“The wings of transformation are born of patience and struggle.”Janet S. Dickens
As I was preparing to write this week’s Thursday Thought, I witnessed something that changed the course of my article. I was sipping a coffee on the balcony of my office while observing a very curious pigeon. The pigeon was walking along a wall while investigating the extremely narrow space between the wall and a wooden shed beneath her. While leaning over the edge to zoom in on something of interest, she lost balance and fell between the wall and the shed. My immediate reaction was to see if I could help to free her. After contemplating, I decided it was the wrong option. It turns out that decision unveiled how such situations unfold in organisational innovation, change initiatives and growth opportunities. This is how it unfolded…
I had decided to give the pigeon the chance to figure it out for herself. Within minutes, I could hear her attempts to claw her way back up the narrow opening. After failing, there was a brief pause. I imagined her thinking, searching for a solution, alas, to no avail. As her fight or flight system kicked in, she panicked, desperately flapping her wings. Her next action was a desperate coo for help. Moments later, three pigeons arrived on the scene. One of them flew to the wall so he could see his unfortunate friend. He shuffled along the wall while communicating to the bird below ushering her a way towards freedom. Sure enough, following the lead from above, she shuffled along the wall to reach the chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Success. She flew to freedom, cooing as she went, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” or so I imagined.
Currently, I am consulting with several clients on everything from NFTs to engendering cultures of innovation and I thought of so many parallels to the struggle of the pigeon.
Number one, the importance of curiosity: The pigeon fell during an act of curiosity, which happens to anyone who pushes their boundaries far enough. Organisations don’t often show curiosity until they are faced with a crisis and it is very hard to be imaginative when you are in fight or flight mode.
Number two, try yourself first, without help: The pigeon tried to figure it out herself before she called for help.
Number three, a rescuer guides first before doing: The rescuer pigeon did not get the pigeon out but rather acted as a sherpa to guide her through unknown lands.
Number four, Chaos precedes Order: It was only through experiencing the fall from order, the pigeon discovered how to navigate through a period of chaos.
Number four and most important: None of that learning, nor innovation would have happened if I had decided to help too soon. It reminds me of a section that I removed (to keep the book short) from my book “Undisruptable“, that goes as follows…
(Image: “Moth” by MorJer www.morjers-art.de)
Once a man found the cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it home to watch the moth emerge. Eventually, a tiny opening appeared in the cocoon. The man watched patiently as the moth struggled to force through the little hole. The moth appeared to have stopped making progress. In his kindness, the man decided to help. Taking scissors, he snipped at the remaining fragments of the cocoon and revealed the moth. He expected the moth to open its wings and take flight. To his disappointment, the little creature spent the rest of its short life writhing around with a scrawny body and shrivelled wings. So, what went wrong?
When a moth struggles from a cocoon, the resulting movement pumps fluid from the body to the wings. The friction inflates the moth’s wings like a tyre tube fills with air. When the man helped the moth, he inadvertently removed the compulsory resistance. When he deprived the moth of the struggle, he deprived the moth of flight.
In a similar way, when organisations outsource their future to consultants they are depriving themselves of their future. The start of any learning curve is steep and characterised by setbacks, obstacles and failures, but that is how we learn best. (That goes for children too.)
Friedrich Nietzsche said it brilliantly, “Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.”
Have no regrets, don’t outsource your future capability, you will definitely appreciate it some day. It might be exactly what you need to get out of a tight spot.
THANKS FOR READING
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