Roger Von Oech, one of the world’s foremost experts on creativity, tells the story of an architect who built a cluster of office buildings around a central green.
When construction was finished, the landscape crew asked him where he wanted the sidewalks.
“Just plant the grass solidly between the buildings”, he replied.
By late summer, the new lawn was laced with paths of trodden grass between the buildings. These paths turned in easy curves and were sized according to traffic flow. In the fall, the architect simply paved the paths. Not only were the paths beautiful, they responded directly to user needs.
So often we become fixated on how our plan is supposed to be or how we must follow it, to the point where we begin to unnaturally force matters.
Rigidity and dogmatism rule.
Like a toddler trying to shove a star shaped block into a square hole, we grow increasingly exasperated – yet at the same time, even more determined to compel things to happen.
The irony is, when we ease off and let go, progress often moves into flow, like a river finding the best path to the sea.
The pause which occurs by taking a step back from constant pressure allows us to see a different and fresh perspective.
We see solutions more clearly than when we were enforcing our original, sometimes flawed plan.
Some examples of “forcing” in action:
The project which should be shelved (despite already considerable investment).
The brand which should have been left to die, instead of continuing to plough through marketing campaign after marketing campaign, due to the company’s emotional attachment to its once stellar success.
The idea the senior leadership team have been wedded to, but which is no longer suitable due to the changing external market, environmental or economic environment.
The latest cultural drive for OSH, driven by rule making and “thou shalts”.
The manager who is hanging on to a direct report whose performance is not going to lift, but whom he is reluctant to accept is in the wrong role.
So, this week, I encourage you to make like that architect.
Ask yourself –
What am I currently forcing?
Where can I ease off? Let go?
What can I let emerge?