When implementing something new or creating any kind of change there is a tension between wanting to be more ready and wanting to begin. It’s scary to launch when things are still imperfect but waiting too long can be a curse as well.
Researchers Amy Collier and Jen Ross have coined the term “not-yetness” to describe this not yet fully evolved or developed condition. “Not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not checklisting everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve.”
They write of not-yetness in the context of technology in distance education, but I believe the concept can apply to all manner of projects. We should embrace the beginning and doing as a method for discovery, without any expectation that what we undertake will have been totally understood by just thinking and not doing. If we become more comfortable with the idea of “not yet”, it opens a window to the perspective that we expect to learn more, that we acknowledge that things aren’t fully figured out and that we are prepared to have a few things wrong at the initial stage.
Not-yetness lets us off the hook of perfection and gives us permission to publicly begin.
What are you working on that is not-yet-developed but could be shared today?
An unknown author captures the sentiment of what it feels like to be a change agent by comparing it to a crocus at the start of spring. The poem conveys this challenge:
It takes courage to be crocus-minded.
I’d rather wait until June like wise roses, when the hazards of winter are safely behind and I’m expected.
Everything is ready for roses, but crocuses?
Knifing up through hard-frozen ground and snow, sticking their necks out, because they believe in spring and have something personal and emphatic to say about it.
I am by nature rose-minded, even when I have studied the situation and know there are wrongs that need righting, affirmations that need stating – Well, I’d rather wait until June.
But somebody has to care enough to think through and work through hard ground because she believes she can do it and knows there is someone greater than herself to help her break through.
Me? Crocus-Minded? I pray for courage.
It is always easier to let someone else go first; to allow them to forge the path and create a more conducive environment for growth, but, like crocuses, hardiness is required for those who wish to impact change.
Do you have the courage it takes to be crocus-minded – to persist even in the face of adversity – to go first and push through frozen ground to achieve growth? Use the spring blossom as a metaphor to remind yourself that it is worth the effort to be that burst of color in the snow.
There is much written about leaders but not enough attention is given to those who follow. In this video clip “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy” Derek Sivers highlights the critical role that followers play in creating a movement –especially the pivotal role of the first follower.
“The first follower publicly shows everyone else how to follow,” he says. Once someone follows the leader “it’s not about the leader anymore; it’s about them.”
We often give accolades and recognition to the leader but could do more to acknowledge the role that early followers play in creating change. It takes courage to be among the few who pledge their support to an early movement. It requires bravery to be an early adapter and to join in instead of waiting on the sidelines to see if others accept what is happening.
Leaders should think carefully about who could be the first followers to help them build the momentum needed for their plans to gain traction and then line up the early support of those people.
But everyone can play a critical role and exert influence in change efforts. Take the bold step of being a first follower to jump-start the movement you care about most.
If you need an example of a growth mindset in action, look no further than the All-Pro Curling Team, a group of four former NFL players who have their sights set on making the 2022 Olympics as curlers. All-Pro Jared Allen and three other retired football players decided their competitive spirit wasn’t satisfied even though their professional gridiron careers had ended. So, they are seriously striving to make the Olympics in this lesser-known sport.
And taking it seriously. They have hired a former Olympian as coach. They fly from Nashville to Minnesota to practice on “good ice”. They played the full game against formidable competition to gain the experience. They understand the value of film review and making modifications based on feedback from coaches.
They began their journey three years before they would need to qualify for the Olympics. They know they are starting from the beginning but bring with them a growth mindset that tells them they can learn and get better, and they are willing to put in the effort.
Allen told ESPN that their biggest challenge was learning how to slide correctly on the ice. “We all fell a bunch,” he said. Yet they kept going, trying to win the Super Bowl of curling by first learning how to fall. “Our short-term goals are to continually get better: fundamentals, strategy, sweeping. We know if we master these little things, it will take us a long way,” he told the Associated Press.
In three years, these current novices just might make the Olympic team. In three years, what do you wish to accomplish? The time to start your journey is now.
