Thu, April 18 2013

A post for when you’re stuck on replay

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Nonprofit leadership •

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Photo via BigStockPhoto.

Are you stuck on replay? Do you do the same things, the same way, over and over? It’s easy to have this happen, and it’s honestly what I fear most.

“Replay” can be somewhat effective if you’re sticking to what works well. The problem is it can also create an autopilot state of mind that dulls your senses to changes around you—like shifts in the political landscape, your donor base or constituencies—that require a new approach. It’s one thing to identify best practices and build on what works - it’s quite another to get too comfortable and call it in. Whole industries have fallen into habit only to be rendered irrelevant. You have to keep fine-tuning (or sometimes revolutionizing) what you do and how you do it.

The other problem with replay is it is reductionist. When you stick to the exact same approaches, you can’t imagine another way. You become increasingly narrow in your thinking. You fail to learn. You start assuming there are no other options or different paths. So much for originality.

When I get stuck in replay, I’ve found four things that help. I thought I’d share them here.

1. Get another view into your organization. Call a donor and see how they’re feeling about your organization.  Go talk to someone in line at your shelter.  Visit a front-lines staff member and ask them what’s new or different these days.  I get so many good ideas from our customer service and success teams, for example.

2. Sign up for blogs, e-newsletters or other media that track big trends. I read a lot on mobile technology, the payments industry, social media and start ups so I can think about how broader trends might disrupt my work in exciting or concerning ways.

3. Go have lunch with a really smart person who doesn’t work at your organization. Ask them what they think of your company, organization or cause. Ask them how they faced challenges related to your own, in a different context. Brainstorm with them. I swear by this approach. Most of my ideas come from conversations with other people - rather than my own isolated mind.

4. Take an online course with a brilliant thinker. Via Coursera, I’m taking a course in behavioral economics at Duke (I’m way behind but enjoy the lectures nonetheless). A friend is taking a class in poetry. The possibilities are endless (and free). I also enjoy watching a TED talk. There’s nothing like fresh ideas outside your frame of reference to stimulate your own thinking.

This is how I avoid recycling the past or replaying the present. What do you do?

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