By Jill Mueller
Let’s get the clichés out of the way:
- We’re all in this together.
- These are unprecedented times.
- We are navigating a new normal.
- We have to make do and adapt.
I don’t know about you, but all of this adaptation is exhausting. It’s also limiting.
The problem with adapting
According to my Google search, the definition of adapting is: making something suitable for a new use or purpose, to modify, to adjust. There are also a number of definitions related to biology: adapting is necessary for organisms to survive.
The picture that comes to mind as I think about adapting is the classic square peg, round hole. For that square peg to fit, you need to force it or round off those square edges. You can make it work, but it’s never quite right.
When the pandemic first began, we needed to adapt… a lot! We needed to adapt to working from home, not working at all, or, for essential workers, figuring out new working conditions that would keep you safe. We needed to adapt our teams’ practices and procedures to adjust to these new environments and new conditions in which to interact with colleagues and customers.
And that’s just the adapting that had to happen on the work front. Add in the home front, and the adapting was exponential.
The constant effort to adapt is draining. It can also create a lot of problems with the people we work with.
Adapting is necessary to survive. But it’s not enough to thrive. That’s where reimagining comes in.
My same Google search defines reimagining as reinterpreting imaginatively, rethinking. Let’s go back to that square peg, round hole visual. When we reimagine, we put down the square peg and look for a round peg to fit in that round hole. Or maybe we find a square hole for the square peg. Or we think completely outside the box and get creative…
Let me give you a more concrete example. A lot of organizations are converting in-person training to virtual. It drives me crazy when I see a bad online workshop. And there are a lot of them. The reason? They are often just trying to adapt an in-person training to a Zoom room.
Talk about trying to force a square peg in a round hole!
So what about reimagining training instead? What if we design training specifically for the format we’re working in? What if we reimagine the training experience completely? That’s the approach our team prefers to take to make it tremendously engaging, fun, and valuable.
For example, in a virtual training room, everyone can “talk” at the same time because they can type and their words can be seen in real-time. That can’t happen in the in-person training. We have reimagined what our training look like by using creative features like Google Jamboards, virtual whiteboard tools, live polls, and interactive breakouts and chats to leverage the uniqueness of the virtual space – instead of trying to simply adapt our in-person training to online.
Adapting is about surviving and getting through the day. Reimagining is about being innovative and thinking intentionally about how you want to move forward.
Three questions to ask when reimagining
Let me share some questions that can be used – both individually and with your team – when you are reimagining.
- What’s most important? Whether it’s a client meeting or a collaboration strategy, think about what is really most important. What are you looking to create? What’s the energy you want? This helps you define what is in the box.
- What must we do? This question shines a light on the assumptions that teams might be making. From there, you can discuss if those assumptions are true. This opens up space for teams to think outside of the box.
- What’s the most ridiculous thing we could do? OK. I’m not suggesting that you actually do that ridiculous thing. But more than likely you’ll get some additional creative insights – from taking time to not only think wildly outside the box but to redefine the box altogether.
Where might you reimagine rather than adapt?
Whether it’s staff meetings or client meetings or working remotely or strategizing new ways to be innovative, reimagining can help your team thrive and find new ideas.
The next time you find yourself frustrated or exhausted from adapting, PAUSE. Take a moment to THINK about how you could reimagine the situation instead. And then ACT. It always comes back to engaging your core.
One more benefit of reimagining? It can be a lot of fun! Give it a try and let us know how it goes.
P.S. Want more inspiration to reimagine possibilities in the workplace? Click here to download our newest free resource, Five Things Well-Meaning Managers Say That Kill Employee Engagement (And the Questions You Can Ask Instead).
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