Old Spice recently released a video of Terry Crews making "muscle music," another installment in the brilliant viral marketing campaign that has redefined the Old Spice brand. Such an absurd video would make many executives squirm, but Old Spice’s willingness to embrace it wholeheartedly led to six million views in the past week. People are sharing and seeking out their ads.
Bold choices that disrupt the status quo fuel innovation and entrepreneurship. Leaders that learn to embrace choices outside their comfort zones are able to push the envelope in ways that safe leaders can’t, helping them to stand out and succeed.
To take smart risks, you need to get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. When you know how to handle discomfort, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate risky choices and less likely to resist innovation.
There are limitless ways to push your own boundaries, but ultimately, you want to put yourself in an unfamiliar situation and stay there until you get used to it. The most effective strategies will also exercise skills that directly apply to your business.
Related: How to Train Your Creative Mind
Try these three examples:
1. Take an improv class. Every time you take a risk in your business, you face the possibility of failure. Improv, a theatrical exercise where you improvise a scene with a group of people, essentially mirrors that experience. You have to get used to change -- fast.
Improv classes require you to think on your feet, so they foster creativity and innovation. They also encourage openness to novel ideas. The "yes and" rule, a central tenet of improv, asks that you never reject an idea outright; you have to accept the idea and build on it. Practicing that skill will make you better equipped to shape an outlandish idea into a brilliant one, rather than shutting it down.
2. Switch places with the receptionist. If you work behind a closed door, step outside that safety net and spend a week in the thick of things. For example, Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, a global design consultancy, swapped seats with the receptionist in the hopes of feeling less isolated. The move encouraged people to talk to him and made a public statement that he was willing to break the mold.
You might have a slightly less productive week, but seeing your company from a different perspective will foster an open mind and encourage collaboration. It may even spur new ideas.
3. Open yourself up to scrutiny. Leaders, especially at large companies or chains, are often sheltered from critical opinions. Put yourself on the spot and give customers a chance to talk with you in your support forums.
Related: A Secret to Creative Problem Solving
Try to answer their questions honestly and hear their criticism with an open mind. You don’t need to pander to every concern, but recognizing larger themes may offer helpful insights. (This strategy is particularly effective if a recent PR blunder has upset your customers.)
What strategies have helped you break out of your comfort zone? Tell us in the comments.