In our youth, my sister and I raced NASTAR alpine ski races whenever we found a chance. The concept was simple. A pacesetter skied the race course first and then their individual handicap created a standard by which participant’s results were adjusted and awarded medals. Theoretically, the fastest pacesetter and the slowest pacesetter should create the same par due to the handicap system. A competitive skier might beat the time of a pacesetter but be awarded a silver or bronze medal after the handicap adjustment. Somewhere there is shoe box with gold medals scattered among many silver and a few bronze (platinum was not an option in our youth).
When a pacesetter is present, the ability to measure results and progress are more immediate. If we want to run a sub-three hour marathon, we can run with a pacesetter who will set a tempo that guides us towards that goal. As such, a pacesetter can provide remarkable value. Sometimes, just the presence of an individual out in front of us on a route might inspire us to endure longer or increase our pace.
Pacesetters do not need to be formal commitments. You may be creating the pace for a group of individuals (or organizations) that you may not realize. Just going out a doing the work, being present and reliable might be sustaining an entire ecosystem of participants. Continue forward, we see you out front and keep showing-up because we know you will be there.
Fire lookouts do not universally occupy the tallest peak, the most alpine perch, or the easiest to access. When well placed, they offer a panoramic view, a platform where multiple mountain ranges might be visible, providing a higher value to those assigned to fire lookout duty.
When we commence strategic or scenario planning, perhaps the best location (or mindset) is the proverbial fire lookout. A place that affords us an informed view of the terrain around us. Maybe a bit set back from the iconic landscape that defines our work. Many organizations refer to their off-site gatherings as ‘retreats’ an opportunity to disengage from our sense of place and view the environment from a new perspective. It is a chance to recon routes we wish to travel on our next adventure. We posses a more informed sense of the landscape by being removed from it instead of stopping mid-trail and speculating during our journey.
I was discussing favorite video games with my son, and I asked him to share his top three games of all time and ones he would recommend that I try playing. We discussed games with storylines, and he commented that many of his favorite games contain a well crafted main storyline. If played continuously, it might take eight to ten hours to complete the central quest. However, game developers create numerous side quests, which are often just chores and lack little relevance to the primary storyline. Many times the side adventure quest requires delivering or retrieving an item from an individual located far away. The completion of the side task reveals limited insights or forward progress to the central storyline. In my son’s estimation, the side quests distract and diminish the overall game despite adding more playing time.
How often do our organizations attempt to create side quests for our members and fans? Do these side stories add value, or are they an attempt to keep individuals engaged until we get back to our regular program? Are we concerned that our fan base might move on to other interests if we do not create content? What is the experience lifecycle of the average member within our cause? Are two remarkable years better than a decade of mediocre programming? What is the shortage interaction the delivers the most value that your enterprise can offer?
The earliest chairlifts were placed in the most concave part of a ski run. It made sense that the lift should take the most accessible and unobstructed line up the mountain. Once at the top, the chairlift rider became a skier and influenced by gravity and other natural forces headed towards these low points. It was thought that skiers would seek out the ridgeline and convex portions of a slope. The lifts and skier were quickly occupying the same valuable space on primitive ski runs. Quickly, it was determined that ski lifts should be constructed on the less desirable skiing terrain.
If we understand the tendencies of the end-user, we might design a solution for their challenges. If we accommodate the design over the user, then we are likely to create more disruptions.
What if the we spend time thing about the world in thirds. The third that is uniquely us. The third that is fundamentally others. And the third where we overlap. At this moment, the us and other third are lighting up narratives across the world. Mask wearers vs freedom breathers. BLM vs All Live Matter. Open vs shut communities. Democrats vs Republicans. Science vs personal freedoms. Rights vs responsibilities.
What if we committed to looking at the middle third. The third that connects us and creates combinations. The reasons Simon Sinek’s Start With Why approach is so powerful, is when know a person’s purpose, we can connect with them at the headwaters of their existence. We can share a journey down the mountain stream that becomes a creek and then transforms into a river. If we only encounter the river at A major rapid, we might dismiss their ideas as dangerous, loud, and volatile. However, if we understand where the journey started, we have a greater perspective about why the rapid exists. It does not mean we let the current takes us blindly downstream. We look for points of confluence. We seek connections, not diversion.
What if the middle third is our focus? How might our work be amplified by seeking the middle third, instead of populating the outer thirds? US vs others is dates back to antiquity. US and other is challening and runs into historical barriers but it is the work that matters now.
*** Jud Abumrad came to our commuity for a speaking engagement. My wife remarked that numerous audience members were looking for something they could purchase (a book) that he could sign. He did not have books for sale but rather just his presentation and ideas. Perhaps the legacy of his visit is a transformative idea, one that we cannot read and store on a bookshelf. Rather it is now a way of being that we must decide to embrace or say ‘not yet.’
Sometimes a trail requires an alteration. A re-route is necessary to keep the journey going. There is a liminal period between the moment the change is made and once GPS, maps, word-of-mouth, and experience make the transition final. It is a transformation of habit, exchanging a known for an unknown. Disruption occurs all the time, but not as frequently as we might notice. How we adapt to the change says a lot about our mindset. If we approach our journey in a fixed mindset, then the flight cancellation, followed by the subway strike, and finally bad weather will be highly disruptive. However, if we have an open mindset, the opportunity to navigate through a new airport, take the bus in place of the subway, and use the umbrella that has travel with us for numerous trips might create a memorable experience.
How we respond. How others respond. It might be the start of an epic journey or a catastrophe. If we leave room for serendipity we may find the road less taken has made a difference.
We do not need more trouble. Walking into a trap after ignoring warning signs is a problem of our creation. Learning from others’ mistakes is a far more valuable use of our time. The value of an affinity group is to share successes and failures. To be a voyeur, not the voyager who paddles over the known waterfall after numerous parties navigated the same waterway. If we come to collect you because you got caught in the bear trap, it is a waste of everyone’s resources. If you got caught in a sticky situation because you were the first person down the trail, then we are ready to assist. If we share what we learned, the benefit is not only better decision-making, but it allows all of us to focus on the work that matters.
If the sequence is right, the impact of our work increases dramatically. If we deliver a new idea to those in charge of packaging and shipping, there might be resistance. However, if we find the moment an organization is expanding its culture of inquiry the new concept might be quickly adopted. The same was true for old western mining operations. If hard rock and placer deposits were delivered to the uphill staging area, then gravity aids in processing the ore. If our innovation does not resonate, perhaps we should consider if we have found the right point of entry.