How many times have you had this happen within the past year?
You attend a seminar or workshop led by a brilliant speaker. You take copious notes and receive excellent handout materials that reinforce the speaker’s key points. You return to the office brimming with a plethora of ideas and the best intentions for putting them to work on the job.
And nothing happens. You get so caught up in the day-to-day that you quickly forget most of what you learned, and all your best intentions go out the window. Frustrating, isn’t it? Yet these days, it seems to be the rule rather than the exception.
We could all use more WOW (different WAYS OF WORKING) in our companies. The problem is we’re all running so fast and getting hit with more information than we can effectively process at one time. When we encounter new ideas on how to work more effectively, we find it hard to integrate those learnings into our daily routines.
In fact, this struggle to incorporate knowledge into newer and better ways of working has become one of today’s leading workplace challenges. When we already have more to do in the day than we can possibly accomplish, how do we carve out the time to try new and better ways of getting work done?
Here are a few suggestions:
Pause to unlearn. Start by unlearning some of the thought and behavior patterns that keep you in a continuous “doing” loop, but not necessarily doing the right things. In particular, let go of thoughts like, “I don’t have time to plan because I have too much to do.” Or, “I have to get to all those emails immediately rather than think about what I can do new or different today.” Just try a more logical approach every now and then. You might be shocked at how slowing down to do it right will save you a lot of time in doing it over.
Make it part of ongoing business unit reviews. The types of questions that get asked during regular business unit reviews require people to think, prepare and focus. If you want them to focus on better ways of working, incorporate the right questions into your business unit reviews. For example, if you’re trying to build an innovative culture, ask questions like, within the past month:
What new actions or behaviors have you engaged in that went beyond your comfort zone? What “we’ve always done it this way” unwritten rule have you broken? How many small failures did you have on new ideas you tried? What new idea are you most excited about advancing?
Make it part of how you hire, promote, manage other people. Make focusing on different ways of working part of new job descriptions and promotion criteria. Incorporate it into job reviews and performance appraisals. When something becomes part of these systems and processes, it becomes part of how you work. It helps to force focus (at least a few times a year).
Use “neuroprompts.” These are questions, statements, or visuals that trigger the brain to pause and think. They can range from the simple, such as “Am I clear on where I’m going?”, to the complex, such as templates for presentation and meeting agendas. Triggering yourself one or more times a day with neuroprompts will help to create new habits and behaviors.
Stage your field of vision. Surround yourself with visuals that support the development of WOW. Put them on your computer screen, carry them in your notebook, and set up task reminders to ping you. Keep the visual reminders in front of you, and shake things up every 30 days by changing them around a bit. We are mostly visual creatures – we respond to what we see, so make sure your field of vision is prompting you to make progress towards your destination.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. We typically come back from seminars and workshops with loads of good ideas that we want to work on all at the same time. Not going to happen! Instead, pick ONE new way of working and focus on it for 30 days, using some of the techniques listed above.
Aim for steady, measurable progress rather than instant mastery of the new behavior. And don’t beat yourself up if you temporarily regress into old ways of thinking or behaving. Instead, dust yourself off and jump right back into practicing the new way of working. It will soon become part of your daily routine, and you can move on to incorporating your next WOW.