7 reasons to try something new
This one’s for my more seasoned readers
In a previous blog post I wrote about the challenges of the bureaucratic mindset, and how we also need to look at our own actions to see if we are just going through the motions and using bureaucracy as a screen.
One tactic I’d suggest for overcoming your own bureaucratic inertia is to do something new or different in the workplace. It doesn’t have to be something big, and it doesn’t have to be permanent – just something small and experimental, like trying a new technology, doing an unconventional presentation, or trying a novel approach to organizing a work meeting, learning a new skill or taking on a side project.
There are a lot of good reasons why a seasoned aid worker might not want to step out and try something new. Doing something differently is harder than business as usual since it requires more effort to learn how to do something a new way, you won’t be as good at it, it might not be as effective (at least the first time you try), people might be skeptical, and you can risk looking foolish if you don’t do it well or if it doesn’t work.
So given all these risks, why might it be a good idea to try to do something different?
- Trying to do something new forces you to be more mindful of what you are doing and to be more conscious of what you are doing and why. Often when we do things the way we are used to we go into autopilot and forget why we are doing it and how that contributes to what we want to achieve. For example we often end up sitting through traditional meetings in order to take important decisions without any real, frank discussion whereas using a different meeting format can really shake things up.
- A new approach or tool can also give you a new perspective on an issue because it forces you to tackle it from a different angle. for example trying to create an infographic to explain your data instead of a written analysis will make you look differently about what stands out and what is important. Using a different approach can also help provide insights and make connections with other fields to help solve a problem.
- You will develop a new skill, or tool or at least get an insight into what people are talking about when they refer to an approach and its potential. An example for me was using twitter. Despite working in knowledge management I was initially very skeptical, thinking it a superficial waste of time. But I was at a conference (Web4Dev2009) and I saw lots of other people doing it, so I signed up to see what all the fuss was about, and I’ve been hooked since. I also signed up much later for Pinterest and have found absolutely no use for it personally – but I now know what it is and have an idea what the fuss is about.
- People will notice. If you do something differently it will attract attention. Some might be skeptical – but others will be attracted just by the fact that it is different. A very practical example is that I’ve found that whenever I use Prezi for internal presentations people are always impressed – not because the content is necessarily any better than a regular presentation but because it is a refreshing way to present it. Trying something new might also inspire others to give it a go and create some creative competition. I mean if YOU can do it surely they can do it too.
- You might find a better solution to your problem. It’s not a given that your new way will work, or be a good approach for you – but if you don’t try something you will never find out. Our work is constantly throwing up new challenges which our existing tools don’t fully address and it often seems like the rest of the world is moving much faster than we are – so we have to keep trying if we want to keep up, even if it is hard (which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” – the Red Queen from Lewis Caroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”)
- Doing something new can give you a buzz when it goes well. The buzz comes both from the mental stimulation of actually thinking about what you are doing and the apprehension about whether or not it will work and how others will react, and the joy when it succeeds or when it attracts the attention of others. The act of learning and experimenting is fun – and can be quite addicting. It’s like a game where you play to find out what works and how to get a better score.
- It’s always nice to have a new skill or project on your CV, especially one that’s innovative!
So go out and try something new. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary, and it doesn’t need to be big and risky – just try something small and it will make work more interesting and fun, and it could take you far.