It is customary at the beginning of a new year to establish your New Year’s Resolutions. Summarising your achievements at the end of the year, you most likely discovered that while some of your goals have been achieved, others were replaced with a change of plan, especial with the disruptions that COVID-19 has launched us in. 

Experts at Harvard University have come up with a different and more realistic approach that will work better, especially during a pandemic.  They recommend that instead of setting unrealistic goals in 2022, business owners should consider establishing a plan to make smaller, simpler changes that may deliver better results.

At a time when we’ve all been forced to accept uncertainty during the pandemic, Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, co-author of the book The Wise Company, recently developed six practices to make a better future to help business owners focus on the most important drivers of simultaneous success for themselves, their businesses, and the world at large. Their ideas recently appeared in the article entitled Humanizing Strategy in the journal Long Range Planning.

Here, are the recommend six practices to guide your self-improvement efforts in 2022:

Develop routines

As we gain the ability to collect and analyse more data more rapidly, decision-making and problem-solving have become increasingly complex. Many people look to technology to solve modern problems, but the more technology advances, the more human reasoning and creativity is often needed to shape and apply it, Takeuchi says.

“In this very turbulent world, we really need something like a specific routine to make our lives a little better every day.

To exercise those human strengths and remain centred amid mounting complexity, Takeuchi recommends developing and using kata, a Japanese word that means specific routines, as a means of keep your thoughts and actions in sync with your mission, whether on a personal level or within the business context.

For example, a strategy you can introduce and implement as a specific routine is to ask each client what they would like you to prioritise and focus on each time they visit you and the outcome they are looking for. Confirm to them that their feedback is valuable to you as you wish to design their treatment based on what is the most important to them at that time and not just base it on assumption.  This confirms to them your commitment to detail, ensuring they gain maximum value from your services.  Make this strategy a daily routine when connecting with your clients – it’s amazing what information you will gain from them that will help you identify important changes you can make to improve the client’s experience and better meet their expectations. The devil is in the detail…  

Ask the right questions

When navigating uncertain waters, an ingrained sense of purpose serves as a rudder. To maintain the necessary balance between agility and stability, business owners must develop practical ways of staying true to their mission.

Most businesses have spent time establishing their mission, vision, and values, but few people can succinctly verbalise them on a personal level. Dr Takeuchi recommends asking yourself three questions that will determine if you are personally aligned with your mission, vision and values. 

Ask yourself the following:

  • Why were you born? (Mission, or purpose)
  • What kind of future do you want to create? (Vision)
  • What do you hold dear? (Values)

By asking these questions you will identify if there is genuine synergy and alignment with who are and the ultimate objective of your goals.

Retrain your brain to consider “both/and”

There is a tendency, especially in the West, to think of things in “either/or” terms, but issues are rarely so clear-cut, Takeuchi says.

He went on to say that this way of thinking is reflected in the debates over dualism—such as:

* Mind versus body

* Subject versus object

* Materialism versus idealism, etc.

In management, it is represented by debates over machines versus humans, analytics versus intuition, economic versus societal value, exploration versus exploitation, etc.”

“What we need to do is think of the oneness of nature and our livelihood.”

In the coming year, consider resolving to retrain your mind to think in terms of “both/and” instead of “either/or,” Takeuchi recommends. Changing how we frame such debates within ourselves can result in understanding the world through a lens of oneness.  This is where we make choices that don’t just consider what is good for the company but are equally beneficial for society as well.

“On a very practical level, I think what we need to do is think of the oneness of our choices, by considering what is both beneficial for us as well as the greater good of our consumers.  This will ensure that we make choices that take into consideration how they will impact the well-being of others.  In that way our consumers will more readily identify the value to them of what we are offering them,” says Takeuchi.

Empathise and read more

Empathy is an essential ingredient for maintaining healthy relationships, whether with clients, customers, or a significant other. It might seem like people are either empathetic or not, but you can increase your ability to empathise.

Takeuchi, whose research weaves together strands from various disciplines, including history, neuroscience, anthropology and more, stresses the importance of a liberal arts education. Even if your college days are well behind you, it’s not too late to pick up classic works of literature—he especially likes Jane Austen—as a way to practice putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

In our divisive world, learning to stay calm and accepting of others, when our perspectives may be different is an essential skill that we all need to develop to ensure both our mental and emotional wellbeing will support us in our daily challenges.

Watch the top 10 speeches of all time

Storytelling is the most effective way to communicate ideas and promote understanding, the study confirmed.  

“Stories become a prism through which humans live,” Takeuchi said.

Being able to effectively use metaphors and analogies translates to the ability to persuade and affect change. “The power of rhetoric is something we can learn,” says Takeuchi.

To improve your narration abilities in the year ahead, Takeuchi recommends listening to the 10 of the most popular TED Talks.  You will be inspired, while also experiencing some of the most powerful ways of communicating a message. Click here to check these videos out

Try a high-energy outdoor activity

By connecting with nature, we increase our appreciation of the need to live in harmony with it. As the world experiences resource depletion, deforestation, and other environmental challenges, it has never been more important for business owners and organisations to internalise these problems and find ways to help solve them.

Living with nature can mean a quiet walk in the woods, but it can also involve experiencing the essence of your immediate surroundings in other ways. For example, when Takeuchi travels outside Japan and the United States, he always makes a point of first visiting an open-air market.

“To me, seeing is believing, so for every country that we go to, we always visit the open market, because that’s where you see real living,” he says. “You see it out in the open.”

People experience nature in all sorts of ways, but Takeuchi especially recommends adopting a high-energy outdoor hobby this year. He enjoys downhill skiing.

“Coming down the mountain at full speed, there’s nothing like it,” says Takeuchi, who recently turned 75. “You are facing near-death because you don’t know what’s underneath, so you have to rely on your guts and your intuition … It’s such a thrill, but also a big interface with nature. I just love it.”

So, are you ready to ditch your resolutions for 2022 for a new approach?