boats and somebody in the room will know something about boats. Ask them where to buy a mould for a hull and I’m willing to bet you’ll have an answer within 24 hours.

Ask more questions and you’ll get more answers. Consume more data and you’ll be amazed how many questions you have.

As Gary said, ‘the more I practise, the luckier I get’ – and there are parallels with the 10,000 hour rule, but the bottom line is this: it takes familiarity with a subject to be able to talk about it with confidence.

By consistently giving time to the future, and to the things coming out of it that may interest you, you’ll build a vision of what is likely to affect your business. From here, you have options to choose from and can react accordingly. All it takes is to get started.

Here’s another quote for you from a Chinese proverb: ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.’ Don’t leave it too long to plant yours. I reckon you’ve got about 18 months to know where you’re going.

If you would like some help getting started, please drop me a line here.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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