A drowning man will clutch a straw. – 19th Century Proverb
We’ve heard it said often that “desperate times call for desperate measures.” I’ve found in leadership that the default mode in stagnant organizations is “desperate times call for comfortable measures.” We tend to do what has worked in the past without considering that times, people and conditions have changed. The familiar approach ends up becoming the straw that the proverbial man grasps while sinking.
A better approach is to think beyond the comfortable obvious. Lately, this idea has smacked me in the face to wake me up. Here’s what I mean:
- In the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane (Played by Brad Pitt) argues with his scouts telling them that they can’t choose new players the same way they used to. They have to think differently. They have to define the real problem. To the scouts, the problem is obvious. But to Beane, it is something entirely different.
- In the DIY television series, The Vanilla Ice Project (http://www.diynetwork.com/the-vanilla-ice-project/show/index.html), Rob, (A.K.A. Vanilla Ice) buys rundown Palm Beach mansions and renovates them. I enjoy watching the show because he is continually thinking beyond the ordinary to add what he calls the “wow factor.” It’s a way of thinking beyond the obvious. Having seen firsthand, two of the homes he has redone, he has definitely succeeded.
- In the late Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture, he tells about an assignment he gave his Carnegie Melon students to virtual reality world. They could not use shooting violence or pornography. Realizing the default mode for 19 year old males is to create a game with sex and violence, he required them to think differently. He was amazed at what they came up with when they thought beyond the obvious (“They Just Blew Me Away,” Pages 120-122).
As leaders we help define reality then help our team members think beyond the obvious. If team members were already thinking that way, they wouldn’t need us.
Our challenge as leaders is to throw the life ring of extraordinary thinking so that clutching a straw becomes impossible.
How will you help your team members think creatively this week? I’d love to hear your thoughts!