Ever have one of those days when the passion seems to have drained right out of your team? Your last design review felt like walking through thick molasses in fishing waders. And, to top it off, the more you push your team to dig deep, the more pedestrian the work feels.
When your team is in the doldrums, if you are like me you start beating yourself up for being a not-so-hot creative leader. If you can’t inspire your team, what business do you have leading them?
Here’s the thing. You can’t wait for inspiration to strike. Inspiration comes to those who seek it out. When your team enters the Doldrums, you need to change your strategy. What worked when everything was humming along won’t work now.
Get yourself shot
As the old saying goes, if you want to get shot, you need to get in front of the gun. That said, getting inspired doesn’t mean you need to take the team on a spiritual quest to Bali to be open to inspiration.
Start simple. Leave your office. Right now. (Okay, finish reading this, but then leave your office.) Take your team where your customers are, where your business bustles, where things are happening. Work at Autodesk? Have your UX review at a building site. Work at United? Hit the airport and observe customers. Work at Eventbrite? Pick a random event, take the team, and talk to your users.
There are a million ways to get your team outside, but the point is… just move your butt.
Once you get there get curious. Channel your inner toddler. Play. Don’t look for answers. Look for questions.
Ask “why?” Ask “what else?” Ask “what if?”
Listen. Discuss. Smell. Draw.
Then, try to apply this experience back to your design work. It might not be an obvious connection – but something will shift. You’ll notice a difference. I guarantee it.
Why this works
When I work with a stuck team, I know job no. 1 is to interrupt patterns . To unstick a team, one of the easiest and cheapest things to do is get them out of their everyday environment. Your regular environment has an enormous impact on habits. Physical movement alone is often enough to shake the mental cobwebs loose.
How do I know this? For one, experience. I’ve seen teams get the spark back in their eye just by walking out the doors of their building, on a quest, or just around the block. With more complex activities, like TASK or in-context observations, I’ve seen individuals up-end entrenched assumptions and teams transform a non-starter idea into a concept fertile with possibility.
And, second, developments in brain science are exploding. And, being a nerd, I’ve keep up on studies about the positive effects of walking in nature and enriched environments on cognitive function. This stuff works.
Now you. Move it.
What do you do to kick your team in the butt and out of the Doldrums?
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