Monday, April 20, 2009

The best way to do something new

The topic of “creating the need for change” has always intrigued me.

The other day I was talking to a retiring CEO who described to me the things he planned to pursue in his next “career.” They were noble and important things he never had time for before. In the same sentence, the CEO told me how he had canceled his subscriptions to Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and a couple other publications. I was surprised in that I thought he would have more time to read these things so I asked. He simply said, “They do not fit in with my new priorities.”

It reminded me how at the start of many of the corporate all-hand meetings leadership classes I often inquired if the attendees had been to this location before, if they parked in the same place and if they walked the same route. Unless you do something overt to create change (or learning) to take place, it will not.

So – the best way to do something new is to stop doing something old. The simple act of changing your routine as a leader will cause you to learn and meet different people. I was once on the executive floor of one of our buildings. In practicing what I preached, I decided for a couple of weeks to get off the elevator on whatever floor was already pressed when I got in and spend 5 minutes walking around. I was amazed at how many people I met and the cool things they were working on.

What can you do differently tomorrow to create positive change?


Jane Chin, Ph.D. said...

What wonderful stories of the CEO stopping his subscriptions, and with you getting off different floors from the elevator!

For me, a big part of doing things differently is to "let go" of doing everything. I have grown used this because I ran my business as CEO, CFO, COO, sales and marketing, bill collection, and R&D. It worked out fine for a while, then I became a parent and decided that my priorities have changed.

Now it's a lot easier to work slightly differently, and outsource certain things I used to try to do myself (for example, transcription of verbal records into text). Eventually I'll stop being my own secretary and get a real assistant who can probably do a better job than I can.

It looks like a small step, but for some of us who have grown used "having control" and wanting to do everything ourselves, it's a leap of faith and trusting someone else to do it just as well if not better.

Gary Miller said...

I usually don't think to comment on articles such as thought I'd do something different! Thanks for an interesting perspective....Gary Miller

Leslie Kohler said...

It is funny how we do the same things over and over--some of consequence, others insignificant. Allows us to do less thinking and provides a sense of comfort. Last Sat. I was late for aerobics step class and I had to take a spot near the middle of the room. (For the last umpteem years I've stood along the side so I don't feel closed in.) At first this really bugged me. But as the class proceeded I realized it was no big deal and I was wasting energy over nothing. It also made me think about the more important things I do as a matter of routine that I could, and should change. Like checking my email too many times a day. Anybody else guilty of this time-waster? Or re-editing an article I know is complete, perhaps because it's easier than moving on to the next task?

Leslie Kohler

Yvonne Whelan said...

Most of us think that we are "outside the box thinkers" but we are really just trying to change around what we do everyday. By taking a different approach, that will not necessarily benefit you straight away may just work! Everyone is after something, what value does this have to your client/supplier? If you try to understand more about what their values are you may just be starting to "really change" to trying something new.

Yvonne Whelan
MD Tide Resourcing Ltd

Chris Schenk said...


My thoughts on your question above are that not only must one change their habits but one has to also change their mind set in order to do something new.

William W. (Woody) Williams said...

Constant positive change is the hallmark of those with passion for what they do.

Chris Galante said...


I can't thank you enough for these little reminders.

When I was in the Marine Corps, we were often told to take a different route to work daily so that we would have no identifiable pattern for any "threat" to take note of.

I found this a personal challenge, as how many different routes could there be from point "A" to point "B". The answer was suprisingly extensively more numerous that first considered.

The real joy came from the many experiances and discoveries along the way via the many routes. The stimulation of varied scenery often went much further than the journey each day as the stimulation for innnovation and trying new things carried with me through the end of each day leaving me excited for the next.

Roger Thaxton said...


Good job...excellent points!


Evelyn Brown said...

I just went through some similar thinking about magazine renewals. I am scheduled for layoff on May 21, so that will be my retirement date as well. Did I want to renew Fortune and Business Week? I decided to go for it, since I would now be reading them for my own personal wealth building strategies without ALSO looking for career building ideas. However, I am seriously thinking of adding SKI Magazine to the list of new reading options.

Prabhu Sankaran said...

I agree that trying new things energizes a person like nothing else. Per old adage, "familiarity breeds contempt" - doing the same thing bores a person and eventually bring down that person's productivity and enthusiasm for doing anything significant.

Doug said...

....meanwhile somewhere else in the building someone was saying, "Where the heck is John?" ;) Don't get stuck in your ways, but don't lose your way getting out. Keep up the good blog John.

Andy Barreras said...

