Creativity at Work: Coloring Outside the Lines While Thinking Inside the Box

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Imagine this: you are sitting on your normal Monday morning conference call being grilled about hitting the weekly benchmarks—sales, profits, team expansions. You have implemented all of the suggested tactics, but the old solutions just. aren’t. working. anymore.

You have new strategies to try, but they fall on deaf ears. Sound familiar?

You aren’t going crazy. There is a barrier against creativity in the workplace – even if we don’t mean to have one! According to research from Cornell University, this creativity bias is a subconscious reaction to avoiding risk and minimizing uncertainty in the face of the unfamiliar. Even if your boss wants (and emphatically states a desire for) new, creative ideas, this creativity bias actually prevents novel suggestions from being recognized, encouraged, and accepted.

So, what can you do to convince your boss that your creative solutions are viable, while toeing the company line?

  • If your company is devoted to developing innovative ideas, try tying innovation to embracing a certain amount of uncertainty. After all, being new, different, or improved requires changing the status quo. Cite exciting, risk-taking thinkers. Think Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Sergey Brin.
  • What if your company has an aversion to all things new? Try reducing the uncertainty and risk for your boss and decision-makers. Are there studies that support your suggestions to improve efficiency, morale, or productivity? Present them as evidence that your suggestions are proven and effective.

Either way, you can color outside the lines while thinking about what’s inside the box.

How have you exercised creativity at work? Share your comments below.

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Making Time for You

Making Time for You

Last week we talked about setting priorities at work but what about your personal priorities?

The busyness of life has a way of creeping in – it’s not just that there’s so much to do at work, but there’s just so much to do in GENERAL!

Just like taking the time to set priorities at work is hugely important to your job, setting priorities for you, personally, is hugely important to the quality of life that you experience.

We all have “that thing” that we would “love to change” if we could.

Here are a couple starters we’d love to:

  • Eat healthier
  • Read a new book or two
  • Work out more often
  • Be less stressed out
  • Travel to Europe
  • Become more meditative

It is great to have that “thing” you’d love to do!

So, now what? Just like we had some tips for setting priorities for your work, we’ve got some for your personal priorities as well!

Tip 1: Start small

It is so great that you want to work out more but don’t feel like you’ve got to run your first 10k in 6 weeks!

Take it slow. Set a realistic goal. Maybe you can commit to finding a 5-minute workout routine on Pinterest to do twice a week.

Set your goal to be something you know you can do so that you feel empowered to keep going and not discouraged!

 Tip 2: Find a friend!

I know, this title is slightly reminiscent to the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire’s” phone a friend, but in all seriousness, find someone who you can do this with!

Maybe it is someone who has wanted to read more and you can read the same book together or someone who you share meals with often and you both can go on a healthier- kick!

Just don’t go at this change alone!

Tip 3: Create a reward for yourself

This is really exiting that you are taking the time to do something for you!

What can you do as a “great job!” once you accomplish it?

Maybe you’ll buy a fun bottle of wine to celebrate 30 days of healthier eating or have a new meal planned after you’ve taken 15 minutes of meditation for 10 days.

Choose something to honor all the hard work you’ve done – you deserve it!

Staying Engaged in your Work

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In wrapping up our tips for working from home we’ve got our team member, Audra Brown, on how to stay engaged while working at home. Take it away, Audra!

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 11.08.19 AMThere are days when I can honestly say I miss my life in a cubicle, when getting my job done required little more than the subtle motivations of the workplace: my boss sitting in the glass office across from me, my co-workers entrenched on similar projects, and the constant team meetings, lunch, and water cooler breaks.

Working from home with two small children means that getting my “office” work done with excellence is a whole lot more exciting to accomplish! My role as a work-from-home mom requires me to operate in an environment of constant demands and a timetable that is variable at best.

Although organization (what’s that again?) and time management (wait, you can manage time?!) are key pieces to meeting my deadlines and ensuring I am focused and engaged, I have also found that motivating myself properly is a significant piece in achieving success in an otherwise, as I like to call it, hostile work environment.

It has been said that the best jobs are the ones you love and happen to get paid for. Who doesn’t want to have the best job? I try to make mine just that by finding ways to love what I do, even if that connection isn’t naturally there in the beginning.

Here are some ways I try to engage myself with my work:

  1. Find the areas of each project/task that play to my strengths. How can I exercise my strengths to not only do a good job but possibly take it to the next level?
  2. Define why I care about the outcome and/or the people that will be on the receiving end of it
  3. Discover pieces of my work in which I can incorporate slices of fun, interest, color, or insight
  4. Figure out if I can grow myself as a person through this task and come out more skilled or learned on the other end
  5. Reinforce my vision of the end goal and how I want to feel at the end of it. Recognize what it is going to take to get me there

Lastly, I would add that remembering that I control this project and my attitude towards it (and not the other way around) always takes a bit of the pressure off, allowing me the freedom to truly enjoy my work and take it where it needs to go no matter what hour of the day, night, or weekend I’m working on it!

Define Your Objectives

Define Your Objectives

Last week was nice, right? Surprisingly, your calendar wasn’t so crazy that you were grabbing lunch as you were running into your next meeting.

But next week, you don’t even know how you’ll have time even make a pit stop to the bathroom… work is back in FULL swing!

So many times we start out January with high hopes of what will be different this year.

