- Mon, October 10 2011
- Filed under: Nonprofit leadership
I understand the temptation to recycle. I don’t mean the desire to reduce-reuse-recycle plastic bottles or aluminum cans. Rather, I’m talking about repeating the same approaches or messages over and over at work.
I’ve posted more than 1,000 times on this blog, and some days I confess I truly feel uninspired when it comes time to write. On bad days, I wish I could just cut and paste a previous post and call it a day. Only that doesn’t work for a blog. Blogging requires I find something fresh to say - even if it’s just a tiny variation on an old, well-worn theme. I have to find a bit of new each time. It’s the same way with speeches. And work, where it’s all too easy to fall back on how we’ve always done things.
Here’s the problem with giving in to the “recycling” urge: It’s reductionist. Just like the reduce-reuse-recycle concept—only it’s not as good for us as it is for the environment. When you stick to the exact same approaches and messages, you become increasingly narrow in your thinking. You fail to learn. You start assuming there is no other way. You don’t evolve. Your work becomes less inspired - or worse, boring. This is a problem because your audiences and operating landscape are always changing. You have to keep fine-tuning (or sometimes revolutionizing) what you do and how you do it. 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.
If you’re in a recycling rut, here are three ways to break out. If you have other ideas, please share them!
1. Get out of yourself. Do one thing today that makes you shake free of your own thinking and wakes you up to the need to refine your view. 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. This works.
2. Go read a book outside your field. Or watch a TED talk. I swear by both. There’s nothing like new ideas to shake up your mind and stimulate your own thinking.
3. Go have lunch with a really smart person who doesn’t work at your organization. Ask them what they think of your organization or cause. Brainstorm with them. I also swear by this approach. Most of my ideas come from conversations with other people - rather than my own isolated mind.
Don’t reduce-reuse-recycle. Instead, re-visit, refine and renew.