Last year, we made some big changes to a project that comes up annually. For years, decades even, we had followed the same format, and although we often made style changes, the output was essentially the same. So when one of our senior managers floated the idea of a sweeping format change to shake things up AND he was willing to help sponsor it, I enthusiastically jumped on board.
It sounds like a big deal, and in my world it was. However, because what we intended to undertake was such a big departure from the product of years past, I knew that in order to sell it internally we might have to water it down a bit. It was going to be different, that was certain, but it couldn’t be unrecognizably different or it wouldn’t fly. Rather than let that dampen my spirits, however, I looked ahead to year 2. That’s what made my eyes shine with possibility.
Here’s my theory. People are visual. Unless you happen to hit on their particular passion, most people’s imaginations are limited by things they have already seen. If you put something in their hands to work with, they can build on it, improve upon it, take it further. If you introduce a new theory without a proof-of-concept, you likely won’t see nearly the same creative results. As Henry Ford remarked, If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.
That’s why, with respect to this project, I’ve been impatiently awaiting year 2–even from day 1. Certainly, we put out a finished product that looked and functioned quite a bit differently from its predecessors, but it wasn’t all it could have been. And the response was exactly what I expected: Why didn’t you [insert suggestion]? Did you consider doing it this way? It would have been really cool if you had [insert suggestion]. In itself, year 1 didn’t look like a resounding success, but it showed people the possibility and has them clamoring for what they couldn’t imagine the first time around. Now we can make something really terrific. In that sense, I consider year 1 wildly successful.
I can’t wait to see what we can do in year 3.