Perhaps the most famous advocate for rituals and the role they play in society is John Lennon. He once observed that “rituals are important.” He then gave a keen example: “Nowadays it’s hip not to be married. I’m not interested in being hip.”
No matter where you fall in the hipster-scale, rituals strengthen the relationships that exist between people–whether the rituals take place in the home, in the place of worship, in the workplace, or in the community at large. Here are three tried-and-true “richuals” that will serve to increase creativity, elicit new ideas, and reduce workplace stress.
~Get in a Japanese-Bathtub Mode
A favorite interview technique of Japanese firms operating in America is to put applicants in teams, give them five minutes, and ask them to list as many ways to improve a bathtub as they can. The resulting ideas are not only impressive in terms of quantity but equally impressive in terms of quality.
Periodically, assemble those grappling with a particular problem (and perhaps even those who will be impacted by its solution). Set the timer for five minutes and ask teams to generate possible solutions to the problem, stated in the form of a question.
Hear reports from each team, record their ideas, and then vote to find the one most worthy of pursuit.
~Start Staff Meetings with a Question
It was Peter Drucker, known as the Father of Modern Management Science, who noted that exceptional leaders know how to ask questions–the right questions. Whether you are conducting or simply attending the meeting, try to pose a thought-provocative question at the start of each gathering. These questions-of-the-week could be posted after the meeting, along with interesting answers they generated. And, be guided by this observation from James Thurber, beloved American humorist, “I’d rather know some of the questions than all of the answers.”
~Excise the Warts of Worry
You’ll need volunteers for this one–people willing to take the worrywart test. Here are the questions.
1)What percentage of the time does negativity slip into your conversations?
2)What percentage of the time at work do you feel stressed?
3)What percentage of the time do you find it hard to concentrate?
4)What percentage of the time do you find your- self having a bad day?
5)What percentage of the time do you give problems more emotion than they deserve?
Once the volunteers have taken the test, they are then required to find a colleague who will answer the questions in reference to the original test-taker. Discrepancies and perceptions will be discussed.
Suggest those with answers in the 50+% range:
1) Do something physical as soon as stress appears: Take ten deep breaths or lift weights for 60 seconds.
2) Identify the worst thing that can happen. Then write down what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen.
3) Talk over the situation with someone you respect.
4) Make a list of all the things you worry about. Then divide the items into two columns–those you can do some-thing about and those you can do nothing about. Resolve to give very little time to the second column.
Prioritize the items in the first column in terms of the seriousness of their consequences. Make contingency plans for the five most serious problems. Once you have done this, make contingency plans for the next five and so on. Every three months, review and revise the list.
Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran noted that “in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” The little things you can do to increase creativity, increase interpersonal understanding, and decrease tension will go a long way toward achieving workplace harmony.