Acceptable Discomfort is Better than None
Acceptable discomfort is what you tolerate in the spirit of moving forward. In matters of work it might be about a launch, or an initiative. Closer to home it may be about vacationing or home projects on the way to growing old together. Think about the alternative. What if you halted forward progress at each step where you had some discomfort? You would become a puppet master of inaction.
If a particular issue or item is too uncomfortable, then ask yourself why. What does this matter so much to me? Is it so important that you should halt progress? Often, you’ll find that it is more important to move forward than to declare a shutdown. Remember, perfection is the enemy of good enough.
Acceptance does have ramifications, however. It means you might not get to vote on each item, every time. It means you won’t be able to inspect every nail driven, every line of code, every written word. You won’t review every spoken promise and supervise all interactions. It also means that decisions don’t get undecided when somebody on the team voices dissent. It means you’ll move forward even when you don’t have perfect information. And, you’ll likely do so at a pace that is too fast for complete comfort. You’ll trust where previously, you didn’t. But, it’s all going to be OK.
If we didn’t have acceptable discomfort there would be little progress. Think about the project that never completes, the product that never launches, or the organization that spits and sputters like an old junky engine. Think of the U.S. Congress and the bickering and obstruction that halts human progress and retards the economy.
You’ll get far more done together if you embrace the notion of acceptable discomfort. And, the feelings you’ll share when you reach your destination together will be far better than the feelings you’ll have with inaction.
about the author
Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His latest book project is l’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.
Connect with Greg on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
Greg also authored, The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence in envisioning better possibilities and your competence in making them come true. Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint, that pertain to this post include:
Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
This is a message to leaders everywhere. Perhaps you lead a major corporation, a startup, a non-profit, a small business, or a government agency; it really doesn’t matter, the message is all the same.
Enough! We’ve all been running the busy program, or rather, the busy program has been running us. It’s a bit like driving down the highway, but going too fast to read the signs passing you by. The symptoms vary but may look like: vacations become working vacations; you’re never “off” the clock; there is no time to relax and even in your “idle” time your busy planning your busy time.
The trouble is these “highway signs” you can’t read in your life as your forging full speed ahead are actually opportunities passing you by. One sign that you missed might have said, BIGGEST INNOVATION OPPORTUNITY. Another might say YOUR DAUGHTER NEEDS YOU. Most people never slow down, in order to speed up, that is until they have a personal crisis. For some, that might be a heart attack, death of a loved one, cancer, divorce, or the recognition that your family no longer recognizes you.
It’s time to WAKE UP! You can choose to stop running the busy program at any time. You don’t need a crisis to have a new consciousness.
“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau
Ask yourself what would you do if you had 10 or 20% more capacity? And what about those you lead and interact with. What if each of them had 10 or 20% more capacity?
What if that capacity were used to be creative, what would that look like in your organization? What if that additional capacity were put to use solving those persistent, nagging, seemingly unsolvable “wicked” problems. What if that capacity were nobly
consumed to live a more healthy lifestyle, or to be more balanced between work and family or personal life? Imagine the kids and Fido seeing more of mom or dad. What if each person WASN’T doing 2 or 3 jobs? What would that mean for your organization? For each of your employee’s experience? For your customer’s experience? What about for the economy?
As you return from this Sunday, whether that was an Easter Sunday for you, or any other Sunday, ask yourself, what if? But, then as soon as you are done asking, do something about it; for you and for those that around you. Chances are, if you are running the busy program, you never saw this message, at least not until somebody that cared, forwarded this post to you.
Is your 2014 living up to your expectations? To the extent it’s not, is the universe solely to blame? Or, are you complicit in drifting off your own plan, not being clear on your own path forward, or not paying attention to the details that matter?
If you are like most people, you vacillate between a paper reality and the killer application or device that is finally going to get you organized. Maybe you hear yourself saying, “This one will be unlike all of the others!”
I don’t mean to take the wind our of your sails, but there are some pretty basic shortcomings to a one size fits all approach to most anything. If you don’t believe me, try eating only one food for a week and see how interesting your outlook and mood become. Maybe you can start with carrots. Carrots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Maybe you are living the paperless office dream that no human being I know of actually is. Maybe you have it all figured out, your process and technology working seemingly together in your smoothly sailing life. Maybe that is the story you are telling yourself and perhaps it’s true. But, if you are reading this far, then maybe you’ve come up short and are looking for solutions.
