How would you go about setting a new direction for your business?
Let’s try a little thought experiment.
Imagine, for a moment, that you have invited Colour;Noun into your business to help your teams reconsider how they operate, what they value and how they can make a difference. What would you expect? Probably a packed day that would create lots of energy and enthusiasm and a real sense of drive and ambition to make lasting changes. Sounds good.
With a following wind, the enthusiasm and the drive from that day might last for a month, maybe six weeks tops, and then the rhythms and tropes of “how things get done” would return and it would be “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. It sounds cynical, but we’ve seen it too many times not to be. If you’re honest, you’ve probably seen it too.
We were recently asked to help a leadership team with just such a challenge. Obviously, we could have sat them down in the conference room of a hotel with a flip chart and asked them to consider all the factors that they could now influence, establish growth projections and funding analysis, develop a new org structure and assign sub-groups to head up teams to implement a new vision for the company.
We could have done that. But we didn’t. We took them out for a walk instead.
This wasn’t just any walk, of course. These were busy people, with responsibilities and commitments, so we made sure that the walk had a purpose and a direction. We just didn’t tell them what it was.
If you want to make a change you have to do something different. Like, really different. And that starts with how you see the world.
The problem is that you are trapped in your own mind, influenced by all the experiences you have had, that create the reality that constrains what you can see as possibilities. The world is confusing, so you look for something to make sense of it based on what has happened before. Noise becomes signal. Once you’ve filtered out lots of things, the signal can become a story and you can fit everything into it. The stories you tell influence your decisions, and the pressure of modern life compels you to act quickly on these decisions.
To make a difference you have to get out of your own head, and to do that you have to step outside of the patterns to which you have become accustomed.
Hence, go for a walk… but don’t just rock along at the pace of everyone else. They’re trapped in their own patterns. They have to get to the shops, and then get back for the kids and make that call, and what time does the car parking run out? Step outside that. Just wander. Slowly. Slower than you would normally and go where your interest takes you. Not to the shops. Or for a coffee. Follow the things that interest you and be curious about why they interest you. Be aware of what you are seeing for the first time… or the things that you are seeing in a different way.
This is not a twenty minute walk either. Twenty minutes is a sop to your busy life. It’s something that you can fit in around everything else. We’re talking about three or four hours here.
What? Three of four hours? I can’t do that! I’m BUSY! I have THINGS TO DO!
Exactly. But if the things you have to do are running your life, they are already making the decisions for you.
Step back. Slow down. Wander. Be curious. With our group, we split them into smaller teams and encouraged them to talk about what they saw and what it made them think about. Don’t talk about the future of the company, unless something crops up in your wander that is suddenly relevant and that offers a new perspective to an old question.
When they got back, we asked them to share their stories and their thoughts and allowed them to draw their own conclusions about how they could operate in the future. We didn’t come out of it with an org chart, or a series of actionable next steps, or anything else that would be abandoned, modified or replaced within six months.
Instead we had a group of people who had opened their minds up to possibilities, who had shared some thoughts, opinions and insights and who had, importantly, spent some good, slow, quality time together to help them make better, more nuanced decisions.
Now, stop reading and go for a walk.
Colour; Noun (Vicky Holding and Howard Karloff)