We tend to love our life and work routines. They are comfortable and comforting.

In the workplace, “creating routines” almost seems to be the goal for some managers. It’s an attempt to bring order to our little corner of the organization. Managers do management things by imposing routines. Weekly staff meetings, regular status updates, quarterly reviews, semi-annual budgeting and annual strategic planning.

And while there’s a certain amount of routine that’s inherent in successfully running any organization, the best leaders seek and create opportunities to break away from the mind-numbing, sense-dulling pursuit of routine.

Effective managers understand the power of the “shower effect.” They know that our best ideas often occur when we are out of our environment and away from our routines (e.g. in the shower), and they strive to create settings and opportunities for people to break from routines. The goals: stimulate creativity, allow the work-brain a little down-time, increase a team’s sense of professional adventure and generally open up some new neuro-synaptic channels with divergent thinking practice.

5 Easy and Inexpensive Ideas to Help Your Team Break-Away from the Routine:

  1. Kill most status meetings … they’re a waste of time and truly mind numbing. (See my popularly unpopular post on this one.) Use some of the time for the ideas below, and don’t feel compelled to fill all of the found time.
  2. Take the team to a movie. Preferably, find a movie that showcases a group of people attempting to solve a problem. From robbing casinos to stealing the Declaration of Independence to surviving a disaster, the examples will stimulate ideas Run a post-movie discussion on how the examples might apply in the workplace or for a specific project.
  3. Go shopping at a competitor, a customer or your own location. Step-back and observe everything … the environment, interactions between customers and staff … between staff and managers. Ask for help and then strike up a conversation to learn more about the environment. Facilitate a debrief on the observations. What ideas/problems/solutions do the observations uncover?
  4. Take a field trip to the museum. One manager took a page from the eighth grade field trip and created an information and idea scavenger hunt and split the group into teams. The competition had teams sprinting through the museum in a kind of indoor, orienteering race. The information gathered (pictures, facts about people, places and things) all were collected and shared in a debrief session.
  5. Get out of your workplace and benchmark yourself against something and some organization completely different. When Southwest Airlines wanted to look at ideas for improving the turn-around time for their planes, they visited Racing Pit Crews for ideas, not other airlines. What are your goals and what environment outside of your industry might serve as a model for comparison and learning?

The Bottom-Line for Now

There are good reasons and a nearly infinite number of ideas for you to occasionally and creatively interrupt the routines of your team members. If the nature of your work doesn’t afford half or whole-day breaks, mix things up or plan something during lunch or outside of normal hours. There will always be complications … get over them and keep moving. At the end of the day, successfully, randomly and periodically breaking the routine will re-energize, reward and inspire.

This blog originally appeared at artpetty.com.


Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access