Lockdown learning: #3 Impossible possibilities





A short series of 2 minute observations…

I am amazed when I reflect on how much we have changed in only eight weeks and all that we are now doing differently …and digitally.

GP’s are performing diagnoses over the telephone, cards are replacing cash and home delivery is reaching lots of new households (especially the oldest ones); photographs have become proof-of-delivery for parcels or tyres; home working as a norm for many white collar workers; much more teaching online; even studying 17m medical records in situ to analyse Covid-19 risks.

I bet that many organisations are completely rethinking their digital strategy and some have done it already: my PT has a completely new and integrated platform for her virtual classes – promoting, booking, billing and executing – in less than two months!

There have been amazing changes.

No doubt, some will disappear when the necessity goes away but many will stay and continue to develop in this new direction as people now see them as actually a better way of doing things.

Now I like to engage people in the process of change, allowing involvement and choice to produce commitment. This approach boosts understanding of the issue and the way forward; it helps people feel they own a bit of it and it helps to make implementation easier and more effective.  It works.

Yet I doubt that the jump we have seen this Spring would have happened if any normal, organisational process of change had been followed. It would have got stuck. People would have said not only that we don’t want to do it but that it is impossible.  But our perspective has changed. Suddenly what was previously unnecessary and illogical looks logical, and the impossible, well, possible and perhaps even better!

But surely there is a Catch-22 here.

Our perspective has changed but only after we have made the change. A merely logical process would not have produced those outcomes that we now see as better.

When we think of innovation we often talk about releasing the constraints and freewheeling to find new ways forward. Yet, as we all recognise from sitting in brainstorming meetings, actually too often our minds get stuck and such approaches don’t unlock them.

It reminds me of the story of a business manager at Tektronix who couldn’t persuade the marketing and technical staff to work more closely together to produce new products. So, without consulting anyone, one weekend he physically moved all of them into one, open plan office. After initial protests and the passage of a couple of months… they started working together well and then would not have altered the arrangement.

This batch of innovation has come  because Covid-19 is a constraint and as such has forced a change in our viewing position, making us look in a new way.

So maybe, when facing a challenge or problem, we should make time to seek to identify ‘constraints’ and their impact to find ourselves  a new viewing position. Time to dust down our  six thing hats, synectics, creativity templates etc – so that by limiting our perspective, we can see things in new ways rather than stay stuck with what we see now.

Maybe only these can help us to break a Catch-22 without a Covid-19.