Setting Others Up for Success

If we move in the correct formation, we can make it easier for those who follow. In an attempt to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge deployed his pacers in a variation of the original pattern they used previously.  A diamond head pattern was less effective than an open V formation. By questioning conventional wisdom, the performance team found a better way to reduce the drag and create a less turbulent pocket of air for Kipchoge to run.

How might we embrace a culture of curiosity to find better ways to support those we intend to serve? How might we avoid getting stuck in a historic mindset? Even those trailing behind the person being paced can contribute. Studies found that a support vehicle packed with spare bikes on the roof offered a marginal gain to a time trialist over the traditional single spare bike on the vehicle’s roof. A kind of bow wake created a vortex to boost the cyclist riding ahead.

Strategic Wordle

We have to start somewhere when we play a puzzle like Wordle. We may not get the letters right on the first round; if we do, they are probably in the wrong place. We make the next round of guesses, informed by our previous entries.

What if we took the same mindset to our strategic initiatives? Let’s invest in our best guesses as the work that matters. Then adjust based on the responses. We refine and initiate another round of investment. We are irrelevant if we wait until we are handed the answer by those who have solved the problem already. If we take too much time between inputs, people will think we went offline. We are considered reckless if we make six quick guesses, barely consulting the results.

How might we move at the right cadence, informed by our previous inputs but not held up by fear? The narrative behind our inputs creates a personal story.

Speed vs. Utility

We can talk about how fast we can go and highlight impressive numbers. However, our speed might make our intended impact less. How might we better understand the needs of those we aspire to serve so we can calibrate our effort? A regional passenger train that stops for just three seconds at appointed stations is useless to any potential riders not prepared to board instantaneously. An arts organization that says it serves 1,000 students because it flashed a single image on a screen without context for five seconds during a school district-wide assembly is not doing the work that matters. Finding our cadence is essential, which is why detachable ski lifts have become so successful. We can load and unload at a slow pace. The journey between the bottom and top stations travels at a higher rate of speed, where the reduction in total ride time is more significant.

Waiting Equals Progress

We wait at a train crossing because the consequences of not obliging the warning signs are too high. The outcome of a train versus vehicle/pedestrian is cataclysmic and probably seared into our minds.

When has waiting turned into progress? Where have you stopped only to gain clarity and more impact in your subsequent actions? Which initiatives succeeded because they paused? When has waiting kept you in the game, allowing you to be present when it mattered most?

Uncovering Past Adventures

These recent avalanches exposed past backcountry skiers’ old skin track (ascending route). The diagonal lines that crisscross the avalanche bed are the work of skiers who climbed up earlier in the season.

How might we remember that today’s work will be revealed to those who follow? It might not tell the entire story, but it can leave clues about the journey we are on today.

Gathering for Stories

After completing a ski marathon, competitors gather. They congregate to tell stories, eat, drink, change into dry clothes, and find supporters. They finish, remove their skis, and inhale a sense of accomplishment. Then they begin to share.

How might we make space for our fans and participants to gather? How do we create intentional gathering places? When World Domination Summit (WDS) took place in Portland, OR, attendees assembled for breaks between presenters in the adjacent park—a selection of food and drinks available to nourish. The event’s superpower appeared through its performers, including a unicyclist with bagpipes that expelled flames, a steampunk group on stilts, and a roller derby team speeding about while serving snacks. The performers provided remarkable moments we could witness and share with other conference attendees. I remember some of the WDS Main Stage speakers, but I recall all the performers and many people I met in the presence of these buskers. The entertainers provided a sense of place and a point of connection.