We’re developing a workshop on creative thinking techniques for a B2B salesforce in a few weeks. Reviewing the attendees’ pre-workshop surveys on their expectations, personal learning objectives, and needs for creative thinking development, they mentioned “thinking outside the box” and “how to get out of my comfort zone” frequently.

Quite honestly, we don’t use those phrases much. I guess I think of them as what people say about creative thinking when they don’t have anything more substantial to say. They are creative thinking aspirations seemingly devoid of ideas for making them happen.

Despite that, I’ve been thinking about ideas for how to get out of your comfort zone.


How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

When I think too much about a topic, it often leads to a matrix to think about possibilities. Thinking about a comfort zone as some combination of proven skills and how comfortable your current situation is led to the matrix below.

If you buy the premise behind this matrix, your options for getting outside your comfort zone come down to either learning new skills or pushing beyond the same old situations that feel safe.

Going the learning new skills route leads to questions such as:

  • Do I go deeper in learning more about the skills I have?
  • Should I branch out into learning about new areas related to what I do?
  • Do I take a complete “walk off the ranch” and learn about something that has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done before?

(If I’m looking to go this route, learning about dance choreography would be at the top of my list for “walk off the ranch” learning. I don’t understand dance at all, but find the idea of choreographing it very intriguing. I’m guessing there would be some valuable learning there.)

If you decide to pursue new situations, those questions might include:

  • What are completely new opportunities to pursue?
  • Are there different venues for doing what I do that I haven’t considered previously?
  • Are there either personal or business bucket list items waiting for me to show up and do something about them?


Facing an "Immerse or Fail" situation?

Thinking about all this had me considering the upper right quadrant. That’s my worst nightmare quadrant, although I can name a number of occasions in the past few years where I’ve planted myself in the upper right on this matrix.

If you find yourself (or put yourself) in an uncomfortable situation where you need to call upon untested skills, what do you do?

Beyond immersion, there are a couple of options to get your feet back on a little more solid footing:


Back of the Napkin "How to Get Our of Your Comfort Zone" Ideas

This is a first pass as these ideas to help flesh out our possible content for the creative thinking workshop.

How would you adapt this thinking to improve it? - Mike Brown

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