As we start to resume our back-to-the-office, back-to-normal lives, we are presented with an opportunity. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, the forced pause of the pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to assess what we want to change and how we can pivot our habits, our goals and our priorities. It’s a chance to get “unstuck” from bad or unhelpful practices both personally and within our organizations.
Wicker Park Group recently had the pleasure of hearing cognitive scientist and author James Kane speak briefly on his most recent work around being “UnStuck,” or exploring the forces that hold us back and prevent us from becoming our best. He talked about how countries, companies and individuals can all get stuck and miss important improvements and advancements.
While everyone has ups and downs in life, we need to have what Kane calls “extraction plans” for our firms and ourselves to overcome the default setting of a reluctant brain that prefers things stay exactly the way they are. Extraction plans should include time-specific goals to step away from bad ideas, habits or processes. He encourages all of us to think about what’s holding us back and what’s holding our firms and organizations back.
The realities that shape our human brain can make us static, and we need to be curious and optimistic about the future to avoid getting stuck. As Kane notes, Copernicus met great opposition with his discovery of the sun as the center of the universe, but his ideas broke through eventually. When advancements become useful, people adopt them.
Optimism, he explains, isn’t a Pollyannaish hope. It’s an understanding and openness to what is possible. No future is predestined. We are all responsible for what our world and the world becomes. Often, what needs to change or what needs to be done is obvious. Optimism is not thinking negatively about those challenges but embracing the opportunity to rethink, reinvent and redesign almost everything with an eye to what is possible.
A flaw to solving problems using the scientific method is that it relies almost exclusively on what has or hasn’t happened (precedent). Evolution has taught us that more magic can be found when we focus on what can or cannot happen.
Kane’s presentation left us all thinking about the areas where we are stuck and need change. Our brains are wired to hold us back, but we can overcome it, and now is the perfect time to harness our curiosity and optimism to get unstuck.