Thursday, April 21, 2016

"2 Up & 2 Down", a "game" to expand innovative thinking/behaviors

For all the “talk” about expanding our creativity and the need for massive and accelerated innovation in the world economy today, it’s amazing how “stuck” we are in our personal habits and routines and how our actions and responses are deeply predictable.  Over the past few years I have been thinking/observing this trend not just in others around me but my actions and myself.  As a person who believes that one’s words and actions should be in alignment, (having written about just that idea years ago in a previous essay  I searched for a tool to adjust my “predictable” habits.

Think to yourself how often you go to a favorite restaurant and always order the same thing.  How often your morning coffee order is identical in structure (for me a medium americano, extra shot with room, ha!!).  How often you sit in the same spot in a meeting room.  In a time when the world needs our flexible problem solving, our creative innovative energy, our actions seem to reflect a much more rigid/inflexible reality.  What to do???

A few years ago I came up with a “game” that I call “2 up & 2 down.”  In a restaurant/food service setting with a group or team of people, I see if anyone wants to “play a game” to work on flexibility and creativity.  Often most or all of the folks want to “play”, and after checking for any food allergies that might cause serious problems, we begin the “game.”  I ask everyone to look over the menu and be clear with their choice, possibly the lunch or dinner entrée.  Once that choice is clear in everyone’s mind, I ask someone at the table to pull out a dollar bill.  Looking at the face of the dollar bill, I ask for the first number of the serial number, lets say in this instance that it’s a “2”.  Next I ask another person to say “up or down.”  Usually there are a few questioning looks, but ultimately that person says either “up” or “down;” lets say in this instance they said “up.”    So we have “2 Up”” as our game and all those playing go back to the menu and will order whatever is “2 Up” from their planned menu order…. A moment that brings some excitement and panic!!  Someone who had planned on a steak, may be getting a salad, someone who had ordered a Rueben will be getting the BLT, and so on.  It always creates quite a stir!!

The “game” came alive this week, at an ice cream shop near our cabin in Highlands NC.  I had a marvelous group of executives, from various companies, up in the mountains for a “Legacy Retreat” (more on that concept in a future essay).  After a mountain hike, we came back through town and stopped for an ice cream cone. (Great thinking Regina!!)  As I went up to the counter, I was just about to order my favorite flavor (toasted coconut) and I caught myself in the “predictable trap.”  I stepped back and said, “who wants to play “2 Up & 2 Down??”  After a brief explanation, I had one taker and Nancy stepped up to “play.”   Nancy a creative and very talented senior leader for a major corporation steps forward to say her order was “chocolate peanut butter.”  I pull the dollar bill from my pocket and say that the first number was “3, ” and I asked another individual to call “up or down” and “UP” was called!  We had “3UP” as our “game” and I stepped up, and went “3 up” from “toasted coconut” and ordered a cone of “peach frozen yogurt.”  Nancy follows and goes “3 Up” from “chocolate peanut butter” and ordered a cone of “maple walnut.”  The broader group watched as Nancy and I “enjoyed” our new, unexpected ice cream flavors, discussing the “game” in more detail and commenting on some of my past “unexpected meals!”

Now I don't think that Nancy nor I have found a new favorite flavor, but we took a tiny action to step out of the “same old/same old” habits and try something new.  We need to work on this all the time, looking for ways to expand our view and experiences, and build flexibility into our thinking and experiences.  While this “little game” may seem a bit cliché, it serves as a small playful tool, and a bit of a reminder that we can use regular, everyday moments to expand our perspectives, habits, and actions.  Give it a try with your friends, family, team, or department sometime soon!!