“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” ~Thomas Edison
What he didn’t say is how long it took him to get through those 10,000 wrong answers. Being wrong (or finding a way that doesn’t work) isn’t a problem in and of itself. The problem is when you’re wrong and you can’t move on to the next possible solution.
Sure it’s easier to wait and see, and to hope that a problem will resolve itself on its own rather than to take action, but doing nothing is just as bad as doing the wrong thing. In some cases its worse.
Last year a friend of mine who runs a small nonprofit hired someone to help her out with the administrative aspects of her program. She needed this person to fill two functions within the organization – the first was to interact with volunteers, and the second was to document processes and procedures. After a season it was obvious that things weren’t going well. While she was great with the volunteers, she wasn’t so good with technology and failed to understand the processes and procedures well enough to complete them correctly let alone document them.
Frustrated with this outcome, my friend then hired a very tech savvy, detail oriented person as a replacement. I’m sure you can guess what happened – the new hire was great at the technology piece but failed to connect with the volunteers.
So what should my friend do? Trying to hire again seems like a lost cause. Trying to do the job herself in addition to her own responsibilities is overwhelming. Her solution? Split the job into two parts and offer each small part to a volunteer. While this might or might not work, it’s definitely a move forward and it’s another opportunity (whether it’s right or wrong) to potentially solve the problem.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing today that you did yesterday and expecting different results. If you are faced with a challenge and find yourself in a rut trying the same solution over and over again, reach out for advice. Ask your team members for their thoughts. Have a brainstorming session with your managers or peers. Call a mentor. The only choice that’s off the table is giving up.
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