Monday, November 15, 2010

Granting permissions

Last year when brainstorming with a team of senior executives on a new product line, I became frustrated with the responses. They were conservative and predictable despite the explicit call for "wild and crazy" ideas. At the break, when the members dispersed to check their email, I took out a sticky pad and wrote the following on each pad "Permission to Fail." When they returned, I handed a "Permission to Fail" pass to each executive and asked that they use it during the remainder of the brainstorm. The initial look was quizzical. "You're giving us permission to fail?" one asked. "Yes" I responded and resumed the brainstorm.

It was an experiment. I wanted to see what happens when failing was no longer a fear but something granted (and expected) outright. The brainstorm resumed. Within minutes, one brave member posted his permisison slip to the board and said he would be using his pass when proposing his next idea. And guess what? His "bad" idea turned out to be the turning point for the brainstorm. The idea upon which the final innovative solution was derived.

Since last year, I have handed out several permission slips based on what people said their intentions were for action, but that they seemed to be having troubling following through on. Many people have ideas they want to pursue, but most don't follow through for fear of failure, perceived lack of resources, or lack of structured course of action. I found the permission slip to be a kick in the seat of the pants to pursue such ideas.

This blog has been a long time in coming. Thanks to my long time friend, Emily, with whom we have been talking about collaborating but have never found the time to do so. This blog is our public permission slip to collaborate.

Our hope is to post stories about people who gave themselves permission to do try new things and if you so desire, give you permission to do it!

Here's what we ask. Fill out the following statement in your comments. What do you want permission for? By taking this action, what will you accomplish? By what date will you report back to about what happened when you took the action. If you think these statements should be modified, please say so!

This is an experiment for us. Something that may or may not work, but that we've been dying to try! Let's see what happens.