Let's Start, Then Figure It Out – Grow Great Daily Brief #80 – October 11, 2018

Let’s Start, Then Figure It Out – Grow Great Daily Brief #80 – October 11, 2018

Let's Start, Then Figure It Out – Grow Great Daily Brief #80 – October 11, 2018

It’s the reverse of what makes people feel comfortable. Or confident. 

We want to figure it all out first, then start. But that doesn’t work. It’s not how we do anything, or how we’ve done anything. 

There is no realized ROI on thinking. The ROI is in the action taken, which is certainly impacted by thinking…but thinking by itself is useless.

Every innovation I’ve ever been a part of began with an idea. A thought. A premise. But that’s not where the power was. The power was in putting it to the test. Will it work? We think it will, but we’re never sure until we prove it. So we start and figure it out along the way validating the idea or figuring out that it won’t work, prompting us to ditch it or morph it into something else. Often times something we never imagined when we began.

What are you thinking about right now? What innovations or creative solutions are you and your team considering? 

Have you been vetting the ideas for a while, but you still haven’t learned if they’ll work? 

Perfectionism isn’t always the culprit. It’s the popular culprit, but sometimes it’s something not nearly as sexy. I mean, it’s a badge of honor for some people to declare how much of a perfectionist they are, when the truth is, they’re just lazy. Or a procrastinator. Or they’re scared. “I’m a perfectionist” is better than saying, “I’m scared.” Or is it? 

Starting is a commitment. Thinking isn’t. So we can keep thinking and be safe. No exposure. We can even talk about what we’re thinking. Still safe!

But try to do something and now we’re exposed. Feeling naked before the whole world, which we’re convinced are watching our every misstep. Funny how we can convince ourselves that the universe notices our every failure, but nobody sees our successes. New flash: nobody is paying attention to either one. We’ve all got our own stuff. No time to pay attention to everything you may try, much less to keep score of how well or how poorly you’re doing. 

Yesterday we talked about how it’s your life, and it’s your fault. Go back and listen to it — or listen to it again. Get that truth cemented in your head. Accept the truth of it. 

Now, what is there to be afraid of? Failure? Success? I’m not going to tell you be fearless. That’s unreasonable. And unrealistic. We all have fears. False evidence appearing real. 

The only way to combat our fear – this includes our fear of starting – is courage. Don’t get wrapped up thinking you’ll eliminate the fear. I wouldn’t even waste my time trying to reduce the fear. Instead, try to increase your courage. In this case, the courage to get going. 

Here’s the evidence — courage is best increased by doing, not by thinking. Displays of courage, even small acts of courage, foster more displays of courage. In short, courage begets courage. And it’s why you’re not able to figure things out more quickly. You’re trying to think your way to success and that’s not how success happens. Anywhere!

I’m not a scientist, but let’s consider some brainiac in a white lab coat. Maybe somebody working on a very noble mission, like finding a cure for cancer or dementia. All that learning and knowledge provokes ideas and thoughts. The group of lab coats can sit around sharing their ideas, but nobody will find any cure for anything if that’s all they do. They have to test their ideas. They have to start so they can get on with figuring it out. In this case, figuring out if the cure they envision can be found or not. 

Thinking doesn’t provide the feedback we need to grow, improve and transform. Nor does it give us evidence that our idea (our thinking) is accurate, lacking or woefully off base. We can sit around our offices thinking an idea will be terrific, but until we unleash our idea into the wild – by taking action (starting) – we’ll never know. You may as well sit around and think your way to growing revenues 50%. 

Magic doesn’t happen in your imagination. It happens when you start. When you do something based on your thinking, creativity, and imagination. 

For starters, think it through enough to get started.

If your aim is to think it through, considering every conceivable consequence, then you’ll be thinking forever. But that learning isn’t really learning. It’s your own head trash, viewpoints, assumptions and thoughts. Are they accurate? Valid? You think so, but you don’t know until you test them (just like those lab coats who must test their idea about a cure). 

