Let’s say I’m on a project and it’s taking up lots of time. I’m working late, putting in extra hours. I’m so close, but somehow I’m stuck. There’s one part that should be simple to solve and yet no matter how hard I bang my head against the wall, it’s just not coming together. No insights on how to solve it. So I push harder.
What would you say to me? If you’re like most, you might suggest I’m too close to it, and I would agree. It happens to all of us; we think that by forcing through the issue, we can break through to the other side victoriously. We want to be heroes.
Have you ever tried to iron your clothes while in a hurry?
What is it about being too close to something that puts you at a disadvantage? Think about reading a book that is pressed up against your nose. In order to focus on the words, you need a little distance. And when you’re stuck, frustrated or confused, the solution is not to push harder. What you need is a little breathing room by seeking insights from outside sources.
Throughout my career as a marketing creative director, assignments often start out with the proverbial blank sheet of paper. And the goal is always the same: produce something great. Something that will stand out.
Keep in mind, my team looks to me as the idea guy. I’m in charge and great ideas are what my team expect of me. Yet, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my professional career is that I don’t have to come up with all the ideas. In fact, it’s unreasonable to expect that of anyone. But a good leader simply needs to recognize them when they come because they can come from anywhere. Here’s why you should learn to look outside the box for your insights:
You gain the benefit of many more resources.
Logically, you increase your odds. By slugging your way through a project on your own, you have access to your own mental resources. But simple math suggests that you stand a much greater chance at finding a solution by including more grey matter.
Other people have a completely different set of circumstances, upbringing, DNA and way of thinking. What means something to one person, sparks an entirely different thought or emotion in another. A silly suggestion from one person can easily ignite a great idea in the mind of another simply because he is bringing an entirely different perspective to the table.
Even the act of talking about it can bring clarity.
This is why executives pay thousands of dollars for coaching. It’s why brainstorms are so powerful and effective. They force you to articulate your challenge out loud to another person or group. I can’t even tell you how many times that alone has revealed the solution, before a dialog has even begun.
If you have nobody around, try talking out loud to yourself. In a sense it empowers you with added perspective by engaging another of your five senses. Don’t be surprised if you don’t even get to finish the thought before you see the solution you’ve been looking for.
Nothing great happens inside a vacuum.
Have you ever looked in one—it’s not very exciting. It does not challenge you. You become accustomed to your own thoughts–good or bad–and you accept them. It’s your own little kingdom where you set all the rules. By opening yourself up to outside influences, you allow the fresh air to enter the room and new thoughts to flourish.