The test, of course, offers nothing but downside. No extra credit, just points marked off. The test is the moment where you must conform to standards, to say what is expected of you.
Perhaps a better question is, "Will this be in the Playbill?"
The Playbill is the little program they hand out before the Broadway musical. The Playbill is all about extra credit, about putting on a show, surprising, elevating, doing something more than people hoped for.
A different part of our brain is activated when we think about what's possible as opposed to what's required.
It's easier than ever to listen in, to hear what your customers say about you, to read what your friends are posting, to eavesdrop. Keep surveying your employees, tap their phone lines, hang out in a stall in the break room…
If you try hard enough, you can hear what people are saying about you behind your back.
The thing about the fly on the wall, though, is at the end of the day, he spends a lot of time eating dung.
What people say isn't always what they mean. It's more productive to watch what they do.
I've been sharing Rogers production adoption curve for a long time, but I realize that it doesn't viscerally explain what's actually happening. Here's a better way to think about it:
[Click to enlarge]
Different people have different mindsets when encountering various markets. Some people are eager to try new foods, but always rely on proven fashions or cars. Some people live on the edge of popular culture when it comes to lifestyle, but want to be in the back of the room when it comes to their understanding of the latest science…
Every important idea starts out on the fringe. It's not obvious, proven or readily explained. And a tiny group of people, people who like the fringe, engage with it.
Sometimes, that fringe idea begins to resonate with those around the fringe-loving. This might have been what happened to punk music at CBGB. Now it's risky, but there are more people doing it. Again, these are the kind of people who like to seek out things that are risky (but hey, not fringe, they're not crazy.)
Sometimes, more rarely, the risky idea is seen by some culture watchers as a 'new thing'. They alert their audience, the folks that want to be in on the new thing, but can't risk being wrong, so they avoid the risky.
When enough people embrace a new thing, it becomes a hot thing, and then the hot thing might go mass.
The numbers don't lie: There are more people in the mass group! There are people who only buy pop hits, who only go to restaurant chains, who only drive the most popular car. In fact, it's the decision of this group in aggregate that makes the thing they choose the big hit.
Finally, when enough people with the mass worldview accept an idea, they begin to pressure the rest of the people around them, insisting that they accept the new idea as if it's always been the right thing to do, because that's what this group seeks, the certainty of the idea that has always been true.
You can apply this cycle to Talking Heads, diet ideas, the role of various genders and races in society, precepts of organized religion, political movements, sushi, wedding practices… Things that are accepted now, things that virtually everyone believes in as universal, timeless truths, were fringe practices a century or less ago.
The mistake idea merchants make is that they bring their fringe ideas to people who don't like fringe ideas, instead of taking their time and working their way through the progression.
Parents, taxpayers, citizens, let's not waste another year. What happens if every teacher and school board member starts discussing what school is for? Please share with four people… that's all it would take to start the conversation.
One last thing to think about: What would happen to our society if we spent twice as much time and money on education as we do now? And not just on the wealthy, but on everyone, especially on everyone.
What if every six-year-old was reading, if math and science were treated as opportunities, not chores, if community service and leadership got as much space in the local paper and on TV as sports do?
The real win is creating a generation that actually delights in learning. Once people want to learn, there are more self-directed avenues open than ever before.
I wonder how many people will have to speak up before we end up redefining what 'good enough' looks like when it came to the single most important thing we do for our future and our kids.
It's a pretty easy way to let ourselves (or someone else) off the hook. "Hey, you did your best."
But it fails to explain the improvement in the 100-meter dash. Or the way we're able to somehow summon more energy and more insight when there's a lot on the line. Or the tremendous amount of care and love we can bring to a fellow human who needs it.
By defining "our best" as the thing we did when we merely put a lot of effort into a task, I fear we're letting ourselves off the hook.
In fact, it might not require a lot of effort, but a ridiculous amount of effort, an unreasonable amount of preparation, a silly amount of focus… and even then, there might be a little bit left to give.
It's entirely possible that it's not worth the commitment or the risk or the fear to go that far along in creating something that's actually our best. But when we make that compromise, we should own it. "It's not worth doing my best" is actually more honest and powerful than failing while being sort of focused.
September 4, 2015
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