My son can solve a 3x3 Rubik’s cube in less than a minute. When he mastered this, he began to purchase different kinds – 4x4 or 5x5, or triangle shaped ones. As he added new puzzles to his collection, I realized something: they always come already solved. When you buy it, your job is to immediately mess it up. When you go about solving it, when it feels impossible, you know it is not. You know that the puzzle can get back to order because it started that way.
You’ve heard the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While that can be a great approach to car maintenance or cell phone plans, leadership is about bringing people along into the future, growing people beyond their perceived capacity. That means that when the status quo is as beautiful as a solved puzzle, it might be time to mess it up again. Get people lost in a world where they feel familiar. Put them back in the student chair. It can be ego-crushing. It can stir up feelings of fear and anger and embarrassment. And: every time they find their way back, they’ll build the confidence of a kid buying a new puzzle, and hear a happy inner voice that says: I can solve this one too.
Incremental improvement is telling your development director who raises 10% of annual revenue to raise 15%. Rubiks' cube leadership tells them their approach can no longer depend on events or sponsorships, that it must be based solely on individual donor relationships and grassroots tribe-building (which is more aligned with the future business model). You've created a puzzle for them, and their thinking shifts from "how do I get more of X" to "how do I redesign the work altogether?"
There's always a way home - and there's nothing quite like confidently leading people into the maze that will help them discover it for themselves.
Happy dilemma-making, Amanda