Archive for November, 2013

Four Steps to Conquering Can’t

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Image of man conquering can't.We are like ants. Our strength is much greater than our size. Because of this, the possibilities for what we can create, or destroy, are endless.

Despite their diminutive size, ants have held our curiosity for thousands of years. We have both battled them as pests and studied their industry. We are amazed at their ability to construct, communicate, and destroy as a unit.

The great King Solomon advised us to “go to the ant and consider her ways.” When we do this, we are amazed that such a little creature can do so much.

“Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labor, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.” Lewis Thomas

Can’t is a Four Letter Word

Over the past few years, the word can’t has made it onto my list of inappropriate four letter words. When used, this word is like a colony of ants in their destructive mode. This single word can quickly tear down all possibilities.

Why is can’t such a terrible word? It is most commonly used as a first descriptor of a given situation. When we don’t have any answer, or know how to do a certain thing, we quickly say, “I can’t do this,” or I can’t do that”.

It’s almost an auto response for many people.

On a Mission to Exterminate Can’t

I’m on a personal mission to exterminate the use of the word can’t. This tiny word is one of the most destructive words in the English language.

  • Can’t is water on the flame of innovation.
  • Can’t eliminates even the most simple possibilities.
  • Can’t is the needle to the balloon of enthusiasm.

Strong words, you say. Absolutely. When battling the destructive can’t species, I believe only the strongest pesticides will work. How do you use can’t? Are you using this little destructor in your personal relationships, in your business? Pay attention to your own speech. You may be using it more frequently then you realize.

As a child, I often heard, “We can’t do it because we don’t have the money.” In businesses I’ve worked with I’ve often heard the same thing, “We can’t do it because we don’t have the money.” Of course these may both be accurate statements at the moment they are spoken, or they may only be a perception of the situation.

I’m not apposed to identifying that at a given moment an activity may or may not be possible. “At this exact moment, I can’t purchase the item, because I don’t have the money.” However, this is where most people stop in their personal life and in business.

Instead of stopping at the moment, I encourage you to quickly move beyond what may be obvious to you and simply entertain the idea that you can, in fact, do it, simply by finding a way.

Change Can’t to See Ants

Let’s go to the ant for a moment and evaluate their ways.

  • Some ants can support up to 100 times their weight while hanging upside down on glass.
  • Ants move an estimated 50 tons of soil per year in one square mile.
  • Ants and humans are the only creatures that farm other animals.

Now let’s go to the human and just glimpse what we can do.

  • Humans can find a way to go to the moon, and now, Mars.
  • Humans can find a way to capture the sun in a tiny glass sphere.
  • Humans can take an empty void and fill it with amazing structures.

“Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men.” Mortimer Adler

Can’t is death to ideas. It snuffs out their life at an early stage. Throughout human history we have seen dreamers, imaginators, visionaries, describe the seemingly impossible. Everyone of them had their detractors. And yet, through their courageous vision, we have all benefited from what “can’t” be done.

Humans are superior to ants, and yet we so often forget this.

  • “We can’t go to the moon, it’s not possible.”
  • “We can’t keep the patent and trademark office open, everything has already been invented.”
  • And on and on it goes.

Thank God there are those visionaries who turn the can’t into “see ants”. They see the possibilities. Instead of saying “I can’t,” they say “How can I?”. Everyday we benefit from what these visionaries create. How much more could we do in our own lives if we would just eliminate that little four letter word, “can’t”?

Four Steps to Conquering Can’t

Step One – Listen

Listen to your conversation, both audible, and what goes on inside your head. Recognize your use of this word. You don’t have to mention it to anyone. You don’t even have to acknowledge to anyone that you are committed to eliminating it from your vocabulary.

Step Two – Ask

Every time you catch yourself making the statement “can’t”, turn it around into a question. Ask yourself, “How can I do it?” “How can I get the money?” “How can I write the book?” “How can I take the trip?” “How can I go back to school.?” Whatever it is, there is very likely a way to do it or get it. Don’t forget to ask Google.

Step Three – Write

Write down any options that you come up with, no matter how silly they may seem. This is very important to your creative process. Do not prejudge any options or solutions that you or anyone else comes up with. Many times, your solution will appear farther down the list. Prejudging your options is a negative attitude that can often cause the flow of creative solutions to dry up before the right solution is created.

