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A tweet about Surprise Journals, written by Julia Galef, lit up those “what’s up with that” circuits of my brain last week. So, instead of stalking people on Facebook or watching another episode of Law and Order, I decided to think about the surprises we get in our everyday lives and in the business world.

The article explained how students wrote down one surprise each day and answered two questions referencing that thought; ‘Why did I find it surprising?’ and ‘What did I learn about myself from that surprise?’ My immediate reaction was, ‘Wow, just think how that would increase a child’s awareness of consequences if parents had them do that at the end of each day?’ My next thought was, ‘Why just children?’

What if, as employers, we asked our employees to take 5 minutes before clocking out and write down something that surprised them during their workday? Then have them analyze how to cause the outcome to be different next time. It could be something seemingly insignificant, like being caught off guard in the bathroom because there’s no toilet paper left, or it could be a pretty significant surprise, like a shipment not coming in on time and delaying production.

There is nothing worse than planning months in advance for a trade show, shipping what you need to the show location, and upon arrival realizing it’s in a thousand pieces. Surprise! Lesson learned that you shouldn’t cut corners in packaging the crate because ‘it would do’. Or maybe you decide there’s a better way to clean tile than what your supervisor has shown you. Surprise! Looks like your supervisor wasn’t being tedious without a reason.

Surprises will always be in our lives. Some cost more than others: financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. We could learn some lessons if we took inventory more often and learned from our past surprises. Yes, a surprise can be the same thing as a mistake, but why not take a positive approach. Give your employees a hand-up by considering a Surprise Notebook. Utilize it at company meetings, review it weekly or monthly, and refer to it when you need a reminder. Hopefully you’ll never wind up without toilet paper again.

Jennifer Burton

Author Jennifer Burton

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