How to Practice The Art of The Possible

everything is possible

Illustration by Christian Laborin

Innovative leaders and organizations practice the art of the possible.

What is the key trait all innovators have? Curiosity, which enables them look beyond the obvious and consider possibilities.

Innovation is about new, surprising and better options. You don’t get to see these better options in your mind’s eye without having a positive outlook, yet not every vision survives contact with reality; ideas need to be challenged.

Some people either love or hate the last part.

As entrepreneurs we fight for our idea and come up with all kinds of reasons why and how it will it work, and are quite often met with resistance from those that come up with reasons why it won’t work.

Of course, we should always consider why something won’t work but there are people who are persistently close minded. Do you often make excuses for why something won’t work without reasons why it will? Most people do.

And it has to do with attitude and perspective…

Many, many years ago I ended every email with “Embrace the impossible” as both a reminder to myself and the people I was sending the email to that things are impossible until they aren’t; because all we have to do is take the time to figure out a way forward.

Attitude and perspective matter more than process

Innovation requires a “We’ll figure it out mindset”, and I believe that “We’ll figure it out” is the innovator’s motto because we understand that innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. It really is. There are many frameworks and tools that enhance the innovator’s DNA, yet they’re not a silver bullet because they won’t replace the attitude necessary to go through the ups and downs of making innovation happen.

It’s very simple, not everyone has the mental and emotional fortitude for dealing with the unknown. And, tools are useless if you don’t have the habit of using your creative skills.

With that said, the way to practice the art of the possible is about attitude and perspective:

Don’t be the one who only thinks of ways why it won’t work.

Be the one who will find ways to make it work.

Again, most people only think of why something won’t work. Great innovators do both: think of why something won’t work and then find ways to make it work.

I can’t state this more, attitude and perspective matter. There’s a difference between being a devil’s advocate and being close minded; most people are close minded.

Don’t be close minded.

True leadership is having a healthy disregard for the impossible

This isn’t to say that open minded leaders are out of danger; no. I’ve met many open minded leaders who like to talk about possibilities, but get stressed and scared when it comes to putting something into action.

I’ve observed that most open minded leaders without a bias for action believe that having a process will calm their nerves. These people are the ones who want clear guidelines and results, they are prone to saying the two deadliest words in business: prove it.

But, again, there is no innovation without experimentation; and it’s messy. This is what innovative leaders get: Being open minded is necessary to practice the art of the possible, but you need commitment, passion and being comfortable working in the unknown to figure out ways to make it work.

You see, the best leaders are pattern thinkers, learners with a bias for experimentation. This is what drives innovation, not clear cut guidelines that mimic the core business with the goal of delivering incremental results.

Bottom line: The are many motivational cliches that are used on a day to day basis, one of them is “Anything is possible”. Many people take this as pure motivational speak, but it is true because as Nelson Mandela says, “it’s always impossible until it’s done.”

Also published on Medium.