A funny thing happened on my way out of the store. While not approaching my fastest time through the grocery store today, I did manage to complete my shopping and check out in 11 minutes. When preparing to leave the store, I noticed two people just inside and three people just outside the glass doors, standing and staring. Realizing that the automatic door was not working, I reached up and waived my hand under the sensor to no avail. So then I just pulled the doors apart to open them. Two of the people looked at me and said, “I didn’t even think you could open the door [manually].”
Why didn’t the customers and even one employee try a different way to open the automatic doors?
- Have we become so dependent on technology that we don’t think about other ways to accomplish the small things in our lives?
- Are we so absorbed in our daily activities and lives that we are puzzled when faced with something slightly out of the ordinary?
- When faced with something that appears broken, do we just wait for someone else to fix it?
Maybe you have the answers to the questions posed. Frankly, I wonder what would have happened if there was a fire or other emergency? Would we have all stood looking at the glass or even tried to shatter the glass instead of first attempting to open the door? Or, maybe the incentive arising from an emergency would have spurred people into action.
Opening the glass doors may provide a career learning opportunity, or at the least a reminder of principles we have most certainly heard.
- New on the job? One piece of advice for those starting a new job is open your eyes and learn the current process. Only after you understand how and why tasks are completed a certain way, should you attempt to improve on the system. While improvements might be using technology to improve speed, efficiency, quality or accuracy, you might also discover that adding a step or two would produce better quality or yield better information.
- Not just the same old song and dance. Sometimes when an employee has been with one company or in one position for many years, there’s a tendency to get stale or to just go through the motions. When a person gets comfortable in a job and routine, it is easy to stop paying attention to the details. Most of us have experienced this at some point in our professional or personal lives. A quick look at our everyday routines like cleaning the house or exercising provide excellent examples. By shear repetition we’ve memorized the steps, and therefore multi-task more than we probably should. Just like the people who were accustomed to the door automatically opening. We program ourselves with routines and habits (both good and bad), and then one day we find ourselves in front of a closed door. You don’t always need to change companies or even positions to keep in step. Annually look for bigger, better, faster ways of doing something. Review software upgrade information to see if you can capitalize on new features. Maybe some of your tasks have become redundant with what someone else is doing. Delegate some of your tasks if you have that option, and set new goals to accomplish. Use interns to review your processes. It’s amazing how often you’ll find better ways to solve problems or accomplish goals when you start teaching someone else. Volunteer for cross-training opportunities. Document your processes, and review periodically for appropriate changes.
- Learning in your field and others. Many of us already embrace life-long learning. Continuing education through reading is a key part of success. It’s not enough to read light pieces in the media and on social network sites. Reviewing research, perusing original source materials, and focusing not only on your area of expertise, but several other business, industrial and scientific areas will help spur ideas and maintain your competitiveness. Don’t be afraid to learn technical information that is not directly related to your job.
- Homework is forever. Continue developing your problem solving skills at home. Believe it or not, hobbies are not only a wonderful distraction, but also a fantastic way to keep your brain active. Maybe you enjoy cooking, sewing, knitting, repairing/fixing, woodworking, or building. Or maybe you want to hone your skills in photography or music. All of these hobbies continue developing problem solving skills. Sharing interests and knowledge with family and friends is an added bonus. We even learn from household chores. Finding better ways to mend fences or paint walls and discovering how to install ceiling fans or fix a vacuum cleaner are all learning experiences that actually do help us at work.
Hopefully with these tips and reminders you’ll keep finding more doors to open, and none to shatter.
Looking forward to seeing you through the door.