I use the daily flight plan to keep my top dozen or so actions visible. Sure, I use other tools, both electronic and paper, but this is one I rely on. After sketching Big Pictures on these daily flight plans numerous times, I simply added a Big Picture in miniature form to the latest version. Learn more about the Big Picture in Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT, or on the Big Idea Toolkit website. Learn more about the icons at the top by reading the original flight plan blog post.
You’ve heard it before that it take 21 days to form a habit. No matter the time, if you don’t have a visible tool or reminder, it will be harder to stay the course. Try the Free Daily Flight Plan for the next 20 days or so. I think you and the universe will be pleasantly surprised. Good luck in your productive and insightful ventures. Please let me know how it goes.
Did you get it done today? What about last week, did you finish all that you were piling on? How about last year? How did you fare in 2013? If your year were a song, how would it sound?
If you are like most people, you wandered in the swamp a bit, got some things done, and have a long list of projects that you’re now re-prioritizing. Your 2013 song probably lacked harmony.
We all tend to be overconfident in accomplishing too much in too little time. After all, our ambitions will always exceed our ability to execute, given the available level of resources. It doesn’t matter if we are acting alone or with a large group; smart creative people can simply think of stuff faster than that same stuff can be done. Our priorities change and our lives and workflow are often interrupted by unplanned activities and people. We may even interrupt ourselves as we generate ideas that come at times inconvenient. If our lives in such a state were put to music, that music would be full of staccato notes or might even resemble a cat randomly dancing on a piano keyboard.
I prefer my music and life more harmonious so I created a tool for myself to help stay on top of my changing priorities. I call it my Daily Flight Plan. I print and use this daily. You should use it, or something like it, too.
I periodically update the calendar on this Daily Flight Plan productivity tool and always make it available for FREE. This version has a Q1 2014 calendar along with week numbers. Print one and use it daily to keep track of what you are doing. If you want to learn more about the visual cues at the top then read the original blog post or read my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT. If you want to compliment this with a larger format sticky note based wall planner, then check out the PlayBook from the Big Idea Toolkit.
I hope your 2014 is more fun, more impactful, and more meaningful than your 2013 was. If your 2013 rocked then maybe you can lend an ear, hand, brain, or whatever to someone that struggled. While GDP and the stock market are up in the U.S, most people’s personal economies are still fragments of their former selves and not improving rapidly. There are plenty of people that need help. Reach out. For ideas on what to do check out Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT.
Good luck, have fun, and make more meaning. I hope your 2014 song is easy on the ears.
The lack of success and outright failure of change initiatives has caused us to design a sustainable and effective model for change. Though change doesn’t happen without people, our experience shows us that many leaders jump from decision to implementation, skipping the critical step of gaining alignment of the people who will carry the burden.
Our human centric change model embraces people; we call it the 3 Doors of Change. Think of successful change initiatives having to pass through each of the 3 doors in order for the change to take hold and make a lasting impact. Getting through door number 1 is easy and involves making a decision, crafting a vision or a plan. Here is where organizations often invest time and resources into making a better, more informed decision.
Door number 3 is implementation. It is here where plans are put to the test. The mechanical performance of actions are performed to get the desired results. The execution police are relentless in keeping us on task even though we may have lost site of what we were doing, or the original purpose behind it. The belief that employees or volunteers blindly adhere to whatever has been decided may be a hangover from the industrial age and era of specialization where people were thought of as efficient assembly line workers, chunking out whatever the factory boss had configured the line to do.
But, most of us don’t work in factories. And, even fewer workers today have a sense of duty to whoever is barking orders.
So, why is it that we still act like we work in factories? Because institutions and organizations are slow to change save for the rare organization that crafts new rules and norms. HR, Training and Development departments, and leaders are seldom well versed in psychology, campaign design, and shaping human behavior. Think of your current organization and all of the organizations that you’ve worked with and for. How much did you learn about getting other people on board your train? That is exactly what is needed for successful change and the subject of door number 2, alignment.
Door number 2 is the pathway to sustainable change. Here is where activities and campaigns help to on-board, inform, and empower people to participate. As members of teams and participants to others’ plans, we crave to be heard and to be ready for what is asked of us. Visit any social network or a highly functioning team and you’ll witness this in droves.
