Thinking-outside-the-box is just another tired catch phrase until you do something about it and help your colleagues...think outside the box.

Have you heard this one? A strategist, a designer and a copywriter walk into a room and all they come out with is one or two decent ideas. (yes, that’s the joke – all of it.)

I’ve heard it because I’ve lived it. I’ve participated in those meetings more times than I can count. We go in with a few ideas, then throw them against a whiteboard until something sticks. We’re usually in such a rush to come up with something out of the box – but not too far out of it – that we forget that we’re actually trying to solve a business challenge or address a customer need. Brainstorming can work. But sometimes it doesn’t.

Over the past year, I’ve begun integrating design thinking into our brainstorming process with the intention of becoming more agile and innovative. Some of our sessions – a.k.a. “Creative Labs” – had clearly definable, desired outcomes like creating proto-personas for our inbound marketing strategy. Others were a little less tangible, such as how to improve our implementation process. Either way, we were able to talk to our users to discover new needs, translate these needs into actionable insights, create simple prototypes, test them and come up with amazing content ideas to present at the end.

Not only do I find this approach engaging for participants, it also inspires collaboration between different areas of the business. It’s fast, organized, encourages idea compounding, allows participants to exchange thoughts without fear of judgement, and we generate a magnitude of ideas that are user-centric. Granted, some are pie in the sky, but many are dynamic and achievable!

I’ve also noticed that getting a buy-in from participants can be challenging. Generally, it’s the drawing, prototyping and inviting of colleagues from other departments that create that initial hesitation. But I truly believe that getting people out of their comfort zones is exactly what businesses need. It generates more creative, unexpected and exciting results. It moves everyone forward.

Now when we enter our Creative Labs, I appreciate that apprehensive look on people’s faces, because I know that we’re about to shake things up – and create something different that people will love. Eventually.

If you’d like to chat with me about #designthinking, feel free to tweet me at @bookmarkcontent.