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Cross-Pollinate and Grow Your Inspiration - 11/2/2010 -

Exposing yourself and your staff to brave new worlds beyond the office walls will result in a wonderful new vocabulary of ideas.

By Jeffrey Dever

As writers, editors, publishers, and such, we are all part of an effective, highly focused, content-driven continuum—creators of a stream of information produced for the specialized needs of our members. We're good at it, yet our experience and market-specific skills, while an asset, may also be our Achilles heel; often, they place us at risk of deteriorating into incestuous communities feeding almost exclusively off each others' focused, yet limited, perspectives.

How then do we infuse ourselves and our work with new energy and fresh perspectives? Cross-pollinate—intentionally expose yourself and your staff to brave new worlds beyond your office walls and the occasional doldrums of our daily tasks.

Why not look to the arts--theatre, music, fine art, and cinema? At any given moment, there are a host of options available, listed in newspapers, and online every day. Concerts, plays, exhibitions, and films abound all around us. The new perspectives creative artists impart help us perceive the world differently. When we reach beyond our comfort zones with an open mind, we will be rewarded with a new vocabulary of ideas. The farther we stretch ourselves, the more we will evolve into new ways to speak, listen, and see.

Start by scheduling intermittent breaks and excursions to reinvigorate yourself on a regular basis. Make the time, and the investment will pay dividends. On occasion, include your immediate team of coworkers. A field trip energizes staff, fosters communication, and encourages the free exchange of ideas in a neutral environment. Such outings build bridges that your office structure may inadvertently inhibit.

Over the past couple of years, our studio--as an office--has taken in a show, visited an exhibition, and even seen a film or two. The shared experiences fueled the entire staff for days, and all were followed by animated observations, critiques, and discussions. Even when these alternative ventures don't readily translate into quantifiable assets, they can still perform as vital catalysts, re-energizing our daily disciplines and expanding our point of view.

Here are a few tips when looking for suitable excursions.

· Look for experiences that complement, but go beyond, your natural sensibilities and skills. Stretch yourselves.

· Look for opportunities that do more than merely entertain. While a night out at a baseball game may be good fun and a great social event, it doesn't encourage the free exchange of ideas and foster real team building.

· Plan, select, and schedule events well in advance to have minimal impact on regular production schedules and individual responsibilities. Then stick to your plan, expect participation, and don't let the date wander. This will encourage personal responsibility and not deteriorate into office squabbles over schedule conflicts. It also shows respect for everyone on staff.

· Whenever possible, schedule your outings to coincide with regular office hours. This is a gift to your staff, not a tax on their personal time. It will also encourage bonding within your staff, undistracted by outside guests.

· Select opportunities that don't strain your budget. In tough economic times, staff may actually resent what they perceive as frivolous spending. There are many events that cost little or nothing. The price of admission is not what determines the success of your outing. Be creative.

While the idea of "wasting” time may seem foreign at first, give it a try. First, I promise it won't be wasted time, as an enthusiastic energized team will always be more efficient than one that drones through the day. Next, over time such outings will be anticipated events that everyone will look forward to. Finally, see if you don't notice a difference (subtle at first), in the energy you bring to your work and the nuanced evolution of what you create. So, for yourself, for your staff—cross-pollinate and grow your inspiration.

Jeff Dever is president-creative director at Dever Designs and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Don't miss his work in the Designer Showcase, coming up in the next issue of Signature magazine.


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