The Big Idea Toolkit has this change model built in. The path on the Big Picture is intentionally a “z” shape. At first, when you make a decision and move through door number 1 you feel like you are moving forward. But, then you feel like you are going backwards when trying to gain alignment. Time seem to slow d o w n while your working through alignment. After gaining alignment, you’re moving forward again. These feelings of moving forward then backward and forward again are reinforced by the blue z shaped path on the Big Picture.
Teams that skip door number 2, jumping to implementation too quickly, eventually return to gain alignment of the rest of the people that will carry out the change. Think of changes you’ve been apart of or witnessed. It IS very possible that change occurs quickly, effortlessly, and even invisibly But, for this to happen you’ll have to include attributes that help with door number 2, alignment. In the best of cases, you’ll have a high alignment-word density in your change initiative. Alignment words to consider include: valued, inclusion, expression, respect, participation, secure, authentic, credible, relevant, focused, incremental, clarity, easy, purpose, destination, community, sharing, and payoff.
Change efforts needn’t be top town or driven by legislation. No boss told you to put yourself on Facebook or LinkedIn or begin text messaging yet, you did all of those.
If you want to make a bigger impact for yourself and others you’ll need to pay attention to the 3 Doors of Change. You’ll look less like a politician, lawmaker, or bureaucrat and more like an 21st century change master that aligns people to make great things happen. And, in a lopsided world rife with ailments we could all use more greatness.
Please share your experiences around alignment with teams? What are some of the tactics you have successfully used or others have used on you? Comment here, on Facebook, twitter, or email Greg Olson
What, why do I need a flight plan you say? Because more than half of the pilots involved in mishaps did not file a flight plan before the accident flight. You might not fly a small aircraft but, if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, you need the equivalent of a flight plan too. Otherwise you may be an accident waiting to happen.
Flight plans for small craft pilots are filed with the FAA so there is a record of where the pilot intends to go. If the pilot doesn’t arrive within a window of time then a search is initiated. The lack of a flight plan has led pilots and their craft to go missing for days. If you want the benefits of a search and rescue party, you’ll need to file a flight plan.
So what does this have to do with running a small business? Well, you too, should be prepared and know where you are going each and every day. How long will you fritter about before you get down to business? Will you be distracted by social media, the next phone call, the insurmountable email inbox? If you are an emergency room doctor or a first responder your plan might be to respond and react. But, if you are an entrepreneur or small business owner wanting to grow your business, you’ll need to cut through the noise and be more proactive. You’ll also want to identify the people that can help you – your small business search and rescue; these might be customers, partners, or vendors.
Like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, you likely have a long list of things that get shoved off to the back burner waiting for another day when there is more time. But more time never actually does come right?
Today is no different than yesterday and tomorrow will look much the same. You only have 24 hours in a day. When it comes to time, there is no aristocracy of wealth. Genius or laziness is not rewarded or punished with any more time.
So, to make the most of what little time you have you must make a daily plan. At Delightability, I use the daily flight plan. It’s a free download; you can use it too.
The 3 Legged Stool
There are a few visual indicators at the top of the flight plan that serve as reminders. The first is the 3 legged stool. Any small business owner struggles with balancing between running a smooth operation, delivering on whatever their product or service is, and performing the sales/marketing/business development function. Even if you are good at all three, you’ll struggle with the limited time available in a day. With the 3 legs being all consuming there isn’t much time for personal life – that should be you sitting atop the well balanced 3 legged stool. But, get out of balance and you and your personal life topple to the floor.
The 3 Funnels
The 3 funnels visual is a reminder that no matter what business we’re in we have customers to serve. Those customers didn’t start out as customers, they started out as prospects. And hopefully, they’ll move beyond being customers to become loyal advocates. So, the 3 funnels are the exposure funnel where you turn suspects into prospects, the adoption funnel where you turn prospects into customers that are using your product or service, and the retention funnel where you turn customers into loyal advocates. For a bit more read this previous post.
The other visual reminder are touchpoints reminding us that we can affect the quality of the interactions that our customers have with us. Exceed the customer expectation at a touchpoint and you have the recipe for delight. Check out the previous issue of the What’s Next newsletter to learn more about the Delight-O-Meter model and see a couple of examples.
