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Kyle Hermans - blog image

How to unlock your future leadership superpower

Summary of ideas from our Kyle Hermans masterclass on breakthrough thinking

Kyle Hermans - blog image

“Thinking is a superpower!” - Kyle Hermans, co-founder and CEO of BeCourageous.

Leaders are bombarded with 12 million bits of data every single day. Much of it happens without us even thinking about it. From the feel of our shoes on the floor to a dog barking to the ‘ping’ of a notification.

In his Growth Faculty masterclass, we learned from Kyle Hermans that to unleash ‘breakthrough thinking’ we must tune into this unconscious thinking. By channelling our thoughts, we can make breakthroughs that can become a reality we never thought possible. Here’s a summary of the masterclass and some exercises you can try with your team.

Your mental state matters

Your mental state informs your behaviour which informs your results.

For example, if you choose to arrive at a meeting with energy and optimism, you’ll attract enthusiasm and creativity, which may lead to more ideas and better outcomes.

Or, put another way, results depend upon behaviours which are determined by skills, abilities, and strategies, which are guided by beliefs which come from our values.

Try this exercise: Tune your thoughts to a moment when your thinking was on fire, when you felt energised and alive. Where and how does that show up in your body? Now, stay in that state to shift your behaviour as you sort through solutions. 

So, breakthrough thinking requires mastery of:

·       The issue or opportunity – what purposeful issue/opportunity do you wish to solve for? Why?

·       Your mindset and energy – what is the mindset and the energy needed, and why?

·       Your actions – what actions do you need to take to achieve your breakthrough?

·       Your courage – what is the courage needed right now? And why?

Operational and innovation thinking

Leaders keen to encourage breakthrough thinking in their teams should be ambidextrous on both operational and innovation thinking.

·       Operational – rules, routines, procedures, decision-making, the rational

·       Innovation – exploration, experimentation, curiosity, the unknown

Try this exercise: Think of a problem or an opportunity. Ask yourself ‘In which state is my current thinking?’ and ‘What is the thinking that is needed right now?’ 

Before we continue with this article, a friendly invitation from us: If your leadership skills could do with further development join us with a 12 month Leadership Pass. You get unlimited access to 40 live virtual events - PLUS 100s of videos, podcasts and book summaries on demand. Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. Access $7500+ value for just $398 AUD.

Attention vs Inattention

Be alert to where you spend your time. Everyone wants the attention of the leader. Dealing with this inbound ‘noise’ often comes at the expense of the important things we intend to do (the outbound). Be disciplined about the outbound first.

Try this exercise: Ask yourself ‘Are the steps and actions for things I intend to achieve being put out into the world first, before I do what others need from me?’ Put a post-it note saying ‘Outbound First’ somewhere prominent.

Breakthrough thinking team exercise

A good small-steps exercise to take your team through to kickstart breakthrough thinking.

1.     Write down one sentence about the problem or opportunity

2.     Write briefly why this is a problem/opportunity and what is your/their ownership of the problem/opportunity?

3.     Jot down a very brief history of the problem/opportunity – and relevant background.

4.     Write an answer to ‘What have you already tried or thought of trying?’

5.     Finish with: ‘What outcomes would you most like to get from this meeting?’

Moving out of the ‘Imaginable Known’

When searching for solutions much of our thinking stays neatly inside a box – in the ‘imaginable known’ space. But the future looks nothing like the past. As a result, there are 4 spaces we can spend our thinking time in:

·       Imaginable known = What we know, what we have already proved.

·       Unimaginable known = What we know today that was once unimaginable (ie. work-from-home).

·       Imaginable unknown = No evidence, no data, no proof, but we can imagine it.

·       Unimaginable unknown = Expanded consciousness, deep exploration.

Breakthrough thinking comes from leaders who “courage the future” by moving their thinking towards these unimaginable spaces.

Try this exercise: Think of your problem or opportunity. Brainstorm solutions that move further away from the rational towards the unimaginable (ie. diverse, metaphor/analogy, irrelevant, illegal/immoral, outrageous thinking).

In and out listening

Kyle says he is a great note-taker. He jots down anything and everything that crops up in his thinking, he hears, that delights him, or that captures his attention. Most things hold our attention for only 6-7 seconds before our mind wanders off. Use this to your advantage.

Try this exercise: Headline 3 columns: WHAT I HEARD - Take notes on what you heard, WHAT I’M THINKING - write alongside what you’re thinking as you write the notes (images, emotions, connections, random ideas, what you’re seeing and feeling), ACTIONS WORTH TAKING – write an action you can take right now to ‘courage your future’. 

Build a relationship

If stuck trying to find a solution, Kyle recommends we ‘build a relationship’ to our breakthrough thinking.

Try this exercise: It’s as easy as 1-2-3:

Step One: Write down the problem or opportunity.

Step Two: Write down anything you’re thinking (chocolate cake, scuba diving, laughing with friends). Pinpoint the source of the inspiration and excitement for those items on the list.

Step Three: Bring some of that inspiration and excitement back to your challenge. 

Fear can block us

Psychological safety is critical for breakthrough thinking. If we are punished for our ideas, we won’t want to share anything in future. Sadly, this fear will catch on in the team, according to social learning theory. So, it is vital leaders create the space for others to bring their breakthrough thinking into the workplace.

This is especially important as you scale and grow, given your problems will scale with you if you don’t catch and respond to them early.

Try this exercise: Make a habit of breakthrough thinking. Ask yourself ‘Are we only going to start breakthrough thinking when we’ve lost market share?’

Safekeeping thinking vs experimental thinking

Allow 10-20% of your thinking time for experimental thinking, and the rest for safekeeping thinking.

Experimental thinking:

·       It’s experimental, rather than well-thought-out

·       Surprising, risky, violating conventions or principles

·       Absurd, playful, and nonsensical

·       Metaphorical and image-based, rather than factual and analytical

·       Leading to intriguing originality

Try this exercise: Keep 80-90% of your thinking time in the low risk, surprise-free, safe, and relevant thinking to keep the doors open and the business humming. But build your breakthrough thinking muscle by playing with surprising, experimental alternative ideas.

Two steps to add into your process

To activate breakthrough thinking into a process, move from:




Innovative organisations need 7 components to work together for breakthrough thinking to have an impact: Ambidextrous enterprise, customer mindset, integrated strategy, innovation pipeline and portfolio, experimentation, dedicated resources, metrics.

Try this exercise: Ask yourself ‘How much thinking did I do this month?’   

Conversation starter questions

·       Take your mind into the future. What is the next step you could do today to get there?

·       Creativity is Courage - How will you integrate creativity into your daily life?

·       How will you deal with errant thoughts in the future?

If you liked Kyle Hermans, don't miss James Clear of Atomic Habits fame at the end of June. He is included in our Leadership Pass. A reminder, you get unlimited access to 40 live virtual events - PLUS 100s of videos, podcasts and book summaries on demand for just $398 AUD (Tax deductible in Australia). See who's coming up


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