Thursday, August 25, 2005

We've Got to Let Go

I'm thinking today about how fear within our organizations holds us hostage to what we can feel, see, hear, taste and touch. Many people in our organizations are obsessed with what's "REAL," and can't seem to make sense of anything that goes outside of those boundaries.

I've been fortunate in the past to work with organizations in promoting innovation and creativity within their cultures through my work with SolutionPeople in Chicago. How refreshing to be around people who actually want to get beyond their five senses to create from the ground up. I've learned new processes and new techniques to support people in going from what they know to creating their own unlimited possibilities and it's amazing!

But in my experience those organizations and individuals are the exception in Corporate America. So often I see leaders who view organizational development as a fluffy perk - a distraction from the work at hand. When it comes to innovation and creativity, which at its best is undefinable because it produces new thoughts and ideas, the line is just too blurry between "the way we've always done it" and "the way we could do it" to allow more than a step out of the proverbial box.

"Yeah, we let Bob go to one of those touchy-feely workshops a while back and he really got some wacky ideas about doing things different around here. We're not going to let anyone go to any more of those kinds of things. Distracts us from the REAL work we need to get done."

Of course, it's the fear of having to do something differently - even if it might be better - that keeps us doing things the way we've always done them.

It's getting better, though. At least there are more leaders within organizations who are willing to have a conversation about the possibilities that exist outside of what they currently know. But getting them to actually DO something, now that's another story.

It is just too difficult to let go of what they know - whether or not it's working anymore.

It reminds me of those booths at trade shows and on game shows where there are dollar bills blowing around and you have to catch as many as you can in a certain amount of time. If you grab two handfuls, that's the physical limit for you - you can't get any more unless you loosen your grip on what you've got. I've seen people stuff those dollar bills in their shirts, pants, wherever they can as they grab for more before time runs out. But in order to grab for more, they had to let go of what they had.

Think of the dollar bills in this analogy as knowledge. We can't gain any new knowledge without letting go of some of the old. First we've got to be willing to ask ourselves the question "How is it working?" and then be honest about the answer.

What are you finding in your experience with leaders in Corporate America? Are you finding openings to have these conversations and then formulate a plan to turn new knowledge into action? I'd love to hear about the process and the results!


At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Dick Richards said...

I don't know that it is fear that holds people back so much as a lack of understanding of the value of intuition and emotion. In Jungian-Myers-Briggs terms, the people you speak of prefer sensory data and rational processes. To them it just isn't rational to trust intuition and emotion, and there isn't much data to "prove" its value. Our job, then, is to learn to talk hard about the soft stuff.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Jodee said...


You've given me so much to think about. I've really started rethinking my viewpoint on lots of things and am trying very hard to see all points of view through others' preferred mode of interpretation. It's caused me to be much less reactive since I first read your comments and I really appreciate your help with that!

Now, how do we begin talking hard about the soft stuff??? I'd love to discover some statistics I can use to make a case for more effective listening and discernment skills as well as self-awareness for leaders. Any ideas?


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