Submitted by: Daria Levin, Sr. Director of Talent Management
Often times I’m asked the question, “How can I be more successful in my position?” I’m sure there are a million ways to answer this question and, as only one person in a workforce full of talented individuals, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. However, my answer always remains the same: GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!
It is a known fact that throughout our professional careers we will encounter obstacle after obstacle that will help to shape the experts we become. A lot of times it may feel as though these obstacles are breaking us down when, really, they are helping to build a better “you”. Successful people don’t always share the same characteristics, nor do they all follow the same leadership theories or guidelines. What I do know is that successful people are those who knowingly and purposely seek out difficult hurdles and find innovative solutions, helping them to grow and develop.
Wait, wait, wait. Here I go, throwing that word “innovative” around again! What a strange word. How does one even go about innovating? What does this word even mean? Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? It’s not like we can snap our fingers and say, “Hey, look! I innovated today!”
Simply put, innovation is about applying new methods or ideas to something existing, with the goal to make it superior or improved.
Easier said than done, right? Wrong. I’ll let you in on a little secret. There have been hundreds of thousands of studies done on the types of behaviors that contribute to a person’s ability to innovate. One of the most repeated behaviors taken from these studies is the ability to go out of one’s comfort zone and speak to one’s “outer circle”. Let me show you what I mean.
We all have between two and five people that we consider part of our “inner circle”. These are our go-to people, the ones we fully trust. Go ahead and take a minute to think about who is a part of your inner circle. Do they think like you? Share the same ideas as you? Do they have characteristics similar to yours?
My money is on a big “YES” to all three of the above questions. Chances are they’re probably even an extension of you! Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful to have people like that around to count on every day. This is your supportive, wonderful, comfortable, inner circle. But… therein lies the innovation trap!
When you’re faced with a challenging problem and you truly want to get creative and knock it out of the park, why would you first rely on the people who think just like you do? (And we’re all guilty of it, believe me.)
I’ll tell you why. Because it’s easy and comfortable. Let’s be honest. Talking with your outer circle can be a bit intimidating. I mean, really, it’s the opposite of your inner circle: difficult and uncomfortable.
And as children, we had it drilled into our minds that collaboration is cheating: “Don’t look at my paper, do your own work!” One could get sent to the principal’s office if they got caught discussing the best answer to a test question with another student.
That mindset is so wacky! Collaboration is not cheating. We need to let the fear go. The fear of looking stupid, the fear of admitting that we don’t always have all the answers. Collaboration is proven to give us a richer, more multi-dimensional perspective on any challenge that we may face.
There is something magical that happens when you speak to someone far away from your own discipline and background. New ideas and different perspectives start to emerge. Having professional conversations with people we don’t usually talk to leads to ideas we wouldn’t think of on our own. We need to grab the most innovative people we can find and tap into the network around us. We need to model the heck out of this behavior.
So that’s something my team is pretty big on. After all, collaboration is the key to all our successes. Pulling in a team member with a different viewpoint helps to bridge gaps and opens up entirely new ways of thinking about a project, initiative, process – you name it, collaboration helps make it more innovative and gets the job done.
So get out there! Introduce yourself! Walk on over to a different department. Pick up the phone and talk to someone outside of your domain. Explore your outer circle and you’ll quickly realize all the benefits to come.