A bias towards action.
It’s one of the most sought-after characteristics in a lean, mean innovation team. However, can too much of a good thing be hazardous to the quality of your work?
Creating movement and getting stuff in the hands of the user is great, but just quickly delivering what was asked for only perpetuates mediocrity. We need a strategic bias towards action.
“Work smarter… not harder.” – Allan Mogensen
I have succumbed to blind efficiency in the past. And to be honest, I’m not cured of it… but I am getting better!
I wanted to be a rapid responder. I was delivering what was asked for at lightspeed. Yet after completing task after task, I was able to look at my products and realize… I wasn’t solving the job to be done. I was merely doing what was asked for.
I was thinking like a producer when I should’ve been producing like a thinker.
All of my thoughts and energies were around producing a large bounty of checked-off to-do items. I wasn’t making an impact. I was delivering the “fast food” version of my craft; speedy and filling, but it wasn’t a noteworthy meal.
My bias towards action was misplaced.
“You can not dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.” – Edward de Bono
“Thinking like a producer” and “Producing like a thinker” is not a dichotomy. Instead of seeing one as bad and the other as good, view it as more like a sliding scale. There are times when one mindset will serve us better than the other. Unfortunately, we can get stuck in ruts.
So let’s get unstuck!
One of the original goals of Go Forth and Be Awesome was to not be another voice providing abstract discussion on theoretical ideas. Oh, I will get theoretical and abstract, but I will also provide tools, process, and things you can use today. I want to be more “activity book” and less “newsletter”.
So let’s dig into how I got myself unstuck, in hopes that it can help you do the same.
A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.” – C. R. Jaccard
Before we start chopping away at jobs and projects, these tips will help you sharpen your axe, before you strike your first blow.
If you’re like me, there are enough projects in your past that you can analyze. Look for the key phrases or situations that shift your mindset into thinking like a producer. Is it a rapidly approaching deadline? A small project window? An easily completable request? Find your triggers.
Add a Process
With your triggers identified, you can now build a gameplan. Do this before your triggers are triggered; outside of the heat of battle. When you’re in the thick of it, you become blinded by the pursuit of progress. You need a calm heart and clear eyes to devise this process. When the triggers strike, what will you do? How might we stay in the “Producing like a thinker” mindset when our reactions argue differently?
My “response to triggers” process is to go through a quick succession of questions, including:
- What are they really trying to do?
- What are alternate ways to accomplish this?
- What fits with their story?
- What would I do if time was not a constraint?
Developing a process for triggers is like a pre-mortem, so it makes sense to have a post-mortem as well. However, we often don’t make this kind of time for ourselves. It is very crucial to check the direction we’re sailing often, or we will run aground on the shore while trying to sail out to open waters. Make time for this. Schedule it.
“If you create a vision for yourself, and stick with it, you can make amazing things happen in your life.” – Pete Carroll
Get out of the ruts and be free to steer where you need to. Don’t serve up the “fast food” version of your skills. Give them your five-star finest! Make time to identify your triggers, design a process, and reflect on your work. It’ll feel like some projects are too short and too quick to work in a “thinker’s” process. But I say the shortest projects with the tightest timelines are the ones most in need of a strategic bias towards action.
I am a big process junkie. I believe even the most amorphous and intangible concepts can have their own patterns and processes.
Let me know what your process for producing like a thinker is!