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Exercise

Keep The Door Open

When you're voicing an objection to someone else's ideas (or your own), try saying, 'Yes, I hear you. AND let's brainstorm some new solutions for a potential hurdle I'm anticipating.' Or, 'The things I like about that idea are . . . Now let's build something around those qualities.'

Think about an idea (whether yours or someone else's) that was recently rejected out of hand. Write down things that could have been said to consider the possibilities behind the idea.

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We have deadlines to meet, kids to pick up, email messages to return, voicemails building up . . . let's hurry this up! Gotta go, gotta run, see you later.

It seems inefficient to take 15 minutes at the beginning of a meeting to get people emotionally engaged, to set the context appropriately, to set the right mood, to discuss how we're going to interact. And yet, if you take that 15 minutes, the meeting will have a life of its own.

Also, you have to protect against interruption. The creative process builds momentum and picks up steam. Ideas start flying, and breakthroughs happen. This buildup of energy can't take place if cell phones are ringing, people are ducking out, or supervisors are poking their heads in 'just to see how the meeting's going.'

The creative process needs to be approached in the same way you approach physical exercise. You don't run into the gym in your business suit and hop right on the Stairmaster. (Well, perhaps you do, but . . .) There's a series of steps to the ritual: You enter the gym, you proceed to the locker room, you change your clothes, you stretch, you begin to exercise. Your mental focus changes. The preparation gives you time to turn your attention and energy to the task at hand. Once you begin your workout, you don't undercut it with interruptions every other minute. If you don't build momentum, no benefits are gained.

The process of opening yourself up to new ideas is no different-there is stretching involved. Just as in working out, warming up and allowing yourself sufficient time to focus and prepare is crucial. Begin each project by deciding how long you'll spend on the divergent part of the diamond, then how much time you'll allot for the convergent side. Have team members discuss what it would take for the project to exceed their expectations and what the obstacles or dangers facing the project are. Appoint a team member to be the voice of the client or customer throughout.

You'll have better ideas, the work will get done faster, and people will be happier and more engaged. It works like magic.


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