Dwell in Possibility

Dwell in possibility”, borrowed from Emily Dickinson is one theme that is guided me so far and will continue to guide me in the future. 

Every single day brings along a world of possibilities and one thing that determines what we see and how we see things is out own attitude. If you look for problems and constraints, you will always find them – even in the best of situations.

Possibility thinking is an attitude of seeing things and asking, “What’s possible here?” and then working to bring those possibilities to life. Because, ultimately all human progress depends on ability to see possibilities and make them happen.

In my own career, the mindset shift from constraints to possibilities has helped me immensely and continues to help. How do you dwell in possibilities? Here are a few things to consider:

  • It starts with a belief that possibilities (and solutions) exists. It is not about denying constraints but working your way around constraints.
  • It is about persistence in looking for answers when you are unable to find straightforward solutions to constraints.
  • It is about having an eye for what’s working and how can that be amplified as much as it is about knowing what falls in your circle of influence.
  • It is about learning to live with uncertainty and still acting with confidence.
  • It is about realization that things don’t have to be the way they are and that making a change is a possibility.
  • It is about being able to challenge the status-quo knowing that there are better ways of doing things.
  • It is all about execution putting all your energy out there to take the right next steps.
  • It is about riding the waves of change rather than being crushed by it.
  • It is about consciously pursuing the path of your heart and go where it takes you – even if it means living on the edge. Because as Seth Godin says, “If you can’t fail, it doesn’t matter.” 
  • It is about moving beyond our best and being prepared to fail fast, early and often to succeed eventually. Having high expectations from the self and from others is vital because making possibilities happen is hard work.
  • It is about being impeccable with your words (one of the four agreements)  because our choice of words create our possibilities.
  • It is about a strong desire to make a positive difference and contribution in your own life but making a difference to others (your people, organization, teams, family, friends etc.)
  • Living in possibilities is a mindset of serving others by working with them, collaborating with them and finding people who can be your allies in making things happen.

It seems like the only option we have to truly steer ourselves forward is to embrace the mindset of possibility and abundance. Then why not commit to live by the words of Emily Dickinson and “dwell in possibility”?

A worthy goal for 2017 and beyond.

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In the sketch: Ancient 16th century windmills from Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands (illustrated from my visit there in Dec 2016).

In 100 Words: Face The Light


In moments of uncertainty, inspiration came to me in form of a tweet with a visual that read,

“If you see shadows, it is because there is light.”

I instinctively told myself,

“If you face the light, shadows fall behind.”

The mindset of abundance asks, “What’s possible?” instead of “What could go wrong?” and focuses on those possibilities because constraints are almost a given in work and life.

Only then, we can start focusing on possibilities, thinking beyond the boundaries, raising the bar, stepping into the unknown and doing what truly matters.

We try. We err. And then, we learn!

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Don’t Just Punish Them If They Don’t Comply

I have seen organizations that do the following.

They define their work processes and implement them across the organization to get certified against a certain standard (like ISO). Standards enforce compliance and sometimes, leaders falls in a trap of linking the level of compliance with performance of individuals. This is how a “constraint” mindset works. If people don’t comply, punish them. We get so obsessed by the process adherence that we overlook the ground level issues people face.

In my book “#QUALITYtweet – 140 bite-sized ideas to deliver quality in every project”, I wrote:

If you don’t treat your process as a tool to generate quality, process has a tendency to drive you.

This is highly counter-productive in my view. Process improvement demands that improvement leaders practice an “abundance” mindset.

When people don’t follow a process, it only means that either they don’t know how to use the process or the defined process simply doesn’t work for them. In either case, it is an opportunity to improve.

Here are a few questions that can help in introspecting, when a process does not work:

  • Is this process (or a sub-process) really helping people do their job better?
  • Do people have knowledge of why this process is required and how it makes them more effective? Are they clear on the purpose of having this process?
  • Can this process (or a sub-process) be simplified further in a way that it is equally/more effective?
  • Is there a work scenario that has not been addressed by the current set of processes?
  • Do people have knowledge of how to perform the process? If no, what additional training/counseling is required? Is the necessary guidance/references available?
  • Are middle managers aligned to the organization’s vision for having processes, and are they setting the right examples for people to follow?

Bottom line: Adopt a pragmatic approach when implementing processes. When processes are not followed, ask “Why?” often, instead of punishing people right away. Get to the root of the non-compliance and you will find the actual problem. Non-compliance is just a symptom. Ask right questions, involve your people and assess if process really serves the purpose.

Survival Mindset, Abundance and Leadership

Here is a quick question: “Can a leader make a big difference (through a great team, organization or product) operating in a ‘survival’ mindset?”

You guessed it right if you said No. They can’t. Here’s why:

To make a big difference, a leader has to operate from the zone of “abundance”. Zone of “possibilities”. Leadership, as we know, is about expressing yourself fully through your work. Leaders can seldom express themselves completely when they are in “survival” mindset. It is a bad state to be in. In the anxiety of survival, they only do things that directly or indirectly help them stay afloat. When they start focusing on doing those “necessary” things, they loose focus on doing the “right things”. They try to protect, avoid risk, enforce and create barriers.

Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin says that “anxiety doesn’t protect you from the danger, but from doing great things.” – the state of anxiety limits your thinking, pulls you down and keeps you from thinking abundant.

Abundance mindset is totally opposite – it acknowledges the constraints and works around them to create possibilities. To think about better ways of doing work. To see/solve those impending problems. To deliver more than expected. To move from ‘satisfaction’ to ‘delight’ to ‘wow’. Abundance mindset sees opportunity where scarcity mindset sees problems. It is about thriving – not only surviving.

Bottomline: Mindset matters when you are set out to make a big difference. Napolean Bonaparte said this – “A leader is a dealer in hope”. Hope comes from thinking in abundance and possibilities. To make a bigger difference, leaders have to move from “survive” to “thrive” – from “scarcity” to “abundance”.