Leading horses to water, understanding human motivations/limitations, and building a narrative around creative possibility thinking while managing complex change.

In order of complexity, or perhaps priority: To introduce a change large or small into a self, job, organization, romance or friendship. To influence anything at all. It can be enough to strike us down with paralysis if we are not prepared to think both forwards and backwards in time, to think both immediately and on the horizon; at both 10,000 foot views and stumbling around without our glasses on. Losing momentum can overtake us like a wave.

I’m not here to write about habitual change or self-improvement. There’s plenty where that comes from. These are instead a few field notes on false starts and momentum-gathering. Notes on first learning to swim against the current, then to realize it’s generally better to harness the waves.

Overcoming inertia

Meet people where they are. Meet organizations where they are. It’s not of much value to attempt to change things you cannot change - to control, command. It’s just temporary. The moment the controller leaves the room, what happens? There’s never really control anyway.

People don’t want to be changed, they want to change, to improve, to grow.

What does it look like to establish a clear direction while allowing people enough space to do their own thing within boundaries? The only way to be creative is to establish and work within a few well-defined constraints. Otherwise it’s all movement and no action.

It has to become apparent to us that it’s worth the effort to grow. We are like plants. Plants grow towards the light no matter how lazy or afraid or hesitant they feel in the morning. We can be like grapes if the right frame is there for us to grow on.

Speaking organizationally, inertia is a downward pull, depression, lethargy. Organizational inertia is reactionary in the sense that someone else has both caused and will fix our problems. Action is required to pull upward, to gather acceptance and willingness to change, to truly move forward in the right direction. Once momentum is gathered, the acceleration (read: trust) demands more action of everyone. Action begets action until we forget about where we started altogether because it’s not as important.

Eating Carrots, Holding Sticks

Once it becomes apparent that inertia is a poor choice to continue making, we must begin to see ahead farther. We must articulate where we are going, why we are going there at all, and what it will take to be there. What it will take to remain there.

Again to speak organizationally: It is simply not quite enough to become frustrated when others do not see the way forward. That is a leadership problem, a problem of two-way communication. It is a chance to reframe in terms of whatever possibilities lay ahead.

Possibility thinking is about seeing things coherently. It’s wonderful to realize that the forest we are in is actually blooming if we can get past these rotting trees.