Take Detours — Get Lost

for organizations


This Domain-Level Guide is designed to be used based on the Core Model. Please refer to the Take Detours — Get Lost Core Practice before exploring this guide.


Taking Detours sounds like a setback, especially in a goal-driven organizational context. When goals, targets, and plans dictate most of what people do, there is naturally less room for going sideways.

But detours are often where creative insights are born. When you allow yourself and your team to Get Lost, you can explore uncharted territories, and as a result, discover things you didn’t expect. When you take surprising turns, you increase your chances to come across unique ingredients that can become the seeds of innovative ideas.

To overcome the natural organizational tendency to aim for the shortest path, you need to explicitly encourage your team to Take Detours and Explore New Playgrounds. These activities require space and bandwidth, and are possible only when the team creates and maintains them proactively.


Embed Detours in Your Plan

Taking Detours means, by definition, not taking the shortest, most efficient path. When your actions are plan-driven, the simplest way to encourage the team to take detours is to embed some detours in the plan.

Don’t confuse Planning a Detour with setting a buffer. A planned detour is not a safety net for unexpected delays. On the contrary: a detour is an invitation for unforeseen things to happen. Making it part of the plan means actively looking for these surprises by doing something beyond the immediate necessary actions.

Whether you will be able to utilize the discoveries you find in the detour immediately, only in a future project, or not at all, is less important. The value of the detour is first and foremost in taking it — in exploring options beyond the obvious ones.

  • When planning a project or activity, spice up the plan with some detours — taking a more intriguing, unexpected path instead of the shortest, most efficient one.
  • Don’t treat detours as buffers. They are an inherent part of the plan — a plan to take a sideways instead of the main route.
  • Record insights and discoveries from the detour. Consider their value to the current goals and keep revisiting them in the future.
Explore New Playgrounds

Some detours are longer and more surprising paths to predefined goals. Other detours are designed to explore entirely new playgrounds, even if it doesn’t serve any concrete organizational target.

Encouraging your team to explore new playgrounds and providing them the resources to do so can positively impact your mainstream tasks and projects. But this is not the goal of these detours. Exploring uncharted territories is an investment. Don’t expect to cash-in in the short term, but be ready for surprising insights and value in the longer term.

  • Encourage your team to explore new territories even when it does not promote a predefined project or task.
  • Make room in your plans for individual and collective explorations — consider them long-term investments with the potential of a surprising short-term gain.


Example 1

When planning the work on a new product or feature, set some time for Fantasy Design — design the solution as if there are no constraints or limitations, or add some unrealistic elements to the design.

This is a detour because, by definition, the outcome of this activity cannot be used as-is for the next phase of development. However, like taking a scenery road, you might have some unexpected discoveries along the way that will shed new light on what you should do next. Some insights from this detour could be usable in the future, but few of them could teach you valuable things about your current project.

Example 2

Many successful organizations like Google and 3M encourage their employees to dedicate a significant part of their time to personal projects — projects that are not in any roadmap. Some successful products were the outcome of such personal explorations. But even if they don’t result in a commercial product, these detours are Experiences that can result in many creative insights affecting the mainstream projects.

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