Some ideas are more complex than others. I’ve never had a thought that deserves to be lumped alongside the cure of some disease, but I’ve had some thoughts about a complicated problem. Other problems aren’t complicated at all. Thinking through solutions for straight-forward problems doesn’t likely require some detailed blueprint. We can likely come up with a solution off the top of our head…with enough brain power to get started. 

Have you ever implemented a solution that created a new problem you didn’t have before? Sure, we’ve all done that if we’ve operated a business for any length of time at all. But, we then set about to fix that problem. Law of unintended consequences and all that.

Listen, I’m not admonishing you to not be thoughtful. I’m admonishing you to avoid being or getting stuck. You need enough brain power to get started. And it’s based on two factors: cost (call it risk or reward) and complexity (how complicated is the problem, and the proposed solution). The higher these two C’s are, the more time you’re going to need to THINK. But make sure your aim is to think through it enough to get started DOING something.

Get going as quickly as you can and pay attention.

Speed is key, but speed is not recklessness. A thoughtful start is your goal. But don’t start assuming you’ve got it all thought out. 

Watch a child learning something for the first time. That timid behavior is them feeling it out. Paying close attention to how it’s working out. It doesn’t work out perfectly at first. Ever. Riding a bike. Hitting a baseball. Kicking a soccer ball. Counting to 10. Reciting the alphabit. Mistakes get made. That’s where the learning happens. 

Your business works the same way. Get going, but keep your eyes and ears open. Pay close attention to what the real world is showing you about what you thought. 

Accept reality.

This one is hard for some business owners who so love their idea they don’t want to admit failure. Or that the idea may not have been as good as they once thought.

When I was young I was fortunate enough to work for an idea guy. We’d go to lunch and he’d unload a pocket full of ideas. But he was humble enough, comfortable enough with who he was to admit that 99 of 100 ideas he had were crap. He was always in search of the one that was brilliant though. We didn’t wait until we stumbled onto that one though. Maybe 5 were worth giving a shot. There was only one way to find out. Try it. And accept the results.

This doesn’t mean you start and if it’s not a homerun right off…you quit. It means you pay attention, get the feedback of the real world, and make adjustments. But you can continue to adjust without success. The kid learning to ride a bike eventually learns to ride the bike. Quitting won’t help him learn how to ride the bike. Determination and tenacity will. Unfortunately, our businesses aren’t like riding a bike – something proven easy for most kids to learn with practice. We’re operating in a different environment than that…trying things we’ve never done, and sometimes things nobody has done (at least not in our specific situation). 

Don’t fall in love with your ideas to the extent you refuse to face reality. When and how you go about that is up to you. Only you can decide when you’ve given it enough of a try. 

Value the ROI of doing, and grow a culture of starting.

This is one of the biggest deals to me because I’m a culture freak. I have operated for decades on the belief – now I know it’s the TRUTH – that the culture matters. What people believe, and how people feel makes the difference in how well they execute. 

Actions foster more actions. 

Committee meetings foster more committee meetings. 

Want to keep talking about it? Thinking about it? Easy. Keep doing more of that and don’t be fast to act. 

Want to be doing stuff, making stuff happen? Easy. Start doing more stuff. Find ways to do stuff faster. Show your organization how valuable action is to you. 

Learning stems from doing. Develop a team fixated on figuring things out. Don’t confuse figuring it out with just sitting around thinking about it. The thinking needs to be hit in the mouth with the real world to see if the idea will stand up, or fold. And be defeated. 

You’ll rack up more wins with more starts. Baseball playoffs are underway. I’m not a baseball fan, but I know enough to know that the more “at bats” a player gets, the better his chances of success. He can watch film. Take batting practice. But until he gets into the batter’s box in a real game, he’s got no way to know how good (or bad) he is. Your business isn’t any different. 

Step up. Get in the batter’s box with your ideas. Take swings in a real game, against real competition. You’ll figure it out, but that won’t happen in a film room or the dugout.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

The work is about achieving unprecedented success through accelerated learning in helping leaders and executives "figure it out." 

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