Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge

I saw this little plaque in a store in Washington DC a while ago.  It said “Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge”.  I took a picture of it with my phone, but sadly that went swimming in the gulf a while back (another story).  But the quote stayed with me.

We live in a “pro-knowledge” society.  We emphasize knowledge.  We want our kids to go to college.  And not just any college, we want them to go to the best school possible.  And it doesn’t stop there.  We emphasize learning on our jobs and send our employees to a variety of technical and business classes.  All in part of infusing them with “knowledge”.

On the other hand, we often stifle creativity.  We force kids to master standardized tests.  We remove or reduce arts from education.  We take the creative air out of so many things that we do.

Now this may sound like some wacky, left-wing. touchy-feely liberal thinking.  But those of you that know me know that I am far from that.  As I’ve spent the past few years outside of traditional corporate bureaucracy and worked in a small business, I’ve grown to understand the overwhelming power of creativity.

Whether it is coming up with a creative solution to inexpensively resolve a network problem, deal with an employee or resource challenge, or invent the next big thing that will transform your business, creativity is key.

Steve Jobs didn’t create the iPhone and the iPad because of “knowledge”.  He, and every other innovator of our day took their knowledge and took it to an entirely different level because of creativity.

The First 100 Days

I was recently asked the question, “what do you do to be successful during the first 90 days on the job?”. The bottom line is that you need to demonstrate to your leaders, peers, customers and team members, that you are ready to take on this new position.

I was recently asked the question, “what do you do to be successful during the first 90 days on the job?”. I’ve been put in leadership roles before where it was a significant change, either through a reorganization or simply applying for and getting hired into a new position. In either case, you need to demonstrate to your leaders, peers, customers and team members, that you are ready to take on this new position.

For me, I am a very relational person. So I believe you have to first focus on the people. This is the case whether you are in a totally new company/role where they are complete strangers, or in a new role in the same company where you may know the people. The key thing is to get to know them. I focus on three groups – team members, clients/customers/peers and the boss(es). I also try to do this both informally (lunch/coffee) and formally (1-on-1s, formal meetings).

Second, I gather a list of the key issues. The truth is, I’ve been gathering them as I got to know the people. Again, the source of the issues come from all three points of view. I’ll likely get different opinions on issues from the three groups. This 360 degree view of the job is important, as it gives you insight from virtually every perspective. Note that your “horizontal” group (clients/customers/peers) may have to grow to vendors or others as appropriate.

Finally, I put together an action plan. I’ve typically called this a “100 day plan”. I try to have it prepared within the first 3 weeks or so (30 days at the most). That’s because it is retroactive back to my first day. In this plan I address key issues, and put together a strategy for tackling each one.

For example, a 100 Day Plan I once put together broke out the action plan into four key areas:

  • Meeting Project Commitments
  • Agree upon project commitments
  • Identify skill and resource gaps to meet commitments.
  • Define our Roles
  • Define our Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Layout our support model
  • Resources
  • To meet immediate commitments
  • Long tem (stable environment) requirements
  • Build Know-How
  • Identify key skill gaps.
  • Action Plan to fill gaps.
  • I then present the plan to the team and to key constituents to see if I missed anything and to get buy-in. Then, and this is key, you have to follow up at the end of the 100 days and review how you did.

    Bottom line:  I believe for any transition to be key, you have to first focus on the people, and then put together a measurable, actionable plan to accomplish your goals.

    Taking Credit or getting things done

    “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

    I don’t know who is responsible for this quote.  Some say Abraham Lincoln, others refer to a similar quote made by Ronald Reagan, and still others attribute it to some guy named “anonymous”.

    This quote was brought to my attention this week when some very dear friends took time to honor me for work I had done with Boy Scouts.  When I look back on the good things I’ve accomplished in life, this statement does ring true.  I’ve accomplished most when I focused on the goal and not worried about what I would profit in the end. 

    Unfortunately, more and more I find the primary motivator for people is just the opposite.  I’ve certainly seen it exhibited by many in all walks of life.  Here’s to those who don’t operate that way.