Managers always tell their people to think out of the box. Now, the surest way to get out of your box is to talk to a stranger. Morning walks are a good time to get into such an excursion. You can smile at someone and start chatting with them. Or, make it a point to stop at a tea stall and exchange some words with strangers.
Not just the 'weather talks'. Talk to them about the current news, and if they are willing, dig it deeper about their work,
The trick is simple. First, you reveal something about you. I always say, "I am a writer. What you do?" And then whatever they do, I ask them a few more question about their vocation.
Recently I went to Ratlam, a town in Madhya Pradesh. During my evening walk, I purposely got in steps with a toy vendor. Rashid Bhai was returning home after a hard days work. His profession was obvious, so I asked him, "How was business today?" He smiled, "Sold a lot of toys today, in the beginning of the month these things sell better." He showed me the hidden platform under the cart where he put home-cleaning wares for all season sales.
He observed me closely, and commented, "You don't look like a locale, where are you from?" And then guessed himself, "Mumbai!" He also lived in Mumbai for a few years. The life was tough and he moved back to Ratlam. Now he is happier.
Aren't you wondering? How can ordinary talks like these help us get creative juices flowing? These conversations take us out and away from our immediate concerns. We get a glimpse into the world of the other person. In management lingo, you are getting out of your box.
Get a different point of view: These strangers live and look at life differently. Ask them questions to find their evaluation parameters. How do they judge life? What are their moments of happiness? Also, shift places, what would you do in their situation? Or, what this person will do if he has to solve the problems that you are struggling with?
Creative ingredients: Through these conversations I learn so much about life in general. These insights are ingredients for future work. All creative projects need inputs; whether it's a song lyric, a newspaper column, or a training module. ( I have used one of the toys from Rashid Bhai's cart in a training program too!)
I tell people, we can't make an omelette without eggs. These conversations provide us with those 'creative eggs.'
These insights come handy in professional work. Someday I might be in a meeting discussing toy industry in India, and Rashid bhai's input will help me stand out in the room.
Such contributions have got me a reputation-- an expert 'who knows the ground realities', 'someone who understands the human side of branding' and many such accolades.
Make it a point to talk to strangers during morning walks, on a tea stall, while traveling long distances, or in a seminar--wherever you go.
Puneet is a newspaper columnist and author. A strong proponent of 'Power of ideas can change the world!' He is applying this approach, and influencing thousands of lives through mentoring idea champions in corporates, non-profits, as well as early stage startups.
To know more about him and to understand his training approach, visit