10 Steps to Fight Inertia

02/28/2015 02:29 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2015
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Disruption seems to be proxy for the new normal today in nearly every industry. This is an uncomfortable state of affairs to many of us who are creatures of habit--which is most people, as scientists tell us that we are basically hardwired this way. Psychologists have given it a name: enculturation. Most of us would rather stay in our comfort zones than search for what is new, exciting and, just possibly, better.

What happens, however, when disruption lands on our doorstep, either at home or work? Do we pretend for a while that this disruption will not affect us? If so, this strategy usually only lasts for a short time until we can no longer remain in denial. Then we either wait for the meteor to strike or find a way to innovate and create solutions.

Organizations and entire industries are not so different from us in their response to change. Since many hiring managers hire in their own images, it's no wonder that companies and entire industries eventually find themselves facing a reality existing outside their comfort zones. "Thinking outside the box" workshops either have not been utilized or implemented over the past several decades.

Two options exist for companies and industries that are caught in this inertia trap: either maintain the status quo and hope that no Apple, Google or Facebook comes onto the scene to disrupt it, or fully commit to pursuing innovative, creative ideas that may even disrupt their tried-and-true business model.

It is tough to initiate the second approach, as we as a nation find it much easier to use the left-brain, linear and logical skills of strategic planning as it has been done for the past few decades, than to embrace the right-brain, intuitive "big picture" type of strategic thinking. (The higher up individuals are in the organizational chart, by the way, the more likely they are to opt to maintain the status quo.)

In some organizations today, it is even difficult to call for brainsorming sessions for new ideas and products, as past history from these brainstorming sessions indicates that often they did not produce the promised results. A reluctance to throw out specific ideas in fear of retaliation from senior managers present can hamper the brainstorming process, along with potentially good ideas having been lost in the process because the participants were all talking at the same time.
Once again, it's not easy to discard the complacent, habitualized, conventional thinking process and invent a new approach to brainstorming that will yield better results. I personally know that it can be done, however. I have facilitated sessions with both large and small, Fortune 500 and even global companies, where teams have activated neural pathways in their brains in a new, exciting way.

Scared of leaving your comfort zone?

If so, here are 10 actions you can take to dislodge your organization from its conventional thinking rut.

1. Identify and discuss the key problems your organization faces.

2. Frame these key problems into questions.

3. Send these questions to a disparate group of employees and customers to think about, and record their answers on paper.

4. Invite this group into an Ideation session (an improved version of brainstorming where key issues can be resolved).

5. Enlist the talents of a nonpartial, skilled problem solver to facilitate the process.

6. Make the process fun, collaborative and outside conventional boundaries.

7. Incorporate a strategic democratization by allowing participants to vote for the ideas they find most compelling.

8. Build task forces around these ideas.

9. Start small with pilot projects.

10. Review, ratify and implement the big, transformational insights.