5 Principles of Wide
Wide Breaks Boundaries and Changes Everything.
When you think you’re done, lift up the edge and peek.
“Close enough” is never enough. At the edges, around the margins, in the grey zone where black & white gets fuzzy—that’s where innovation and discovery can be found. And that’s where the fun gets intense. And productive.
There is always another angle of approach.
The old maxim, “to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”, is true for institutions and one-note experts, as well. Indeed, some problems are relatively simple, requiring focused force (a hammer-strike) to drive towards the solution. But too much concentration on that singular approach denies the possibility of a different path towards a solution—a path that could result in a larger result, a process less driven by forged steel and brute force.
The person next to you will have a new idea.
Yes, you are brilliant. Your ideas are terrific. But that person next to you? She’s pretty damned smart, too. And funny. Loosen up. Listen. Even if her idea doesn’t make the final mix, it might well lead somewhere you haven’t thought about before—and it could make all the difference in your ability to achieve the results you seek.
Sit back. Have a coffee. Stop thinking at it directly. It will widen.
We’ve all experienced an “aha!” moment in the shower, or while washing dishes, or in the middle of throwing a tennis ball for the dog. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting away from the problem for a while, of thinking about something else and letting the unconscious come up with its own weird slant. Honor it. Love it. Share it. Someone else will make it even better.
Think about how a bigger solution can help with a bigger problem, and go there.
In complex institutions, solving one issue can sometimes create a larger, corollary problem. Having terrific success in recruiting first-year students? Does that success max out your housing capacity or make your first-year experience chaotic, leading to student satisfaction and retention problems? Think it through. Work with all the units that have to deliver the quality experience that you promised. Are you raising so many multi-million-dollar gifts that your annual fund is bottoming out because the small-dollar donor feels irrelevant? Make clear how important the flow of unrestricted dollars is to your institution. Is your Board anxious to improve the rankings? Find out “to what end?”, conduct a gap analysis, and educate them on what it will take to make real progress.
In the end, going wide is about broadening your perspective and that of others. It’s not easy, but it offers the kind of encompassing solutions that are truly transformational. And that’s what you deserve.