“Let’s Try It!”

Last Sunday morning I’m stealing a few minutes of relaxation on our family sofa when my wife enters the room waving a magazine. “Hey, this sounds like an interesting roast chicken recipe!” “Oh really,” I answer. “Yes, it says to cook hard and fast at 500 degrees for 40 minutes.” 500 degrees for 40 minutes! What? Is she reading that correctly? I’m a 350-for-just-over-an-hour type of guy….500 for 40 is crazy talk!

“Oh c’mon,” she says, “let’s try it!”

Let’s try it. Hmmmmm…I review the recipe as my wife hovers over my shoulder, smiling: 1 whole chicken; wash, pat dry; season to taste; cook at 500 for 40 min; remove and cover with foil for 10-15 min. A little bit lacking in details, but my curiosity is piqued and a happy wife is a happy life.

At precisely 5 pm, the chicken goes into the oven. Timer is set at 40 minutes. I have to admit I’m a bit anxious and can feel adrenalin shooting through my body. I think, “This isn’t how I normally feel making dinner on a Sunday evening.” It feels good and I find myself grinning. 39 minutes to go.

Let’s try it. I wonder how many new ideas or suggestions were shelved back in late 2007 as the recession began to rear its ugly head. I wonder if leaders are still afraid to try something new. Too scared to get out of their comfort zone. Too worried about the future.

Where’s my bullhorn? “The recession is over! Get out of your bunker! Take a good look around and try something new!”

30 minutes to go. Definitely some action happening in the oven. Smells good; some bubbling; colour changes. So far, so good. Red digits; 500 showing. Anxiety level still above normal.

The ‘great recession’ was a punch to the gut for many of us. We had all been feeling good, riding the highs of the mid 2000’s. A lot of new homes were built, a lot of first timers got into the real estate market and, admit it, we all bought ourselves a few new toys – TVs, autos, PDAs, boats, etc. As the clouds gathered in 2008 and we were fully socked in through 2009, a lot of companies decided the right thing to do was to try to hang on and ride it out.  Budgets cut, spending slashed. Well, most of us survived and now it’s time to dust off the suggestion box and review some of the great plans being road-mapped before 2007.

20 minutes to go. There seems to be a lot more bubbling going on. In fact some of the drippings are splashing onto the oven walls. Anxiety spike. “Honey, we’re gonna need some red wine in here!” “Great idea, pick out something nice to go with the chicken.” Right, to go with the chicken. I can feel my heart rate pick up and pour myself a glass. Definitely not a usual Sunday night. Let’s try it.

If leaders continue to subsist in their comfort zones, they will be responsible for their company’s downfall. Their staff will despise them and their competition will crush them.  Even the largest organizations must embrace a certain amount of nimbleness and leaders must have the courage to challenge the status quo. An out-of-the-ordinary idea today could morph into a huge triumph tomorrow.

10 minutes to go. There seems to be a bit of smoke in the kitchen. Must be from those drippings splashing around. I review the recipe. Nowhere does it say to cover the pan. But, it also doesn’t say not to cover the pan. Uh oh. More smoke. Gulp. More wine. Time to open some windows. More adrenaline, more anxiety. Beep beep beep…there goes the smoke detector. “Honey, can you take care of that for me?” Beep beep beep. Ok, now I’m getting concerned. My wife is at the front door fanning the smoke gushing from the oven. The next few minutes are a bit of a blur and then, finally, the timer buzzes! I open the oven door and more smoke billows out. This didn’t happen at 350 for just over an hour. I don the oven mitts and reach in. Drippings are splattering everywhere! The pan is too hot to pick up. Double up the oven mitts and try again….get it out…move slowly, very slowly to the counter. Ouch, ouch, arms are getting hit by bubbling oil. Definitely not a usual Sunday night.

When a company fosters new ideas and encourages employees to think outside the box, then the sky’s the limit when it comes to competitiveness, branding, and ultimately profitability. Interestingly, back in the 1950s, 3M developed a 15% time rule with exactly the same intentions and basic philosophy. Masking tape and Post-it notes are two notable products that were conceived and developed by individual engineers working without formal budgets. Many successful companies have adopted this practice and Google has taken it up a notch with their ‘20% time.’

As a leader in today’s post-recession world, are you cultivating and fostering new ideas from your staff? Do you have the courage to try something new? I hope so.

By the way, the chicken was delicious.


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3 responses to ““Let’s Try It!”

  1. Fantastic blog post Richard. I really appreciate your use of imagery! Change is hard and your analogy describes exactly what it feels like to be feeling the heat and not sure if the “right” decisions, as uncomfortable as they might feel, are going to truly pan out.

    On a side note: I’m a vegetarian so I do feel a bit bad for the chicken… 😉

  2. This had me laughing out loud – I could just picture it!

    I think you’re right – the recession caused a lot of people/businesses to hunker down and stop taking risks. Unfortunately, that can also mean that innovation ceases as well. I look forward to seeing what 2011 has to bring!

    @Mike – yet another vegetarian here! 🙂

  3. Also vegetarian and feeling a little sick about the chicken . . . although I loved the imagery and can actually imagine that happening in your home 🙂

    Great article, Richard. I think we’re all still living in fear that the recession isn’t really over . . . and as long as we live in that fear, it’s going to be tough to actually move forward.

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