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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2013 Brian Remer
Updated Apr. 2013
99's on the 9th
Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Readers Respond to this issue
Turn Right to Go Left
Busy intersections are few in rural Vermont, but during tourist season you can wait a long time to make a left turn onto a crowded thoroughfare. Recently I just could not find a break in the traffic flowing east that coincided with the traffic flowing west.
Then an idea! Switching signals, I turned right into the flow. Less than a tenth of a mile later, I turned left into a parking lot and took another right joining the traffic in the direction of my original intent.
Got something difficult to do? Try the opposite!
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discssion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis:
"Steady as she goes."
"Stay the course."
"Don't change horses midstream."
There is plenty of advice about keeping things the same - and sometimes that's a good thing. When a technique or process has worked well in the past, why change it? Everyone is comfortable, knows their role, and can complete their responsibilities with few surprises and little risk. If the outcome is satisfactory and affordable, why change? Problem is, even a perfect system will stay synchronized for only so long. Eventually, adjustments will need to be made, unexpected events will intervene, or catastrophe will need to be averted.
When that happens, our first reaction is to jump in, push back, meet force with force. Suddenly we find ourselves standing on slippery rocks struggling up stream against the current. Any change effort means fighting inertia; steering against the prevailing wisdom. The effort may be effective but it's hard work, it's tiring, and it's costly in terms of both resources and relationships.
Unfortunately, sometimes we are so intent on one course of action or a single outcome we miss other opportunities to achieve the same result. If we have not reached our goal after reasonable effort, we must ask, "At what point does tenacity turn into stubbornness?"
When you are at that tipping point, here are ways doing the opposite might help:
- Get Unstuck - Doing anything is often better than doing the same thing that hasn't worked. If you've been stuck in the muck, doing the opposite might give you just the traction you need.
- Create Movement - Like getting unstuck, having a sense of motion in the right direction is a morale boost even if you are not making significant progress. Minimal momentum keeps hope strong.
- Foster Creativity - Doing the opposite is a no-fail creativity technique. Try the uncommon and you may invent something totally new - in addition to solving your problem!
- Support Safety - Go with the flow instead of against the current because it's easier to cross busy traffic lanes one at a time. Taking the alternative route you can separate hazards and make them more manageable.
- Encourage Discovery - Change your course and you can expect the unexpected.
- Beat Boredom - If an essential task has become so routinized you've lost interest, it may be time to spice things with a dash of oppositional novelty.
- Promote Playfulness - A lighthearted approach relieves stress and offers a joy-filled experience even when the players are serious and the stakes are high.
Most of the time, constrained by circumstances, a quick reaction is the best we can manage in tough situations. An "opposite" approach never even comes to mind. And in many instances this may be enough.
But if we can train ourselves to the possible presence of a creative opposite, with practice we can begin to see difficulties as real opportunities.
Readers Respond to this issue
Your intro was "Going with the flow in the opposite direction." It's a good concept regarding conventional wisdom. The little I know about Aikido offers the same tactic of "going with the flow". An attacker is falling into and by his or her own force. This Martial Art is a sane way of dealing with forces. while trying to avoid injury to all concerned. Thanks and peace, -- James
Brian: I read your July 99-Word Story and I wonder if you got your directions wrong? If you take left into a parking lot then a right you'd be heading in the same direction. I would recommend that you take a left out of the parking lot to change directions. Eventually you need to take a left to go left. See red arrow. Just my thoughts. -- Eunice
Eunice, Thanks for your observation and diagram to explain it! I believe you are correct from an aerial point of view as you have drawn. However, from the viewpoint of the driver (as I experienced it) one could be facing north and wanting to go west (left). Turning east (right) then north (left) into a parking lot you can turn around (a step I left out of the story!). Now facing south you can turn west (right) which is the desired direction.
So you are right, to go west, you do eventually have to turn west but that can be either a right or left turn depending on whether you are facing north or south.
I like your thought because it's a reminder that our perspective on change (whether on the ground or from the 30,000 foot level) has a huge impact on the things we do to make change happen! Thanks!
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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