There’s a famous quote, often attributed to Henry Ford: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
If you’re anything like me, you’ll love this quote, but it’s also gonna hurt a little. It’s just way too easy to get caught in grooves that soon become ruts. And, after a while, those ruts become deep canyons in which you’re destined to live out the rest of your life.
Different is hard. It requires you to disrupt the status quo. To interrupt the momentum of what is (comfortable, familiar, habitual, safe) and instead to step boldly into the parallel universe of what if.
I once worked with a manager who encouraged everyone in her team to “bring different every day”. She deliberately avoided worn out words such as innovation and continuous improvement, because she knew they weren’t enough to change the way people behaved. But her catch cry - bring different every day - gave people the impetus to ask themselves: what’s something I can do that’s different from my norm? Not because it will alter the axis of the Earth, but because it could be an interesting experiment. Something I might do again the next day. Or, I might not. A daily game of what if.
Each day, this manager would randomly ask people in her team, “So, have you tried anything that’s different today?” And if they had, she’d ask, “Learn anything?”
What’s your what if?
In the same vein, I’ve been enjoying the simple power of a 'what if' question to get me thinking beyond the constraints of my immediate reality. I find what if much easier to play with than high stakes of “I will” commitments (which is probably why I’ve never been one for new years resolutions).
What if I don’t even take my phone into the office today?
What if I give this project to someone else to manage?
What if I were to try writing a journal every night for a whole month?
What if I simply don’t go to that meeting?
What if I don’t use any slides in this presentation?
What if I were to work a 9 day fortnight?
What if I just say no…
And so, I’ve stepped into 2017 with an intent to play lightly with a new what if each week.
I don’t pretend to do this effortlessly. But it’s allowing me to become far more attuned to my own defaults, and to start trying on different behaviours and mindsets. A bit like a kid playing dress-ups. Who knows what will turn out to look good on me...
Of course, what if is not just a question to ask yourself. That would be selfish. It’s a great one to pose with your team, your boss, your partner, your kids: What’s your ‘what if’ this week? Play lightly and encourage people to think beyond their status quo; to slowly cajole themselves away from the familiar.
Not sure? Well... what if you tried it for just one week?
And then let me know how it goes by commenting below.
* Thank you to loiez Deniel for the beautiful photo in this month's post.