Innovative Concepts

Variables and Inputs

Riding a bike across a swinging cable bridge creates movement on the deck, amplified by the inputs from the rider. Add more cyclists to the same bridge span, and the journey gets more energetic. Navigating the span becomes increasingly more challenging (and exhilarating) with more inputs.

For others, leaping from a bridge attached to a bungee cord is a thrill, and it provides the rush of adventure and a state of free fall that is not customary to the human lifecycle. There are fewer inputs for a bungee jumper, and removing constraints makes it remarkable.

The impact of variables and inputs creates different journeys and feedback. How might we amplify our journey by seeking higher-quality inputs? Let’s be clear about which variables we hope to leverage.

Journey and/or Destination?

Two mindsets, journey and destination, one focuses on the landscape we inhabit, and the second focuses on the finish line.

Both are essential perspectives to maintain. Being hyper-focused on the destination might lead us off a cliff, into a swamp, or miss the spectacular view corridors. Enveloped in the journey mindset, we might spend the night outside without proper gear since we failed to assess the time required to reach the shelter. 

As we prepare to navigate a new year, consider the mindsets we wish to assume as we venture into 2023. A new year is a season of goal setting; however, goals without purpose and context often leave us feeling empty. How might we embrace the journey while making measurable progress toward a destination that matters? How might we know more tomorrow than we do today because the route we traveled revealed insights when we seek out destinations that are not easy to reach?

The Journey

Sometimes serendipity creates the best moments. I asked for a photo of my son during a sunset hike in the local foothills and he delivered an unconventional response. I will remember this photo more than many other family sunset moments because it is unique. A one of a kind.

We are often remembered for what makes us unique because it is easier to categorize the memory’s of those who know us. We can create the frame to capture our individual approach or we can try to hide in the background. It is a choice.

Future Me

Future me benefits when current me acts thoughtfully. Before a trip, I might make the bed with fresh sheets, clean, and leave a reasonable supply of food for my return. Current me might unpack my bag completely and leave items in easy-to-find locations so future me can pack without stress for the next adventure. Current me can wax skis, clean bikes, dry out muddy running shoes, place new batteries in the headlamp, and repair a small leak in the tent, so future me launches with a higher degree of success and enjoyment.

What actions and decisions can your current team make that would set up the future team for a higher degree of impact? How often has a topic or barrier been raised that never gets resolved, knowing it will ultimately be decided once it is an emergency (burning platform)? Have you served an organization that inherited disruptions that could have been avoided by the team that proceeded your tenure? What if your gift to the board/staff/members that follow is to wrestle with the obstacles they will encounter? Even if we cannot make definitive progress, we can leave a record of how we tried to iterate and what succeeded and failed.

My hope is that current you assumes a force for good mindset so future you can focus on the work that matters.

Depth, Dimension, and Distraction

Do the details add depth, dimension, or distraction to your journey? Do the activities engage you in a slalom, a barrier, or a brute force exercise? Do you see the individuals within the cluster, or are their commonalities so blended that they all appear the same?

We must make snap judgments and assumptions to navigate our daily wanderings. What is worthy of further evaluation, and what do we navigate in subconscious mode? One of the benefits of encountering a place from multiple directions is we might find a perspective that benefits from further investigation and comprehension.

Uniting A Group

Why run a Turkey Trot 5K? My daughter and I ran more than 5Ks getting to the race and home, so it was not the about the distance. It was the chance to participate with a group of people. To join a variety of participants, from competitors in elaborate costumes, to dogs, dogs and infants in baby joggers, to the fastest competitors. It was an assembling of individuals with a shared goal of navigating a course and coming together as a community. A shared vision of celebrating a holiday that unites instead of divides.

What gatherings do we convene that unite? What moments do we curate that create unique bonds and strong ties? It is easy to divide individuals. It is much harder to unite a group with diverse beliefs.

A Limited Number of Photos

If you had just ten photos to take during a week-long trip, how would you decide when to snap one of these precious images? In the age of digital photos, we take multiple shots without consequence unless our storage capacity is limited or our battery life is at 1%. But our mindset changes when a natural or artificial limit governs our activity. Looking at a recent adventure, I have deleted at least seventy-five repetitive photos, poorly framed, out of focus, or unintentional. It cost me little but some editing time. However, I am hard-pressed to select my ten favorites from the trip, a challenge to cover the highlights and iconic moments.

A powerful outcome of design thinking is generating numerous ideas. Creativity and multiple mindsets allow for expanded horizons and innumerable pathways. There is a moment when we must select a limited course of action. A portion of strategic planning includes this moment of refinement. I refer to it as an ‘energy management plan’ since we only have so much capacity to focus our resources. If you had to select three areas of focus, what are they? If your three areas are raising more money and funds, I suggest those are the results of focusing on the work that matters.

I am handing you a virtual Polaroid camera. What images are you hoping to capture if given three photos to take of your organization’s strategic future? Do they capture the superpower of the organization where you are uniquely positioned to act or are they a wishlist of certainty (endowment, waitlist of potential board members, and everyone in the community is a member of the organization)?