In my previous blog entry, I discussed how goals can either enhance or detract from performance.
Over the years, I have written numerous articles on “The Performance Paradox” that show how an obsession with the future reduces performance in the present. And typically, creativity is significantly diminished in the process.
But given that businesses are driven by goals, how can we leverage them as a tool for enhancing creativity?
One way is to use stretch targets. REALLY stretch targets.
For example, one client that I was with last week has a target of doubling their business over the next 5 years. I know MANY organizations that have exactly the same goal. That equates to a 14% growth rate each year (assuming compounding). I’m sure, with hard work, they could hit those numbers, even though it would certainly not be easy.
But what if they set a target of growing by 50% a year? It might have a fundamentally different impact on the organization. That level of growth is unprecedented. It will certainly stretch the way they think. A 14% improvement can most likely be attained through conventional thinking. But a 50% growth target would require some breakthrough thinking; radical ideas.
It might also have an interesting psychological impact on the organization.
Because a 14% growth rate is viewed as doable, it might create an attachment in the minds of the executives and employees. “We should be able to hit these targets. Therefore it we don’t, there is something wrong.”
But a 50% growth rate is unheard of. Clearly no one in the organization would be “attached” to that outcome. Surely the executives would not expect employees to deliver on those targets.
As a result, the 50% target becomes a “game” without attachment. Everyone knows it is designed to shift their thinking and to help create enthusiasm.
The future gives them the present, rather than present giving them the future. (to learn more about what I mean by this, be sure to click the link and read the article)
As long as everyone in the organization believes they are playing a game which is designed to get them energized today, and it is not specifically about hitting the target, I can assure you that people will be more motivated. Creativity will be stimulated. And even if the company does not hit 50% growth rates, they will certainly have a better chance of hitting the 14% improvement than if they focused on that as the goal.
Goals that are not goals, can enhance creativity.
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This post marks the 500th entry on this blog.
Today I want to discuss how to have goals that are not goals. How do you do this?
For most people the present is designed to give them a future they want. For me, the future gives me the present I want.
Here’s what I mean in English…
Most people relate to their goals as something to achieve. They will do things in the present in order to get to their desired future.
As a result, most people feel as though they are making sacrifices now (i.e., it is hard work) in order to fulfill on their goal and achieve happiness in the future. In fact, according to a survey I conducted, 58 percent of Americans are consciously and willingly “sacrificing today for the future.” Unfortunately, 41 percent say that “achieving their goals has not made them happier and has only left them disillusioned.” And that is for the people who achieved their goals. Those who do not achieve their goals are typically even more unhappy. And, as we know, most people don’t always get what they want (there’s a reason why the Rolling Stones wrote a song by a similar name). In fact, according to my surveys, 92% of people say that they fail to fulfill on their New Year’s Resolutions, the most common goal-setting ritual.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have goals. The issue is with how we relate to those goals.
For me, the future “goal” gives me the present. That is, it provides a powerful “context” for the work I do now. Here is an excerpt from the Goal-Free Living book that explains it with a simple example.
Context is not a place to get to; it is something that changes your attitude and perception today. It is a mindset. To experience the power of context, imagine that as you read this, your phone rings. You answer the phone and the person on the other end notifies you that you won the raffle you entered last month. You and your family are going on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii sometime next year. You jump for joy and become energized—now. Although this vacation is many months in the future, it changes your attitude today. This vacation hasn’t happened. It isn’t even real yet.
Imagine your future as a big and bold vacation. A vacation that is so exciting that you can hardly contain yourself now. A vacation that has you in action and playing hard every day. This is a vacation that you will never take. This is a vacation whose day will never come. Its sole purpose is to generate passion in your life today. A context. Something that calls you forward.
For me, my goals are not about actually achieving the result (although that would be nice). Rather they are about playing full out each and every day. I wake up every morning excited about what is going to take place that day. Every day is a new learning experience with new insights and obstacles. My “work” is never work and it is certainly not a sacrifice. It is a joy. It is exciting. When the future gives you a powerful present, the result is less important than the process. There is no sacrifice. Each day is a new adventure.