I wish you guys would talk some sense into our leadership team. We are up the ears with classic software development issues because our leadership does not listen to process improvement ideas. The "need for change" is very apparent - it's a question of being capable of believing that what you are telling them is the way out of the weeds.

Terry Dillon said...

Makes me think of a book I read many moons ago...

The Diceman (1971)

It tells the story of a psychiatrist named Luke Rhinehart who, feeling bored and unfulfilled in life, starts making decisions about what to do based on a roll of a dice. Leads to some very interesting results - and I use the word interesting in its widest sense. It was banned in a few countries for a while...

Sean Carney said...

Thank you for this timely reminder. A lot of change evolves from attitude, both to try something new, and to let go of the old (even if you think the old is still working for you).
Today I am setting my personal vision for how my day is going to go and how I am going to handle what the day will bring. That I can control and that will be my new priority.
I liked this story. Thanks.

Alex Kersha said...

This is a great challenge idea for my project team. Tomorrow I'm going to come in and to the first person that asks me what to do next answer, "You are now in charge of the project. Make sure you familiarize yourself with all the teams, their goals and deadlines. Then make sure they get everything they need for guidance. I'll see you next Thursday."

Alex Kersha

Julie Yozamp said...


I forwarded "The Best Way to do Something New" to some friends and colleagues (with credit to you, of course.) Afterwards, I had second thoughts -- "The idea was so basic. It was silly of me to forward this to such seasoned people." I thought you would be pleased to know that I've received several responses and thanks from colleagues who found your thoughts elegantly and simply profound. I've had two very meaningful discussions about it today -- one with my husband (my resident philosopher) and one with a colleague with whom I am embarking on a new business venture. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I look forward to reading more from you.

Best regards,

Julie Yozamp

Martha Hesser said...


Great topic, and very appropriate to the current state of affairs in the world right now. Without a doubt, progress and improvement will take place as long as we are willing to get out of our routine and comfort zones.
On a personal level, these days I have been offered the opportunity to take a temporary (6 mo to 1yr) assignment in Charleston, SC.
I volunteered for this assignment when I heard about it...
Some of my colleagues at Boeing cannot understand why I'd do that given the current business environment and the uncertainties and burdens that such an assignment could bring.
I will give credit to your posting for a push to take it!
Best regards,
Martha Hesser

Cathy said...

As a newer Boeing employee (yes, I still have that N on my Badge). I found that I actually took those steps for branching out all within Boeing. I joined Reach last year after I was hired, I joined BWIL this year and I am hoping to participate in the 6 Step Mentoring Program but not within EOT where I work. I've managed to participate in a survey management team leadership discussion within EOT this year and help present. I've found that I really do like projects to work on regardless of how teidious they are and I've earned the respect and admiration of those outside my own team.
As for software engineering aspect, I've learned in my short time that all players need to know what they are doing and how one minor change can impact all of boeing. Ensuring that the CR process is correctly followed and that the team is engaged instead of shut out of the process is beneficial as well.

John Gray said...

Sometimes what is best for an organization is to re-shuffle the deck and get people thinking in a new light. Whether this is with some projects, goals, etc., it can have tremendous benefits.

Chris Taylor said...

Refreshing post John - high value and no intrusive sales pitch. Much appreciated.
Author Matthew Kelly suggests in his book "The Rhythm of Life" that, "In order to say No, you need to have a bigger Yes."

Effectively, Kelly suggests that in order to change your habits, you need to have a clearly defined reason for doing so. You need to have some idea what it is you're pursuing, so you know why you want to stop the habits that are inconsequential to your new object. (Or worse, are detrimental)


Dirk Pastoor said...

Stan Kirkwood, I concur that watching your list of news outlets is important. However, do yourself a favor and include Fox and maybe NPR/PBS as well. Plus gain global perspective and read CBC, watch the BBC and Deutsche Welle, plus other outlets such as Australia News.

To remain competitive in a global setting we have to gain an international and national perspective--from ALL angles. Getting pulled into only the major US news cycles means exposure to a world of 30 second clips presented in a most entertaining manner. We need more exposure and in-depth knowledge of new trends and current happenings in world events, to gain a greater sense of direction of the global business community.

Galen Tom said...

Thank you for the elevator example. As a Union Officer at the community college I work for, I try to stop by different departments. I carry a few short conversations with familiar and not so familiar members. However, I also visit with management.

One characteristic I like about leadership is leaders are seen. I do enjoy talking to people, promoting the union meetings and events, learning more about members, and doing my best in maintaining professional composure with management.

Dirk Pastoor said...

Add the WSJ to my prior comment.

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