We're facilitating many of our client projects remotely at the moment. Learn more about our expertise in this area.

Thinking Outside the Box? Don’t Tell Your Friends


The blank slate of a New Year can be daunting, especially when you are trying hard, thinking outside the box to find a different way to fill the days and weeks that will make it up.

Looking realistically at your work schedule or plan for the next few months, nothing has changed. If you had a great idea today, you would discuss it with the same group of colleagues / friends / family as you would have last week, it just so happens we are now on the other side of December. The only thing that has changed is the date.

Whether it’s the process of generating an idea in the first place or looking for insights to help with a current project or problem, turning to the same old people for motivation, reassurance or that next piece of inspiration is sometimes the worst thing you could do.

Subconsciously, you could be turning to the people who tell you what you want to hear. This isn’t genuine feedback and it won’t take you anywhere. Time to do things differently and make a new ears resolution (sorry). If you want to get ahead, ask the advice of these people instead:

A mentor
Learning from somebody else’s experience is invaluable. The mentor-mentee relationship is a grown up version of pupil-teacher, but it’s voluntary and stinks of aspiration. If you are searching within your company, go through the HR department or ask your manager. Otherwise, a post on LinkedIn or an email or letter to a person whose position you respect – and that your plan or idea has a connection with – can’t hurt. This article has numerous suggestions for how to get hold of an inspiring mentor but remember point ten: do something for them in return.

A past employer
Asking for the advice of a previous boss can give your idea a firmer footing; you will get the insight of someone who has worked with you, above you and who could very likely be pleased to see your ambition. A one-off phone call at a mutually convenient time is rarely too much to ask… as long as you left on good terms.

Hundreds of strangers
Setting up an online survey is a quick and easy way to get broad feedback. Attach this to a Facebook page or webpage for your idea, as long as you are happy to share that publicly. Or, there are numerous companies who issue surveys to willing participants, without you having to disclose your idea in full.

Other entrepreneurs
There are dozens of communities and forums where you can share ideas for products, social enterprises and even suggest them to the big names. You can do this in person, by taking a fresh approach to networking, or use an online forum such as OpenIDEO.

Whatever your ambitions are in 2014, I predict that looking outside your usual circle for ideas, feedback and encouragement will give you the best possible chance of success.

You may also like…

Using Scenario Planning to think about the future

Using Scenario Planning to think about the future

Because of the sheer variety of ingredients involved, there isn’t one defined future that is set in stone and that will apply to everyone in exactly the same way. Use an approach like Scenario Planning to consider alternative futures.

How we run remote workshops using MURAL

How we run remote workshops using MURAL

Collaborating online gets less attention than straightforward video conferencing but it’s where the action is. Here’s how we use one of the most popular whiteboard apps in our meetings and workshops.