Ever felt stuck?
Maybe the ideas for a new landscape project weren't flowing? Or possibly developing creative concepts for a new marketing campaign to jumpstart spring business left you feeling like you were staring at a stark, empty sheet of paper, completely void of inspiration?
Maybe you needed to come up with some thoughts on getting your teams to better collaborate or some processes to ensure better communication? But the light bulb full of ideas just wasn't magically appearing above your head like it does in the cartoons.
We've all had these kinds of days. I've experienced them quite a few times. And while there isn't always one perfect solution for a professional to drag themselves out of this rut and turn on the creative thinking process, there are some ways one can reboot the brain and jumpstart the process thinking in a more positive, conceptual manner.
Ken Tencer, CEO of Spyder Works, a branding and innovation thought leader who helps organizations reimagine their futures, as well as co-author of the book on innovation called "Cause a Disturbance," says these are ways of simulating ideas. And he thinks small business owners who follow his recommended steps can find they help inspire ideas for not only positive change, but growth as well. His mantra: "Stimulating growth is a proactive, everyday activity involving all of your senses."
1. Step out of the box ... literally. A change of scenery can sometimes be the best way to refresh your mind. Tencer suggests business owners get out of the office regularly to become inspired. "Attend conferences - not just those for your industry, but those serving other industries to give you fresh perspectives, go to a workshop or join a peer mastermind group," he says. "Look for clues about what consumers are thinking, saying and doing."
In addition to absorbing knowledge on these outings, also absorb your settings, including walking around the area and letting the mind open to new and different ideas, Tencer advises.
Can't get out of the office? Try using sites like LinkedIn to join industry peer groups and gain new perspectives. "This torrent of industry intelligence," Tencer says, can provide "immediate inspiration and feedback, as well as resource experts and potential prospects to exchange ideas with."
2. Listen to learn. My kindergartener reminds me often that her teacher tells the students in class to use their ears to listen and not their mouths. The same can be said when a business owner or account manager has conversations with clients. "I was told that if I was speaking more than one-third of the time, I wasn't doing enough listening; that meant that I was going to miss the challenges and pain points my clients were expressing," Tencer explains.
When one is truly listening, they can hear clients' suggestions, fears, dreams and even complaints. Tencer calls this "foresight gold," and a business owner shouldn't let it get away. Knowing these bits of knowledge can allow a business to be able to offer services to address these needs before the competition.
3. There is no "I" in T-E-A-M. Yes, as a business grows, individuals working solo eventually become a team. Each member of a team has diverse client interactions and sees the business differently everyday, therefore they have distinctive ideas. These concepts can become business opportunities. To capitalize on an idea-generating team, make sure systems are in place to receive input, including company retreats or formal advisory boards, Tencer says.
4. Maintain to gain. Just as one changes the oil in their car to keep it running smoothly, a business needs to be continuously primed with ideas for new and better services and processes, Tencer points out. The perk: Business maintenance "can keep your customers engaged and buying more from you," he says.
5. Keep ideas flowing. Having an ideas board up in the office or meeting room is a great way to encourage insight from employees, as well as ensuring ideas don't get lost. Tencer recommends collecting all of the ideas that are posted on the board quarterly and asking customers what they think to gauge their input.
Next time you're feeling struck, try out one or more of these concepts; you never know what new ideas or insight you may collect in the process. As Tencer says, "Relevant opportunities are being offered to you every day. Stay engaged. Listen."
Nicole Wisniewski, a senior project manager with the Dave Tree Expert Company, is a 15-year green industry veteran. You can comment on this column or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.