Have fun with this step. Fun fosters creativity. Get your family and friends involved. Play a game with two rules; 1) Anything goes. 2) No negative attitude.

Need 10 million dollars? Robert Schuller did. He made a list entitled “10 Ways to Get a Million Dollars”. An idea on the list fit the need. He raised the money and built the Crystal Cathedral.

Make your own list; “10 Ways to ________”. You may be surprised to find a simple solution to your own challenge.

Step Four – Take Action

Select the best option from step three and create a list of tasks or actions that you need to take. The victory goes to him who takes action. When take creative action, you can end up at the moon.

“Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever.”
Jose Marti

“Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Big Idea Development – The First Step

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

“It’s much easier to not know things sometimes.” Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.Image of idea development team.

The individual who has no ideas can find that life is much easier lived. Without ideas, there is nothing to do. Without ideas there are no risks to take. Without ideas, the likelihood of failure is much less.

When you know things, you begin to have ideas, and when you begin to have ideas, things begin to happen. People begin to respond to you. They either respond with excitement, roll their eyes in disbelief, or begin to fear you.

So why, then, do so many of us pursue idea development? Why do we insist on creating new ideas? Or, if we have no good ideas, why do we try to seek them out?

Idea development is a natural process in humanity. Everything we own, use, discard, began as an idea. The computer I’m writing on was once an idea that was scoffed at, and yet, it’s creator persisted to pursue the idea.

How did he do that? What is the process of taking a spark of inspiration and turning it into a physical object like a computer, our a masterpiece of sound that is the symphony? How does the individual or business with no ideas come up with and development valuable ideas?

Idea Development – Step One

Positive Attitude – The right attitude can make or break any idea development process. A positive attitude is the energy that drives creativity. Successful idea development relies on creative thinking. Without it, you will spend a lot of time at the drawing board.

Negative Attitude – Negative thinking has its place in the development process. However, when negative energy is brought in at the creation stage it can defeat the entire process.

It is essential to create and maintain a positive attitude in the initial stages. If you are creating in a group, set ground rules that permit acceptance of all ideas. Reserve the negative idea analysis for a separate time, once you’ve closed any creative sessions.

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Entering negative analysis too early in the game can lead to the defeat of good ideas and even prevent them from entering the field. The premature loss of a good idea on the alter of negative thinking can have expensive consequences.

Good ideas are like diamonds. You won’t often find them lying about on the surface of the ground. You may have to dig for them. This process is eased by keeping the process positive, allowing the introduction of any idea, however ridicules or seemingly impossible. These impossible ideas often lead to winning ideas that may be just the diamond you have been looking for.

Idea Development Rule Number One

All ideas are to be received with open arms.

Positive Encouragement of an Idea.

  • How can we do this?
  • What if we added, expanded, improved, enhanced, etc. the original idea?
  • And then?

Ideas should be received, recorded, enhanced if possible with related ideas, and left for further evaluation and analysis at a later date.

The creative process is a compounding process, easily grown through encouragement, or defeated through premature negative analysis.

Many ideas suffer a premature death when a member of the group, a friend or family member, or even the person who came up with the idea, prematurely states, “That’s impossible. That can’t be done. Nobody’s ever done that before.”

Even in the later stages of idea development, the negative analysis stage, these comments are destructive.

Negative Analysis of an Idea

  • Is this idea worth the investment of time and money?
  • Is there someone already doing this better and cheaper?
  • Are there any technology barriers to this idea?
  • Do we have the staff or support to bring this idea to life?

You will notice the difference in these two types of questions; positive and negative. The proper negative analysis of an idea validates the viability of the idea, instead of just knocking it down because its value is not yet seen. It determines if this is the right time for this particular idea. The purpose of this type of analysis is to identify any red flags or barriers to fulfilling the idea.

When done separately from the idea creation stage, this process allows the individual, company, or group to fairly evaluate individual ideas without dampening the creative process. Data can be analyzed in this process, along with supporting market research, to help determine whether it is practical to pursue the idea, or shelve it for development at a later date.

Using this simple, positive first, negative second, process will continue to foster idea development in the future. When group members know their ideas will be listened to, no matter how amazing, ridiculous, or imaginative they are, they will continue to look for and grow ideas until the next creative session. Far too many ideas have been flushed down the drain through the improper use and timing of negative analysis.

Give your team or group permission to put all their creative juices to work, without fear of rejection or criticism, and you will open the doors to a flood of creative energy.