How to Make Your "Pig" Fly
Have you ever had an idea for the future of your school but others aren't buying it? I hope so. Leaders who are leading and not merely managing focus on the future, asking "what should we be doing to prepare our students for their futures, not our present?" Leaders do not maintain the status quo, they create a new normal.
Thinking carefully about what is and what might be requires attention to the present and to emerging trends. It requires an open and agile mind. It requires the ability to hold fast to our first principles and worthy traditions while having the courage to innovate. Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria recently challenged faculty and alumni to embrace both tradition and innovation:
We must have the conviction to hold fast to the many traditions that have defined us for so many years: the case method, our residential campus, our focus on a transformational learning experience. At the same time, we must have the courage to innovate. Because today's traditions were, in fact, innovations in their time.1
Your idea may look like an eagle to you. To others it may look like a pig. What do you when you are having a hard time getting the "pig" aloft, when you "pig" is stuck on the runway? What do you do when others do not embrace your ideas for change?
Here are a few practical suggestions that will help you maintain your vision while bringing others along. I have borrowed some of these ideas (in quotations) from Krippendorff's excellent article "How To Stick With It When Your Ideas Are Ahead Of Their Time." 2
- Be prayerful. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 16:9: "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." We should plan and work hard to see our plans realized but God is sovereign. He may redirect us to an entirely different end or may direct us to the same end but along a different and unexpected path.
- Guard your motive. Be sure that your motive is holy. We must remember that we were created for one primary purpose, to glorify God. Everything else, no matter how worthy, is secondary. Make sure that your ideas are not about you or your school but rather how others may "see your good works and glorify your father in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)
- Listen. Not all of our ideas are good. Good ideas often need modification. Even if our ideas are excellent, we need to listen as a matter of respect to others and to understand their fears and concerns. One of Steven Covey's Habits of Highly Successful People is to "seek first to understand and then to be understood." This is a derivative of the biblical injunction, "be quick to hear and slow to speak."
- Keep it simple. "Usually when an innovator sees the world is going to change, the logic behind the change is obvious … The world changes all the time. It’s easy to see it is going to happen. What distinguishes innovators from the rest of us is not that they see farther into the future; it’s that they take action. While “experts” bring up complicated logic to explain why things will not unfold as the innovator thinks, the innovator just starts moving. Jeff Bezos saw that the Internet was going to change retail, so he left his job at the high-tech investment bank D.E. Shaw, and started selling books online … So don’t over think...outthink. When your logic is complicated it means you don’t understand. Think until your logic becomes simple, then act."
- Keep believing. "Remember that an innovative vision is usually inconsistent with prevailing logic and beliefs (otherwise it is probably not that innovative). It may be inconsistent with practices and rules … Steve Jobs, for example, knew it just made sense for record labels to distribute content digitally, so the iPod and iTunes became the natural net to capture this future." It seems so obvious now, now that digital music is common. But it was not obvious before Steve Jobs pushed ahead with innovation. It takes time for other to catch up. Many "will not get it" until after the fact. So, don't give up-keep believing, keep pushing forward. "Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Great innovators stay with their visions longer while others get distracted or disillusioned."
Do you have any "pigs" sitting on the runway? They can fly! It just takes prayer, humility, handwork, and patience. Don't give up--keep innovating. Our students' futures depend on it!
1. Nohria, N. (2012, January 1). Priorities. hbs.edu. Boston. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.hbs.edu/dean/priorities/
2. Krippendorff, K. (2012, May 31). How to stick with it when your ideas are ahead of their time. fastcompany.com. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.fastcompany.com/1838871/how-stick-it-when-your-ideas-are-ahead-their-time