Saturday, June 20, 2009

Analyzing "Can't"

I have had, as we all have, many experiences where I'm told I "can't do that."

"Can't" seems like the kind of word we should use when it's a physical impossibility, or it really is outside of our capacity.

You have permission to tell me that I can't if I say:
A) I'm going to fly off a tall building
B) I'm going to declare all world conflicts will stop at midnight.

For everything else, "can't" is a pretty strong word. I think it would be more helpful if those saying "can't" would say "Well, you can, but there's some pretty significant implications. Let's go through them."

It seems to me if organizations started reserving "can't" for legitimate non-starters, we'd get a lot better at examining conventions.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Activity Trap

In times of trepidation or discomfort, what helps us feel secure?

If you're not getting the results you want from your work, how do you improve the program?

If your community non-profit is struggling to stay afloat, what do you do next?

It's really easy to answer these kinds of challenges with "nose to the grindstone" stuff. We can easily assuage our concerns or feelings of guilt by working so much it hurts. Surely, this kind of martyrdom or repentance is acceptable in the eyes of the powers-that-be.

But really, who is in charge? Who is calling the shots? Who is keeping score of how much manual labour or amount of hours we put in? I've had my share of bosses that were watching for facetime or sweat on my brow (figuratively), but none of them held a candle to the pressure I put on myself.

I don't think this is a good reason to respond with "work harder." We should focus on getting the right results, even if that means stepping back, not leaning in.

As the title of this post suggests, being active for activity's sake is a trap. It's a trick we've learned to help us get through the anxiety. I've really struggled to see an example where this additional effort really created the outcome we were seeking. More likely, pushing, hurrying and embracing urgency puts up blinders... they make it easy to absolve yourself of the responsibility to see the big picture.

I'm operating with a principle that says, "no matter how much pressure I feel to be active, I won't do it at the expense of maintaining perspective."

Easy to say, hard to do.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why I'm frustrated with the "Reinvention" ad

GM is running an ad called "Reinvention." If you haven't seen it, here you go:

But I'm more than a little disappointed that my tax dollars are going into this promise. I don't think they can deliver.

This ad comes from an organization that JUST WENT BANKRUPT. The system they've been using doesn't work. They have more liabilities than assets.

There are millions of steps between where they are now and where they say they're going to be. GM has built a huge organization, an organization that has factories, equipment, unions, vendor relationships, big salaries and policies about policies. I don't believe that bankruptcy alone breaks all these constraints. Bankruptcy helps, but you've still got designers that think too narrow, vendors that seek profit margins, communicators that think they can win with TV ads and union employees that feel entitled to something after 30 years of devotion.

This video made me think of the practical challenge facing GM:

Gives you a better sense of the distance between here and the ad, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Boarding an exponential curve

Seth Godin shared a post today that is built around a video visual everyone should see.

Here's Seth's post.

Here's the video:

If you're confident that you're on to something many should be doing but they're not, when should you start doing it? The courageous (or perhaps those without social inhibition) start as soon as they figure out what should be done. The large majority start when they see it's socially acceptable.

There's a lot of fear to overcome to be the first one dancing.

Some of the things I'm doing, I feel like I'm dancing alone. Whether a critical mass will join me, I don't know. I feel a purpose in being one of the "early entrants" that make it OK for others to start. I'd feel some validation if it turned out we were the first dancers on an exponential curve.