The Workplace Laboratory 

What Can You Accomplish with a Spirit of Experimentation? 

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels

You are a dutiful employee. You know what’s expected of you, your objectives are clear, and you aim to please. You go by the book. 

This is not a bad thing. This is good. 

But you also have the heart of an entrepreneur, so this by-the-book approach is not good enough. In your heart you know this is true, and this creates a conflict. I want to suggest a practice that may help you do something productive with these conflicting feelings.

As an entrepreneurial type, you likely have ambition and vision that exceed the strictures in place in your current position. As Robert Browning puts it, your reach exceeds your grasp. In the execution of your duties, you are likely identifying many problems, broken systems, and inefficiencies, but maybe you feel like you don’t have permission to solve problems. 

Maybe you end up suppressing or ignoring great ideas out of fear of “upsetting the apple cart.” 

What are you supposed to do with this excess creativity and drive? Today, I offer you an idea that has been pivotal in my development. Maybe it’s time you start treating your current job like it’s a laboratory.

The Workplace Laboratory

What do I mean? I’m talking about applying a mindset of exploration, a spirit of experimentation. I’m talking about a shift of paradigm wherein you start to view every challenge as an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before. I’m talking about taking calculated risks for potentially higher rewards. I’m talking about applying a persistent sense of “what-if” to your day. 

Here are some of the benefits I have discovered in the process of treating my job like a laboratory:

  1. Immense satisfaction from the practice of experimentation and creative problem solving.
  2. A growing reputation among colleagues who then begin to seek you out for your insights.
  3. A reputation among management as one who thinks like an owner.
  4. Better-developed business acumen.

How does this play out practically in the workplace? This should look different for every individual, but it may look like the following:

  1. You may start to question the nature of the problems you’re facing (e.g. is the problem really a bug in the code, or is it that we are relying on a software solution instead of a human-based solution).
  2. You may start finding yourself “zooming out”, as I call it, where you constantly try to take the 30,000 ft view. If your inclination is to “zoom in” and micro-focus on the issue, this can be a great exercise.
  3. You will likely start questioning why your company has always done something it has always done.
  4. You’ll likely start more sentences with phrases like “what if”, or “why don’t we try”, or “is there a better way”.

Another thing you may discover is like-minded thinkers. Great collaboration can come from even the most unlikely places. Colleagues with whom you thought you shared no common interests may suddenly be drawn to you because of your ideas. And just like that, now you have a lab partner!

Exercise Caution

Now, I do want you to be careful as you approach this. Self-awareness is important. You must be considerate of the other’s time and patience. Simple problems don’t always call for Rube Goldberg solutions. In your pursuit of experimentation, you don’t want to come across as disruptive.

I suggest you start by journaling your ideas first. You can revisit these ideas later, flesh them out with better detail, and present these ideas at a better, more opportune time. It’s important that you understand culture in which you work and adapt accordingly. Find you boundaries, and do it politely.

This approach is not necessarily for everyone. It has proven to be an excellent creative outlet and personal development strategy for me and many of my friends and colleagues over the years. If done well, plenty of good can come from it. If done poorly, you can become a nuisance. I encourage you to start today with a journal and see where this type of approach can take you.

If you have examples of what this approach has done for you in your career, would you share them with us in the comments below?

To your adventure,

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