There is a moment in the workshops I lead for business teams and organizations that changes everything. It’s not when I get up on stage with my guitar because who doesn’t want to sit and listen to a little music? Instead it’s the moment when I tell my audience that they’re going to be writing and singing a song. I love this moment for the way it politely but firmly pulls seasoned executives (or scientists or accountants or attorneys) out of their comfort zones. It’s a given that the groups I work with are all very accomplished in their chosen fields but I’m there to show them that by leaving their comfort zones for the duration of my workshop, they’re going to emerge better for the 90-minute experience. Below are a few of the reasons why.
1. It levels the playing field
Team dynamics can be tricky with some members clearly deferring to others whose expertise they require for a particular sought-after solution. However, when faced with a task that no one in the group knows how to accomplish, all of a sudden the paying field is leveled. Now, it’s not about prior expertise but, rather, about a willingness to dig in and explore a new and unfamiliar terrain with our peers. This is a very powerful dynamic and one that, in the very best way, humanizes all the members of a team so they can work together as equals to achieve something completely new.
2. It prevents perfectionism
With high-achieving individuals who are already good at a particular task, it’s often not enough to simply get that task done. It becomes about making that particular job “perfect.” However, when no one on a team has ever written a song, there aren’t any benchmarks for what is perfect. Instead, the creative process is allowed to run its course without being hampered by countless edits and “improvements.” I’m a big believer in the removal of our inner editors when it comes to innovation and creativity. So when a team leaves their comfort zone and has to keep the process moving forward, there’s just enough room for ideas but not enough for squeezing the life out of the process.
3. It’s a reminder that there is always more to learn
The danger in continually playing to our strengths is that we can fall into the trap of believing we’ve learned/grown enough to get by. Holding on to the status quo might feel comforting for a while but given that change is inevitable it can be a genuinely dangerous way to approach not only our businesses but our lives. One of my favorite quotes is “change is what happens to us but innovation is what we do to them.” Taking my teams out of their comfort zones and teaching them a new approach to problem-solving is my way of showing them that there’s always more to learn.
4. It’s exhilarating to achieve something “impossible”
Finally, let’s not forget how thrilling it can be to achieve something new that we’ve previously considered beyond our capability. I get a vicarious thrill from showing bright executives who don’t consider themselves creative that, given the proper guidance, they are indeed deeply creative. It’s always a pleasure to see the faces of my participants – so somber at the prospect of leaving their comfort zones – light up with the joy of accomplishment once they’ve done so.
All of this to say, it is never my intention to make business teams and organizations uncomfortable for an extended period of time but, rather, just long enough to reap the benefits of exploring unfamiliar territory in a curated and constructive manner. And, of course, one of the best parts of leaving our comfort zones is when we come back, we’re stronger for the experience.
Find out more about Cliff’s innovation & creativity workshops for business teams and organizations.