work your idea

As humans, we tend to let ourselves fall into familiar routines, especially when we’re working.


Any sequence of mental action which has been frequently repeated tends to perpetuate itself. ~William James, philosopher


I’ve seen many shades of the autopilot work mentality, which can range from severe creative block to not realizing you have a problem. Regardless of which end of the continuum you occupy, it’s worth your time to ask if whether there’s a better way.

To help you reframe how you work, innovate, and think, I offer four steps to help you rethink what you’re doing.


4 steps to get off mental autopilot


Step 1: If you’re stuck or not sure, ask “What if?”

Ask yourself:  Am I treading water? What work goals haven’t I achieved? Can I imagine a new way of achieving those goals?

If you answered “no” or “I can’t,” then it’s time for you to reframe how you think. Telling yourself “I can’t” predetermines unaccomplished goals. Counter-balance that negative responsive by repeated asking “What if…?” That’s the first step to opening the door of possibility.

Step 2: Start making the “What ifs?” real with your work team.

Schedule a meeting and start it with a silent warm-up ideation period of three minutes. Write down all the “What if” ideas that surface in the three minutes.

Don’t worry about people coming up with the same idea at the same time. Just write them down and keep the creativity flowing.

If you and your team need more ideas, repeat the process.

Step 3: Follow good response practices when ideas are shared.

Tell your work team members to say “plus one” if they have an idea that’s like one that someone else has suggested. This streamlines the process and strengthens bonds between those with similar ideas.

Saying “Plus love” is a good way to express that you wish you came up with the idea. Hearing “plus love” on a crazy idea encourages you to come up with more crazy ideas and enables the group to be more creative.

Saying “I’m good” is a positive way of saying “I don’t have any more ideas.”

Step 4: Filter your ideas. How much do you love an idea?

Now’s the time to start sorting all those ideas that have been shared. Ask a few questions to begin the sorting and sifting process: Does the idea solve a real need? Will it save money? Is it feasible?

Next, further whittle down the idea list by asking how easy or difficult an idea would be to execute.

Then move on to consider the “wow” factor, meaning how much the idea would impact someone’s life or how much a client would like it.

New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done; 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing; 3) I knew it was a good idea all along! ~Arthur C. Clarke


Sometimes to get out of the mental autopilot rut, all we have to do is carve out some time so we can discover new ideas for ourselves.


Today’s guest contributor is Mona Patel, CEO and Founder of Motivate Design, a user-centered design agency based in New York City that helps Fortune 500 clients.

Image credit before quote: Pixabay