"We be the baddest clique up on this scene." - Blackstreet, No Diggity
In my college days, I was an orientation leader and, eventually, a leadership/team-building instructor. At the time, I would use scenes in movies to help illustrate some principles. The Wall-Street Journal recently talked about one of the scenes I used to use and captures exactly why better than I ever could at age 20:
There is a famous moment in the story of the near-catastrophic Apollo 13 mission—wonderfully captured in the Ron Howard film—in which the mission control engineers realize they need to create an improvised carbon dioxide filter, or the astronauts will poison the lunar module atmosphere with their own exhalations before they return to Earth. The astronauts have plenty of carbon “scrubbers” onboard, but these filters were designed for the original, damaged spacecraft and don’t fit the ventilation system of the lunar module they are using as a lifeboat to return home. Mission control quickly assembles a “tiger team” of engineers to hack their way through the problem. In the movie, Deke Slayton, head of flight crew operations, tosses a jumbled pile of gear on a conference table: hoses, canisters, stowage bags, duct tape and other assorted gadgets. He holds up the carbon scrubbers. “We gotta find a way to make this fit into a hole for this,” he says, and then points to the spare parts on the table, “using nothing but that.” The space gear on the table defines the adjacent possible for the problem of building a working carbon scrubber on a lunar module. (The device they eventually concocted, dubbed the “mailbox,” performed beautifully.) The canisters and nozzles are like the ammonia and methane molecules of the early Earth, or those Toyota parts heating an incubator: They are the building blocks that create—and limit—the space of possibility for a specific problem. The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.
Let's read those last lines again: The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.
This feels especially important to remember this week as I take on new and growing responsibilities and have the opportunity to make meaningful change.
What's my responsibility at work? To run a team that makes stuff. That's not new. We've always made stuff. The challenge before us is to look at how we make stuff and figure out how to make it better. Every day.
We've got lots of parts. Let's get them on the table.