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Out of the ordinary

About a week ago, I got up at 4:00 a.m. to go with Jon on a photo shoot at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The site of mist over the refuge, the Rocky Mountains glowing in the background, and the noise of hundreds of birds taking flight at dawn was awe-inspiring.

How important is it for us to have new experiences, to break out of the routine? Neuroscience research demonstrates that when we break out of the routine and enjoy something new, our brains reward us with a dopamine flood.  We essentially give ourselves a pat – not on our head, but inside our head. If we continue to do the same thing over and over, the dopamine flood recedes and eventually dries up – the routine deadens the response.

For me, this is a significant argument for the importance of life-long learning. If I am intentional about experiencing and learning new things each day, I will benefit consciously from the new knowledge, the memories of the experience, and from increased well-being.

Creatively breaking the routine in organizations can work to build innovation and organizational energy. For example, want to improve customer service? I can imagine individuals being asked to go out and observe at a variety of retail and restaurant locations, then coming back to discuss their experiences and how they could be applied internally. Or, want to build leaders? I can imagine having individuals interview each other about when they’ve experienced exceptional leadership, then sharing the stories and characteristics of great leaders, and together designing strategies for integrating those characteristics into their own leadership style.

What are you doing to escape the routine as individual? As an organization?

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