Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2 Ways to View the Progress of a New Idea

I remember a friend in college who at the start of every NFL season would proudly declare his team is 16-0 (a perfect regular season for the non-NFL fans reading).  Beginning in week one, he would adjust his outlook based on his team's results.  For example, if they won in week one, he would continue to declare his team to be 16-0.  If they lost, his team was now 15-1.

This was the very definition of eternal optimism, in my mind, because his favorite team rarely had winning seasons.

On the other hand, someone else looked at the beginning of each season with a 0-0 record and either proudly (in case of a win) or quietly talk about their team's progress.  A win in week one and they were now 1-0; slightly better than before, but still moving forward.  Lose in week two and they were now 1-1; time to get back on track in week three.

Hopefully, you are beginning to see the two different ways of viewing progress.  One only sees the positive.  The other celebrates wins, but is tempered by reality and the realization that there are roadblocks ahead that could make a winning season challenging.

It is always exciting, as a leader, to implement a new idea.  Observing how the idea works once it is implemented can also be a source of great pride - or concern.  Obviously, you want the ideas to work and add value to the school, but there is a danger in taking the eternally optimistic view.  Underestimating the difficulties associated with progress and achievement can create an environment in which setbacks are difficult to understand, and almost impossible to learn from.  After all, we are still "15-1" right?  Well, what happens when your idea wakes up after "week 9" and you haven't won yet?  Are you really going to proudly announce a "7-9 season" is coming?

Maybe the better mindset is the second.  New ideas generally involve complex or untested operational aspects.  Take these one at a time and focus on the details.  Make adjustments as unanticipated issues come up and work towards building momentum from small wins.  Over time, you will be more likely to see a "winning season" developing for your idea.

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