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  • 08.23.10

Heads Up vs. Heads Down

Being “heads-down” on a project to reach a deadline is commonplace, but sometimes being “heads-up” is the path to reach true success.

We’ve all heard people in the business world proclaim that they are “heads down” on a project. Or that they are unable to explore new opportunities since they are “heads down in execution mode.”

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Consider, for a moment, the advantages of being “heads up” instead. Let’s compare the two states of being:

Heads Down
Focused on delivery
Tuning out distractions
Avoiding influence from your surroundings
Execution
Getting things done
Right now
What is
Deadlines

Heads Up
Focused on possibilities
Embracing new things
Welcoming outside influence
Curiosity and awareness
Questioning everything
The future
What could be
Imagination

There is a time and place for both approaches. When you are working to ship a new product out the door, you better hope your team is in full “heads down” mode. The problem is that so much of the business world is in the heads-down state of mind, that it becomes difficult for us to shift to heads-up position. It is even more difficult trying to bounce back and forth between the two.

The urgency of heads-down demands usually trump the longer-term importance of being heads-up, so many people rarely visit this vantage point. As you work to expand your creative capacity, make sure to proactively schedule some heads-up time for your team, and hold each other accountable not only for grammatical errors on a memo but, more importantly, for being heads-up and unleashing your imagination and creativity.

About the author

Josh Linkner is the New York Times Bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners.

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