“2 Up & 2 Down” a “game” to expand innovative thinking/behaviors

For all the “talk” about expanding our creativity and the
need for massive and accelerated innovation in the world economy today, it’s
amazing how “stuck” we are in our personal habits and routines and how our
actions and responses are deeply predictable. 
Over the past few years I have been thinking/observing this trend not
just in others around me but my actions and myself.  As a person who believes that one’s words and
actions should be in alignment, (having written about just that idea years ago
in a previous essay http://ift.tt/1Sn5A8r)  I searched for a tool to adjust my
“predictable” habits.

Think to yourself how often you go to a favorite restaurant
and always order the same thing.  How
often your morning coffee order is identical in structure (for me a medium
americano, extra shot with room, ha!!). 
How often you sit in the same spot in a meeting room.  In a time when the world needs our flexible
problem solving, our creative innovative energy, our actions seem to reflect a
much more rigid/inflexible reality.  What
to do???

A few years ago I came up with a “game” that I call “2 up
& 2 down.”  In a restaurant/food
service setting with a group or team of people, I see if anyone wants to “play
a game” to work on flexibility and creativity. 
Often most or all of the folks want to “play”, and after checking for
any food allergies that might cause serious problems, we begin the “game.”  I ask everyone to look over the menu and be
clear with their choice, possibly the lunch or dinner entrée.  Once that choice is clear in everyone’s mind,
I ask someone at the table to pull out a dollar bill.  Looking at the face of the dollar bill, I ask
for the first number of the serial number, lets say in this instance that it’s
a “2”.  Next I ask another person to say
“up or down.”  Usually there are a few
questioning looks, but ultimately that person says either “up” or “down;” lets
say in this instance they said “up.”    So we have “2 Up”” as our game and all those
playing go back to the menu and will order whatever is “2 Up” from their
planned menu order…. A moment that brings some excitement and panic!!  Someone who had planned on a steak, may be
getting a salad, someone who had ordered a Rueben will be getting the BLT, and
so on.  It always creates quite a stir!!

The “game” came alive this week, at an ice cream shop near
our cabin in Highlands NC.  I had a
marvelous group of executives, from various companies, up in the mountains for
a “Legacy Retreat” (more on that concept in a future essay).  After a mountain hike, we came back through
town and stopped for an ice cream cone. (Great thinking Regina!!)  As I went up to the counter, I was just about
to order my favorite flavor (toasted coconut) and I caught myself in the “predictable
trap.”  I stepped back and said, “who wants
to play “2 Up & 2 Down??”  After a brief
explanation, I had one taker and Nancy stepped up to “play.”   Nancy a creative and very talented senior
leader for a major corporation steps forward to say her order was “chocolate
peanut butter.”  I pull the dollar bill
from my pocket and say that the first number was “3, ” and I asked another
individual to call “up or down” and “UP” was called!  We had “3UP” as our “game” and I stepped up,
and went “3 up” from “toasted coconut” and ordered a cone of “peach frozen
yogurt.”  Nancy follows and goes “3 Up”
from “chocolate peanut butter” and ordered a cone of “maple walnut.”  The broader group watched as Nancy and I “enjoyed”
our new, unexpected ice cream flavors, discussing the “game” in more detail and
commenting on some of my past “unexpected meals!”

Now I don’t think that Nancy nor I have found a new favorite
flavor, but we took a tiny action to step out of the “same old/same old” habits
and try something new.  We need to work
on this all the time, looking for ways to expand our view and experiences, and
build flexibility into our thinking and experiences.  While this “little game” may seem a bit cliché,
it serves as a small playful tool, and a bit of a reminder that we can use
regular, everyday moments to expand our perspectives, habits, and actions.  Give it a try with your friends, family,
team, or department sometime soon!!