Source: A new frozen tundra by Jimmy Golen for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, January 6, 2019, p 8B
In yesterday’s dot, I shared the Change Framework (developed by School Retool) that provides a model to articulate an overarching reason for change, identify behaviors that would illustrate the aspiration is occurring, determine a few big ideas toward achieving those behaviors and design several small projects or hacks to make progress toward those ideas.
Hacks are small experiments intentionally chosen to hopefully take a step toward achieving a big idea and to also help the changemakers quickly discover what does or does not work. Hacks are about learning by doing so that iterations can be made early on in the process.
Levers for Change can help generate hacks through focused brainstorming. You can pick one of the levers – Space, Events, Schedule, Finance, Process, Role, Ritual, Incentive or Communication – and try to generate as many hacks as possible to help achieve a big idea through changes in that category. For example, if your Big Idea is to Increase Community Involvement, you could attempt to hack in Space by opening a satellite center or having office hours in a mall; you could have a hack in Roles by redesigning a position to do more community outreach; Communication could involve a thank you note or follow up call for every community member who engages with you, etc. School Retool examples can be seen in this 2-minute video.
No matter how much you strategize, plan or design your initial ideas are not going to be perfect. By creating hacks – and hacks and hacks and hacks and hacks – you will take enough small steps to achieve big change. Think broadly and creatively about the many levers of change you have at your disposal and then get started by pulling one.
For a copy of the Lever of Change handout, click here.
Perfect is an elusive goal and it stops too many people from acting at all.
I know people who are miserable in their jobs but find reasons that all the other opportunities aren’t right for them. There are citizens who don’t vote – or don’t vote for major candidates – because they disagree with one thing they have done or one component of their platform. Others do nothing toward solving a major problem because they don’t have the perfect answer to address all aspects of the complexity, so they continue wrestling with options rather than starting toward some improvement.
Making progress often comes as a result of small steps and compromises. The initial phase of anything new is fraught with trial and error, but part of growing is making those adjustments that improve conditions along the way.
The house you move into may never be a perfect fit, but it becomes your home. The college you chose might not offer everything exactly as you had hoped, but you craft a great experience from your time there anyway. Your partner didn’t check all the boxes on your list and sometimes makes you crazy, but you remain committed to them.
As the midterm elections approach, you won’t find a perfect candidate on the ballot in either party, but you should make the wisest choice you can and vote anyway. The same goes for that next new opportunity – if it provides promising potential, you should say “yes.” Make yourself better and work your way to best rather than staying in place waiting for best to find you.
Many people may find a blank page stimulating and open to possibilities, but I find it intimidating. Having the freedom of an empty canvas is not liberating to me, rather it is often paralyzing. As a result, I utilize many strategies to ensure that my page is not blank for long. Once I get something on the page, the subsequent words tend to flow.
To avoid finding your mind and fingers idle as you stare at your computer screen or piece of paper, begin by using another document as a template. I utilize old proposals as a starting point to write a new one, and even if the topics are unrelated, there is always a heading or formatting that I can carry forward to begin. I open old agendas or minutes and modify them rather than typing anew. Before publishing, I write the dots in Word and always paste tomorrow’s dot number and date on the next page so I have initial content instead of nothingness. When I write a grant, I’ll create the document with just the questions and work from there to fill in the answers.
Another strategy is to cut and paste material that you can repurpose rather than creating it from scratch. If you presented on a topic, use that session description or handout to start a newsletter article on the same subject. Repurpose descriptions from your annual report into a portion of your grant application. Modify your job descriptions to become your ad – then your onboarding document – then your evaluation form.
If you have a major writing project ahead, start now to make notes – and collect the Post-its or slips of paper in a folder – that you can assemble and type up when it’s time to begin your work. You’ll be working from a skeleton of an outline from the start instead of wondering what that first point is.
The first word is the hardest one to write. Set yourself up for success by having the beginning already on the page.