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What To Do When You Run Out Of Ideas

What To Do When You Run Out Of Ideas

stress

    It’s happened to everyone at one time or another. You’re going along, producing and feeling creative, and then, suddenly, you run out of ideas. You’re stuck. You search high and low for inspiration. You look back on your earlier work, searching through your past ideas, trying to locate your muse, looking for something to trigger a creative explosion. But it’s all for naught. You’re blocked.

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    Regardless of what business you’re in, there’s always a need for creativity. Maybe it’s in how you present your products and services to your potential clients, or maybe it’s the products and services themselves. Either way, you need help getting out of that creative rut.

    First, Know That You’re Not Really Out of Ideas

    Sometimes when people get stuck, they worry that they’re going to be stuck forever. What you need to know is that your brain is a virtually endless source of ideas. You’re constantly feeding input into your brain, constantly giving it new information and stimulation. You practically can’t avoid it. So take a deep breath and know that this rut isn’t permanent.

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    Reduce Your Stress

    Sometimes stress and anxiety can get in the way of creativity. And when you get even more stressed because you can’t come up with new ideas, you make the block even stronger. Now’s the time to relax and reduce your stress. Mediate, try yoga, get some exercise. Hey, if foosball is your thing, go do that. Whatever it takes. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of stress relief before you suddenly get the old creative juices flowing again.

    Just Walk Away

    Sometimes the best thing you can do for your creative rut is to walk away. Staring at the problem won’t help you. In fact, it may very well exacerbate the situation. So walk away.  Literally. Take some time off and enjoy life. New experiences and meeting new people serve to rejuvenate your spirit and revive your creative flow. So walk away, let your brain take a rest from trying to figure it all out, and experience something new. You may come back with a wealth of new ideas.

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    Feed Your Brain

    One of the best things you can do to keep your own creativity flowing is to give your brain some good, solid input. Read great books, listen to great music, go outside and garden or just sit and listen to the birds or traffic (this one may be a little location-specific). Or do something crazy (insert appropriate disclaimers about legalities and safety here) and give your brain a totally new kind of stimulation. What works will be different for everyone, but the point is to provide your brain with the richest input that you can find.

    Look At Your Industry

    Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at your own industry. If you’ve been a little lax about keeping up lately, take some time to read up on current trends and the happenings in your industry. What are people in your field talking about? What are the biggest topics and the most significant concerns for your potential clients? Finding out what these issues are and what the top people in your industry are saying about it can stimulate you to think of your business, your products, your services, and your presentation in a new way.

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    Look At Your Competition

    While you’re stepping away from your own work, that doesn’t mean you have to step away from work entirely. Take some time to review your competition. What are they up to and what kinds of products and services do they offer? How do they package things differently, and how do they present themselves differently? Look for innovators and analyze what they’re doing that’s new and different and how they’re finding ways to blaze new trails, then model their behavior so you can blaze new trails of your own.

    Look Outside Your Industry

    Sometimes industries can get pretty insulated from the rest of the world. When that happens, the ideas in that industry get revamped, recycled, and re-run over and over again. Some of the best innovations have happened when people have merged ideas or ways of doing things from another industry with their own. It takes just one person looking outside the industry to see how other industries are doing something different to transform an industry and how they operate.

    You Never Know When Or Where Inspiration Will Hit

    Ideas can hit you at any time, in any place. You never know where you’ll get a fantastic idea, and you don’t want to take chances on forgetting something fantastic. I keep a pocket-sized Moleskine notebook with me at all times so I can jot down ideas at a moment’s notice. I occasionally have to pull my car over on the side of the road for a moment to write down an article title or a new product I want to create. Creativity can hit when you least expect it, so the best course of action is always to be prepared.

    We’ve all had moments when we feel abandoned by our creativity. When that happens, don’t panic. Your brain may need its roadblocks eliminated, or it might just need some new input. Remain calm, remember that there are many ways to re-stimulate those neurons, and get started!

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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

    58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

    Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

    Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

    1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

    The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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    Encourage Your Employees

    When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

    Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

    Offer Rewards

    Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

    The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

    Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

    Give Autonomy

    Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

    Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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    Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

    2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

    I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

    Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

    For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

    We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

    Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

    A To Do Scheduling System

    Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

    The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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    I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

    With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

    Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

    3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

    The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

    “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

    An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

    What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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    Ask If They like What They’re Doing

    If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

    There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

    The Bottom Line

    Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

    Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

    For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

    Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

    More Resources About Team Management

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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