No Need to be Scared

I just watched a Doogie Howser episode and it ended with him typing his reflections for the day, as always. He ended with the thought that sometimes just taking the risk is its own reward. This struck me as particularly important after a week of encountering many situations where people don’t want to take any risks, a week in which seemingly every person I have spoken with prefers to do things the way they have always done them, without even assessing how else they could be done.

And I’m trying to understand why. 

Let’s assume that many people don’t see the imperatives we face, and the vast risks that will come at us, full force, if we continue to do nothing. Even with that assumption, I still struggle with the why. Why is there such a resistance to doing better? To being perceived an expert? To providing resources? To sharing process stories? To working for greater value in the work we produce for others?

Is it fear of exposure?  If I provide inputs or guidance based on my expertise have I implied that my words and my stories should dominate the planning process? That my words should, in some way, subjugate the knowledge and inputs and responsibility of the people reading those stories? No. I would expect my inputs to be considered and useful. The ultimate decision is the owner or team’s responsibility based on the inputs they receive from many sources, and on their own judgement and understanding of their own purpose. 

The key for me is that if I do not offer my knowledge and experience to inform the process, then why am I there? Why should they hire me? How am I of use?

Is it arrogance?  I have done it this way for so long and I know its worked before so why is anyone questioning me and what I have done so well? This certainly is often the case and I know many people, including myself, who struggle with this at least now and again.

There is a fine line between building on your past experiences and being enslaved by them.

What I take from this is the knowledge that as I have grown in age, in life experiences, in my profession, and as I have changed, the world has also changed. Even setting climate change accelerations aside we are benefitted and sometimes confused by more technical knowledge, more people on the planet, more access and in more ways to each other, places, and information. And this means we also must change how we do things. How can I keep current?

Is it laziness? Let’s reframe that a bit because we know it takes significant intent and work to change. It’s not laziness, but inertia. It is a challenge to shift out of our myelinated neural pathways enough to be able to think new thoughts, and approach work in a new way. It takes concerted effort to unlearn, re-learn, and change. We are hard-wired, neurologically, to think the way we have thought, and to do things the way we have done.

We need to encourage a culture that celebrates the process as well as the result. By doing this, we can get into a systemic habit of thought that is more accepting and ready for explorations. Transparency is part of this systemic change as well. Once we can celebrate the process, including missteps and lessons learned, we will reduce our fear of failure and be more free to learn and change. How do I unlearn so there is room for new information?

Is it a systemic limitation (or a perceived one)? Much of the resistance I find is tied to assumptions about how things work. “Supervisors won’t allow me time to figure this out.” “Owners don’t want this.”  “Who am I to rock the boat?”

Is there more arrogance, here? Who are we to assume we know what people want or what our supervisor will support? Why do we think that we know the goals of the project, without asking the owner,  but we don’t think we have the right to use our expertise and professional skills to inform the achievement of those goals? This is quite the opposite of what we actually need, don’t you think? How do I illustrate the value so others can easily support me in the needed effort?

Is it an assumption that the investment is not worth the return? What if I (or we) spend time on this guideline or on publishing this white paper and the information is not ever accessed? What if the world is spinning so fast that the info is not of use anymore once I make it available? What if I have trouble with my workload? Isn’t it better to not even make the attempt? We need to define the items within the process that will be of value, and understand the delivery of the information perhaps as a living document, able to be accessed, updated, and maybe even inviting input.

We need to invest in continual improvement in order to continually improve.

“Invest money to make money” is a common phrase. Some people are life-long learners and have a restlessness that make it easier for them to reach for new ideas, and to refine their existing knowledge. Tremendous opportunity is realized when a business or organization can support this investment so all staff continue to develop. And there is a terrific realization of value with that culture-shift.

  • Value for the individuals, in researching, compiling, and reflecting on information.
  • Value for the organization in creating an assessing and thoughtful staff.
  • Value for the served owners in having designs that are able to benefit from the most up-to-date resources.
  • Value to the process, at every phase. 

There is no need to be scared of doing something different, or harder, or new. We need only be scared of the risks that will certainly come if we are not willing to grow and refine our skills in our ever-changing world. 

Take the risk and reap the reward to be greener,

Jodi

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