1. Encourage tenacity and persistence. Thomas Edison observed that, “many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
In 1980, Mary Ann Shaffer, on a whim, traveled to the island of Guernsey in the “nethermost reaches” of the English Channel. While there she learned of the trials and tribulations of the people of Guernsey during World War II. The island was occupied by the Germans during the war. Mary Ann returned home with an armload of books about the island and its wartime history. She had always wanted to write a book “that someone liked well enough to publish.” Twenty years passed before she took up the Guernsey Island project in earnest, a labor of love that took another seven years. As she was concluding the book, Mary Ann fell ill and grew too weak to finish. Her niece, a writer in her own right, stepped in and guided the project to the finish line. The book was published in 2007 under the title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It has become a runaway international best seller. Unfortunately, Mary Ann passed away before its popularity was fully known. She died February 2008 at the age of 74. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed because Mary Ann Shaffer didn’t give up.
Such stories beg the question, what’s inside each of us waiting to spring free that would make the world a better place?
We can help others become more creative and innovative by encouraging them to take some time and consider projects that have potential that they have left unfinished or given up entirely. Who knows what has been discarded that could fit into Edison’s category of being close to success? If you can lead others to develop these diamonds in the rough, you will create great benefit for the individual and the organization.
I have a project that I set aside awhile ago that still intrigues me. I’m going to resurrect it. I’ll keep you posted in the coming months.
2. Teach your team about the Edison Event. Pick something you learned that was helpful to you and teach it to them. You will be twice blessed. You will reinforce your learning from the Edison Event and you will help them benefit from it, too. If you haven’t attended an Edison Event yet, check it out at:
3. Give team members an individual creativity break. Send them to a quiet place where they can clear their mind. Allow at least 30 minutes. If they have an IPod, have them bring it along with some relaxing music. Or you might ask them to bring something to read that is uplifting and will momentarily help them slip away from immediate pressures. Or give them a “mindless task” and encourage them to let minds to wander into creative pursuits. If you carefully pick the times you do this, it will add much to the level of creativity and innovation within your team. You could do this once a week or so, even in periods of great pressure.
Edison was noted for taking such breaks and coming back with significant new ideas, thoughts and projects. He helped others do the same. Sometimes major breakthroughs that made a difference in major inventions came this way.