There are days when it can be really difficult to jump start those creative juices and feel prepared to tackle some of our strategic initiatives at City Hall. As Chief Innovation Officer for Kansas City, Missouri, I have had to realistically manage my own expectations of myself – evidently it is impossible to be wildly creative and innovative every moment of the day (bummer). T
Today, to honor one of life’s little reality checks, I want to share five of my favorite ways to get inspired:
- Create a mega list: I am a habitual list maker – groceries; holiday shopping; projects at work. This strategy simply helps me keep track of all the moving parts in both my personal and professional life. When I am looking for inspiration, I often start by drafting a list of everything and anything that comes to mind that might relate to the opportunity to be addressed. These lists can help me identify themes in my thinking, questions requiring exploration and research, and even leads for partnership and collaboration. I do not limit myself to what I might later eliminate as impractical at this phase – which is why I often use large sheets of paper or a board with Post-It notes to layout all of these ideas. There are a lot of ways to organize this information later but for now, just remember that it is intended to be messy. Enjoy the mess.
- The 10-minute hack: This is a newer strategy that I am adopting (I will let you know how it goes). It is so easy to get caught up in the immediate demands of the job that it can be hard to focus on creativity. From one of the many email lists to which I subscribe (for inspiration), I discovered David Kadavy’s 10-Minute Hack and completely appreciate why this will work for me. Kadavy suggests you set aside just ten minutes to focus on getting started on something – anything. Just getting started can be the greatest challenge and so far this has worked quite well. Focusing for a few minutes on the why behind what you are trying to accomplish can really spark some positive energy and ideas.
- Confer with your board of directors: Here I am referring to your own personal board of directors. Nothing inspires me more than going to my colleagues to hear their fantastic ideas, great approaches, and perspective. Just yesterday, I was fortunate to convene a group of colleagues from multiple city departments to help me brainstorm proposals for an upcoming grant opportunity. Not only did we explore some great ideas which we will use for our application, I now have a few more internal champions for this effort. Innovation and creativity are highly collaborative skills that require diverse ideas and perspectives – demanding that I get out of my office and into more of a co-working environment. Setting aside a little time in your day or week to do this can really improve your overall moral and rejuvenate you. Plus, it serves your organization well if you build relationships across traditional silos and exchange information in both informal and formal settings.
- Go for a walk: Sometimes the only way to get creative is to take a few minutes away from your computer screen. Moving around can literally get your juices flowing and sometimes we forget to step back when we are under pressure to figure things out. When weather permits, go outside (we spend about 89% of our time inside) and get some perspective (look up). You might also combine strategies by bringing along a colleague that inspires you. In this case, I usually look to discuss someone else’s work as I am really trying to get away from the office.
- Read something other than email or a social media feed. When I am looking for ideas and inspiration, I go to a large virtual stack of bookmarked articles for inspiration. Taking a few minutes to do some research into what other cities are doing can really help me get back on track. This strategy helps excite me about my own work but also helps me avoid getting sucked into a giant black hole, a.k.a. my email inbox. I have heard from many colleagues that it feels like you are not working when you are exploring best practices and reading about other cities – this is something we are hoping to change in our own culture in Kansas City, Missouri. Continuous learning is definitely a job responsibility – no matter what work you do.
What strategies do you employ when looking for inspiration? In the coming weeks I will be sharing some specific examples of work we are doing in Kansas City, Missouri but in the meantime I hope you will find some inspiration among these strategies. Now, get to work!
Ashley Hand is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
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