IDEATE: Generating Ideas
If you are serious and humorless, you are actually the person we need to step into when crisis hits. When all the emotional people are having fits and starts, and you show up with your calm way of thinking, everybody can lean into that. Are you the one to, maybe, spur people to take on a new project? Maybe not. That's okay. This is how you use people in teams to design for what they're best at, and design around what they're not good at. And, how do you design around weaknesses? Well, I'll give you one example: a coworker that had the weakness of Direct/Honest and Blunt/Rude. This is how we designed around him. We had been working together a few days. We're at a fairly senior level in this organization, and so, you know, we're pretty careful and conservative in the early days of going and getting to know each other and operating styles. I think it was the third day, he pulls me aside in the hallway, and he says, "Hey, John, I've got to tell you something. I'm kind of an asshole." I's, ...
like, that's a weird thing to say my third day, and I was looking for the smile. I thought it was going to be a joke, and he was totally serious, and he's, like, "No, I, I have no filter. Whatever comes in here, comes out here. I'm going to say whatever comes into my head. I'm trying to fix it. I can't. I'm sorry in advance." And, you know, everybody actually loved this guy because there was no passive-aggressiveness. He just said what he thought. You grew to rely on his truth-telling, and, in fact, we are started to use him in meetings. We'd sort of lean into that. We called him the salty truth-teller of the team. We'd fall in love with an idea, and then we'd say, "Oh, well, we better bring in Craig because someone needs to call it BS if BS needs to be called." And he would come in and share what he really thought, which was awesome. So each one of these can be designed around. Sometimes you have to delegate it. Sometimes you have defer it. Sometimes you just ante-up that you have it. But, when you design around weaknesses versus fixing them, then you can really lean into your strength. The other secret ingredient here is, if you have a weakness on this list and you didn't say to yourself, "Oh, I have that strength," you probably do. And, if you don't know it, you can't design for it. So, we may be having some hidden superpowers here in the room and in the panel out in the world. I actually took a 360 a few years ago, and 17 of my 18 team members wrote in as a strength of mine, calm, and I was, like, well, I'm not calm. Don't you see what's happening here? Don't you see that paddling in the water, like, I don't feel calm. But what I didn't realize, probably from years of competition, that I had learned to show up as though I was calm, and people look to calmness in times of crisis, and I didn't know to step forward in crises until that moment. And, after that, I was, like, "Well, okay, something is going down. I better step forward 'cause I can maintain an even keel during this period." So, I learned to lean into that strength. You may have one, too. So, ask somebody. They'll tell you. So, I think this guy is the greatest living example of somebody's weakness is also his superpower. This is Matt Stutzman. That's my daughter, by the way. And Matt is, I believe, 35. He lives in Iowa. He drives to work everyday in a pickup truck. He has three kids, he's married, he gardens, he hunts, he's just a normal guy like you and I except for Matt was born with no arms. Everything we take for granted with opposable thumbs is, frankly, just harder for Matt. But, he's learned to adapt, and he feeds himself and ties his shoes with his feet. But, yet, yeah, it's a true weakness. You can't, sort of, PC around this. There's just stuff that's harder for him, particularly, maybe, things like sports, or not, as it turns out. Matt holds the world's record for the longest accurate archery shot, which he's held for a number of years. He is one of the very best in the world, and that is not despite his weakness. It is because of it. So, Matt can pull the bow with more compression than anybody in the world because his legs are twice as strong as our arms and just as nimble. He practices longer hours than anybody because he doesn't get tired. And he won a silver in London, 4th in Rio, and he's on the able-bodied Olympic team for Tokyo. All this because his weakness is also a superpower, and so, maybe, is yours. So, back to my life of doing this for two years with the olympic team. At some point I ran out of energy, and I said to myself, "Oh, I've got to quit. I'm terrible. I can't keep doing this. I can't keep banging my head against the wall. I'm wasting my life turning left in circles while the world goes on, and people are actually making money, so I think I should probably quit." Now, there's this beautiful thing that occurs when you are willing to quit but haven't. You're ready to quit, but you haven't quit yet. You hit this one window to have this thing called perspective. And when you get perspective, you can back up and look at your challenge from a little bit more distance, a little bit more analytical perspective, and sometimes it simply looks like this. All you need to do is step around whatever it is, and try a slightly different approach that can lead to incredible results.