But then, that project that you had hanging around from December needs to be completed and you are caught between people leaving your team and onboarding the new hires – slowly those hopes of what you or your team wanted to accomplish slowly start to get pushed down on the priority list as the “fires” take all of your energy.

MAKE. THIS. YEAR. DIFFERENT.

How?

Step 1. Take out your calendar and block off one hour next week and one hour for the following week.

Make sure that this is time that you will really be able to spending THINKING.

And, don’t schedule over it.

Step 2. During the time you scheduled next week, think about ONE objective for either you or your team to accomplish in the next 6 months.

This could be something along the lines of driving your team to work better together or focusing on developing the skills you know you need for that promotion.

Step 3. Define (and document!) what the objective is

Step 4. Write out the ‘why’ behind it – why does this objective matter?

The why will really be your driving source of momentum.

GREAT! You’ve got what you want to do and why it matters. Next week we’ll talk about some strategies as to how to make that happen!

Continuing to Navigate

Rapids 2Last week, Coach Terry, PhD, PCC shared 3 steps on how to use political savvy to expand your influence in a positive way. Well, Coach Terry is back to share the final steps to developing your political strategy.

Take it away, Terry!

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.14.22 PMNow that we have recognized the key players, identified their interests, and mapped out their power and authority, let’s focus on getting our political strategy defined.

 

Step 4: Conflicts and Alliances

 

In every situation there are likely to be natural conflicts. While you may have had a strong alliance with a key leader yesterday, a new topic may emerge where you now find yourselves at odds. You can better predict likely conflicts by understanding the interests of key players. Frequent contact with the key players is crucial for political savvy.

 

Best Practice: Mapping out the alliances and the conflicts in any given political situation helps you better understand how decisions may be influenced within an organization.

 

Step 5: Political Strategy

 

In this final step, you will synthesize steps 1 through 4 to develop your political strategy.

 

Consider the following key questions:

 

  • Who are my allies that are likely to support me?
  • Who are my detractors, and how much power do they have?
  • Do I have enough support to overcome objections?
  • Who do I need to talk to further to better understand their positions, concerns, and interests?
  • Do I have enough relationship capital to influence those in authority to get what I want?
  • Is the timing right, or should I wait until there is more support for my position?
  • If I move forward, what will be the likely outcome in terms of future support or resistance from stakeholders?

 

The ultimate goal here is to continually build alliances and to avoid making enemies over the long haul.

 

As a reminder, political savvy can be used in an ethical way in an organization to increase your influence and build relationships. By understanding political savvy as a process, anyone can develop the skills to be successful in maneuvering organizational politics to achieve greater influence and business results.

 

So, try it out! Opportunities come up all the time to expand your influence, wherever you are in your organization.

Let us know how it goes!

More Action Planning for Your Goals

ODL- ImageHow’s your week been? Did you get a chance to try out Wunderlist? What’d you think?

Maybe you wished the app was similar to a weekly planner – if so, we’ve got just what you need!

Let’s check out App #2: Opus Domini Lite

Who tested it?

Spencer- Blog ImageSpencer Haney

  • Project Coordinator for multiple internal, high-visibility projects with dispersed stakeholders
  • Fast learner who loves crossing things off a to-do list and staying ahead of colleagues and clients
  • Husband, Sport Enthusiast, and avid Board Gamer

Why I like it:

  • Works like an easy day- by- day planner, just like your paper one would look!
  • The search function pulls up different buckets to narrow down the results
  • Easy to track tasks with the selectable status icons
  • Syncs with google calendar and you can create new calendar appointments on the app
  • Simple goal tracking, with a fun progress bar to show how far you’ve come
  • Cool “compass” to help you keep tabs on your physical, mental, social, and physical goals
  • Ability to forward tasks to a selected date
  • It’s free!

What could be better?

  • No alarm feature for tasks
  • Not able to share lists or tasks
  • Only available for Apple products

Our bottom line:

Opus Domini Lite provides the chance to keep tabs on goals in all different areas of your life. It is a solid one stop shop for calendar and task productivity.

Try it out—let us know what you think!

Moving Forward on Your Goals

Wunderlist

 

How have your 2015 goals been going? Making some progress? Hoping to make some headway soon?

Sometimes (we’re not pointing fingers here!) it’s hard to remember the goals or deadlines we’ve created for ourselves. It’s also exponentially harder to get things done if we don’t have some accountability.

Want to create that accountability for yourself? We’ve found some apps for that job!

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll review a productivity/tracking app road-tested by one of our teammembers that will help you focus on (and hold yourself accountable to) the goals you’ve created.

Let’s check out App #1: Wunderlist

Who tested it?

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Ashley Clark

  • Program Manager for 5, global, complex projects
  • Lover of learning and thinking strategically
  • Wife, frequent Instagrammer, and Mom of 2 kids (under 2 years)

 

Why I like it?

  • Multiple to-do lists for today, this week, this month, this year, etc.
  • Sharing capabilities for some (or all) of your lists with your friends
  • Simple layout, making it very user friendly
  • Easy task management that includes due dates, reminders, stars, and list groups
  • It’s free!

What could be better?

  • No sub tasks on created tasks
  • No option for reoccurring tasks

Ashley’s bottom-line:

This app is very easy to use for both you and sharing your goals with others!  I found it easy to create to-dos and it was helpful in keeping track of all the different things I have going on in a day!

Stay Tuned: More reviews coming your way next week.