Someone once told me that the best way not to get into big ruts was not to get into small ones. I took this to heart when, for nearly two decades, I walked from the train station to my office 8 blocks away, using a different route every day. It was fun and challenging to find new alleys, watch stores come and go, walk through different office buildings and try dodging the raindrops by seeing how many underground routes I could find. The commute never got old and I always got to work happy having mastered the challenge.
Rossabeth Moss Kanter, author of several compelling books over the last few years, wrote a piece last summer for HBR called, If You Don’t Like Your Future, Rewrite your Past in which she emphasized putting the past in perspective in order to let it be a springboard toward future success. I think that walking a different route to my office every day was like constantly rewriting my perspective on a simple 8-block walk, and it made a big difference in keeping things fresh for me over many years.
A well-tested and refined process is essential in business. But repetition can also stifle innovation. Today’s successful leader manages the delicate balance between cultivating process and creative problem solving and is willing to change things up just enough to remain innovative and sharp.
How are you avoiding the mildly uncomfortable little ruts in your business or personal routines, in order not to get stuck in devastating big ruts? What subtle changes to already successful processes might be needed to stay out of the rut of complacency - and thereby missing something really important? Take some time this week to change things up!