I recently bought new eyeglasses – one of my least favorite things to do. This is a purchase that I will use daily for the next several years and that costs a significant amount of money and yet I can’t see without mine on in order to select a new pair. Thus, I need to rely on the opinion of a stranger to determine how they look on me – all while wearing a mask. It’s hard to imagine it turning out well.
So, what happens is that I end up with a pair that is eerily similar to the ones I already had. I have worn the new specs for a week without comment from anyone.
I think they are a metaphor for change. As the risk goes up (cost, longevity) our propensity for taking a risk goes down. Firms like Warby Parker have tried to minimize that risk by allowing you to try on things at home where you can get the opinion of people who know you without the time pressure of being in a store (and by reducing the cost). Or if they were cheap “cheaters” it would be easy to go out on a limb and try a new color or shape, but for 700 bucks I want to be pretty sure it’s something I like.
The next time you are initiating a change effort at work, remember the experience of buying glasses. How can you mitigate some of the risk if you want people to make big leaps in innovation? Without some adjustment of risk/reward, you’re likely to get an incremental change that others may not even notice.
In a savvy merchandising move, Dot’s Pretzels has now converted the crumbs of its signature product into a new item instead of disposing of it as waste. The company sells “Crumble” as an accent that you can use to enhance pork, fish, chicken, or to create pie crusts. How have we lived so long without it?!
There is likely some “crumble” in your organization – content that can be repurposed for additional uses, resources that can be packaged into something new, or even people who can function in different roles to create new value. Others have already seen the obvious innovations. Look around for the crumbs to leverage what has not yet been discovered.
It has been fascinating to me to see how the market has adjusted to changing demand due to COVID. I’ve written before about the plethora of masks, sanitizers, and new tools that are now everywhere but a new crop of products is catching my attention: that of homeschooling aids.
I have seen store displays of curriculum guides and workbooks to help the parent thrust into the new role of teacher. I received a sign-of-the-times mailing with the headline: “Do you feel your child is falling behind? We offer free developmental screenings…” Tutoring services seem to be popping up everywhere.
Think about whether your organization can help fulfill some of this new demand. Can you offer learning guides about your group that could serve as a case study or exercise for a piece of the curriculum? Is there a way you can share existing resources for parents to use to teach one of the standard subjects? Or could you offer a video chat to serve as a resource and engage the students in a visual experience instead of a field trip?
You may find yourself gaining new insights as well as delivering them for it is through teaching that we learn.
Another lesson from The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the danger of concentrating too much power in one person’s hands. The judge in the original trial – Julius Hoffman – was obviously agitated with the defendants and showed “significant prejudice” against them and their attorney. Overall, he issued 175 contempt charges during the trial, all of which were reversed upon appeal.
The concept of checks and balances is a valuable one – not just for the government but for all organizations. It may occur formally as with the appeal option in the courts, or it may be more informal through trusted and truthful advisors who are in a position to speak truth to power. Regardless of the format, creating a system to allow other perspectives to be heard (and often, more rational thoughts to prevail) is a good practice to institutionalize. Don’t let your emotions have undue weight in your decision-making.
Part of my holiday viewing was The Trial of the Chicago 7 – a documentary about protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The fact that Aaron Sorkin wrote it was enough to entice me but it proved to be an illuminating view on a piece of history that I really knew little about.
All seven on trial were arrested for their role in protesting the Vietnam War but that’s where the similarities ended. Two were Yippies – radically left members of the anti-war protests. Two were members of the Students for a Democratic Society who approached their advocacy with more intellect than charisma. One was an older father who was literally a Boy Scout leader, engaged in the protests through total non-violence, and two were doctoral students and individual protesters who were later acquitted on all charges.
It was striking to me to see the differences in how these seven approached the same cause. I was reminded that leadership can come in many forms and there is no one “type” of personality that is more successful than others in motivating people to act. The best way to inspire others is to be authentic.
In anticipation of the holidays, I spent an entire day writing an advance posting of dots for the week. It felt like a massive expenditure of time to invest in the project and I wondered whether it was worth the effort.
However, when I think about it, I’m sure I actually dedicated less time per dot by writing them in a batch. The efficiencies of having all my materials out, getting in that “writing groove”, and having a list of ideas rather than spending time thinking of them individually made the overall process more productive.
It’s often easier to do things bit by bit but sometimes you’re better off devoting a big chunk of time to really get something done. You could clean the garage one shelf at a time but be more efficient hauling everything out onto the driveway and doing it all at once. You might write one paragraph of a report but save time by closing your office door and crafting the whole thing. An afternoon of concentrating on filing your taxes may actually take less time than doing it in stages.
The hardest part of a big task is getting started on it. Once you do, try mightily to keep going until it’s done.
The run-off elections for two Georgia Senate seats are today and most people are saying that the outcome “will determine control of the Senate.” Let us not forget that there are 98 other Senators already elected, and, although Georgia is the last to decide, they are not the only ones who determined control. All the voters in the other 49 states determined who controls the Senate; had there been a big majority of either party the Georgia election would barely have made the news.
We give disproportionate emphasis on what happens last. The batter who hits the final home run; the hero who comes in and saves the day in the movies; a good score on the final exam even though the student struggled all term, or the donor who gives last and puts the fund drive over the top – all are important but because they are last doesn’t make them more significant than that which came before them.
Resolve to pay more attention to what comes first. The actions that occur early are the ones that truly set the tone. Having a strong start may not be as glamorous as a heroic action in the end, but it makes such drama unnecessary.
There are many people out there that work very hard to do things in the “right” way, but I believe that in the majority of cases, there is no “right” answer. People make choices and decisions all the time that are a matter of judgment, opinions, or values. Their determination is a result of their skills and the information they have available at the time, and very often their choice is a matter of preference, not certainty.
We expend a lot of mental energy unnecessarily trying to find the elusive correct answer. Do yourself a favor in 2021 and reframe your search for “right”. Because the boss picks “A” over “B” doesn’t mean that “A” is right; it simply means that is the one she picked.
During one of last year’s storms, my bush became encrusted in ice. I debated whether I should do something about it or whether my intervention would cause more harm. Ultimately, I decided to leave it alone and the bush is thriving today.
I think that with people, as in nature, there are times when you’re better off letting things resolve themselves on their own. Every problem doesn’t need you to insert yourself in finding a solution. Consider letting the situation thaw before you automatically rush to address it. Too much heat can cause a fire.
Every kid dreams of waking up to hear that a snow day has been declared. But as if we needed one more thing to polarize us, it now seems that there are two distinct views about whether or not school districts should continue to cancel classes and declare snow days given the pervasiveness of remote learning.
Soup company Campbell’s is out to influence the decision by creating a campaign “to preserve and protect the most magical of winter birthrights: the snow day.” Their Save the Snow Day website is beautifully done and helps rekindle the joy that snow days bring.
While e-learning can continue no matter what the weather, having that spontaneous time for winter fun is a treasured part of childhood and should outweigh another day in front of the computer. If you agree, you can sign their pledge, stating that you believe:
In saving the snow day because of the unbridled joy it brings
Every snowflake dreams of becoming a snowball
Hills were made to be sled down
Cold days call for hot soup
The world can always use more snow angels
In powering down screens for more snow day family-time
Campbell’s campaign is a clever way to raise the awareness of its product and engage consumers outside of direct, overt advertising. Watch their website for lessons not only about snow days themselves but for how to align your brand with a current topic in ways that are strategically smart.