If you think we should, we can
Some of my favorite words of wisdom embedded in simple sayings are these
If You Think You Can, or You Think You Can’t – You’re Right.
Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.
It’s about attitude and initiative.
Recently, I heard another one
If you think we should, we can.
This latter piece of wisdom was said to a group of about 25 people trying to solve some difficult organizational problems. It was simply a reminder to ‘think out of the box” and to not be constrained by the way things are done now. So many organizations get trapped into organizational structures and processes that simply are no longer effective, no longer work, and struggle to produce the desired outcomes. The challenge in organizational change is fear, uncertainty, and leaving a comfort zone. To not confront organizations problems head on and acknowledge the need for change and a strategy for change is the death of stagnation. These organizations will lose out to those organizations that can embrace the chaos and see it as an opportunity.
What is true of organizations is also true of individuals. Some are fearful, avoid change, don’t leave their comfort zone, and they avoid risk. The reason for this may be a lack of self-confidence, and perhaps the inability to identify opportunity when it arises. How many people do you know that, after 10,20 or 30 years, have essentially the same job they got when the got out of high school or college? Some like to quote the number of years of experience they have. Is that 20 years of experience really 1 years experience 20 times over? Or is that 20 years of progressive responsibility, challenging the process, taking risks, failing forward, and learning from all of it? This is much different from spending 20 years hiding out in a job you know so well and is free of risk, fear – and opportunity – until that job is obsolete, irrelevant, or simply that management thinks you are too old to hold such a position. How many people actively manage their career vs those who sit and wait for a promotion – and never get it? Perhaps the boss thinks they lack initiative – and that would be correct.
It’s amazing what groups of individuals are capable of when they are simply freed of their self-imposed constraints. For some of the group of 25 mentioned above, “If you think we should, we can”, put them in a new frame of reference. Other ground rules for this group of 25 was that they could “say anything”. This was to work as a corrective to “going along to get along” and “consensus thinking” (read more).
Perhaps these self-imposed constraints are the result of the current “Industrial age education” system in which many of us grew up in and still prevalent in our school system today ( read about it). According to Seth Godin, it has essentially created a culture of compliant factory workers who: show up on time; do their job – and only their job; wait for orders; don’t challenge the boss or the process or way things are done; “go along to get along”; and generally have no ideas – an attribute that would make Henry Ford proud: “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?” In a global economy and global competition can America compete when these are what we churn out of schools and find in corporate america?
It’s amazing how people differentiate themselves.
Sometimes it’s not so much to do about talent but attitude that holds talent back and undermines it.