Other items on the daily flight plan that can help you get about your business are the weekly calendar that goes 3 months at a time and the Guiding Principles. You don’t want your business to end up like the small craft pilot that landed with his gear up. So, download your flight plan, use it daily, and check it frequently. Use it to note the people you’ll reach out to whether they are customers or consultants. You might not get any more time in the day but you’ll make the most of the time you have available and make a bigger impact along the way.
My Book out in September is Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Sign up to be notified of its release. With it, you’ll be better equipped to design more remarkable customer experiences and then make those experiences come to life in your organization and the business landscape. Sign Up to be notified of its release and please share with others.
Book Project Update
The Experience Design BLUEPRINT is now available. The first section of the book is about making the invisible visible. You’ll learn about the experience honeycomb, experience hoop and halo, and how to model experiences, whether those are for customers, employees, voters, members, investors, patients, clients, etc. You will build a rich experience vocabulary that is relevant to your audience and to your organization’s health. You’ll learn from everyday consumer examples and then learn how to apply filters, lenses, and levers to improve experiences of any type.
In the second section of the book, you’ll learn to visualize your promise delivery system, better navigate change, and improve your skills in overcoming the barriers that plague innovations and customer experience improvement initiatives. Click here or the image to download the one page book summary along with author contact information. Please reach out if you’d like some help.
Have you ever felt as though a project had a life of its own, running like freight train down the tracks. Like watching a glass fall off the counter, sometimes we feel powerless in our projects, even the very ones that we initiate. The feeling can be even worse if you are jumping aboard another person’s project.
Personalities and biases will definitely begin to come out when you are working on a project with other people. Some people are mindful of execution and stay very disciplined whereas others may abandon the current plan because new information leads to more promising possibilities. Sometimes projects are completed on time and on budget with their intended outcomes but, other at other times, they are not. And the ride, isn’t necessarily enjoyable. Remember that freight train image? When a project is really out of control it feels more like a FRIGHT train.
What is needed is a better conversation. Sometimes you do have to slow down, in order to speed up.
Getting on The Same Page
We use the Big Picture in our practice to communicate our ideas, get on the same page and move forward together. Using the Big Picture taps the visual thinking parts of your brain and allows you to have more productive conversations. So when people are checked out, going down the wrong path, or the project feels out of control, slow down. Grab the Big Picture, outline the plan using sticky notes to represent the big chunky steps and have a better, more inclusive conversation. Those working with you will thank you for a more enjoyable ride and together you’re much more likely to reach your intended destination.
About The Author
Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The Big Picture is discussed further in:
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.
Everything has changed, but you’re still executing on the old strategy? Chances are you’ve been too busy to re-examine your strategy, let alone change course. Like most organizations you’ve completed your annual planning and you’re on cruise control –Set it and Forget. Of course, you’ll revisit the strategy in next year’s annual planning session. But what happens when you’re cruising down the road and a competitor, customer, partner, or legislation throws the proverbial monkey wrench in your spokes. Right – your organization will react to it when you encounter that problem. If that is what you believe, then you’ve fallen into the trap. That’s the thing, you can only react to those things you are aware of. Most things that erode your business are more subtle than the abrupt, spoke shearing monkey wrench. Think of a hidden killer like pancreatic cancer. You don’t have years of leading indicators. When it is too late, it is sadly, too late.
One of my mentors once told me “A lot can happen in a little while.” If you caught the Oscars last night, in particular the memorandum part, recall the talent that expired in the past year. Writers, Producers, Actresses, Actors, all removed from the talent pool that brought us great entertainment. The business world is no different. People, businesses, technology, relationships – it’s all changing faster than your annual planning cycle.
So, take a trip around your organization. Are your people keeping up in real time or are they unquestioningly executing on yesterday’s strategy? How ready is your organization to adapt to a shifting strategy? What are you doing to notice trends and changes in the business landscape and customer and partner ecosystems? These are key areas that present both opportunities and threats. Who is watching your organization’s back? Who is spotting dangerous currents or bountiful waters? Is anybody at the table bringing an outside perspective? Do you have sensors in the ground to take notice? Here is a visual tool and 5 steps that will keep your business apprised to the changing world outside your organization.