Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Three things to try when your brainstorming has gotten stale.

Diana Lillicrap 1.25.2021


Being comfortable sounds like a good thing, but if you’re looking for fresh ideas, you may need to push yourself to be a little uncomfortable.

That’s because big shifts in thinking, behaviors, and outcomes happen when we uncover something new or take fresh paths. But newness requires change and trying different things, which isn’t comfortable for most of us. Never fear. We have some ideas and tips to give you structure and comfort when trying something new.

1. Do the opposite

An easy way to push yourself out of your comfort zone without a lot of work is to take an opposite approach. Map out your typical brainstorming session (or personal brainstorming process). Then switch things out with ideas that are the opposite. Here’s an example:

Typical: Review the goals of the project       
Opposite: Discuss what failure would mean

Typical: Define what audiences care about 
Opposite: Define what audiences dislike

Typical: Identify what’s great about your product/service
Opposite: Identify what’s generic about your product/service

In looking at the opposites you’ll have better clarity about what does and doesn’t set you apart and where there may be new opportunities or what things to definitely avoid. 

2. Let someone else lead (without telling you what’s ahead)

Most of us like to know what’s coming and be in control of what’s next. But that can work against the spontaneous nature of creativity. If you want to do something new, let someone else dictate how it’s done. Assign someone who doesn’t typically lead your brainstorming sessions to take charge of the next one. Give them some notice, of course, so they can plan something appropriate, but keep out of the way. Experiencing the exercises with real novelty will likely untap thinking that you wouldn’t have reached if you had prepared your thoughts and expectations in advance.

3. Allow for silence

Brainstorming sessions are often fast-paced, energetic, and loud. That can be good for keeping people engaged and encouraging some fun in the process. But the same is true about silence and contemplation. We all need a little space for thinking, but it’s rarely given when you have a large group together because the silence can feel awkward. Lean into it and make it part of your next session. Add in quiet time right after a noisy activity. Ask participants to sit with their thoughts, capture some notes, or even just draw pictures about what is coming to mind after the activity you just did. You might be surprised what bubbles up in your thinking when the room is quiet.

Allowing yourself to get a little uncomfortable isn’t always easy, but it can be productive. Give it a try at your next brainstorming session and see if you can push your thinking into delivering new and better outcomes.

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