“Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.” - Madeleine L‘Engle
Recently, I delivered a presentation at the National Postal Forum entitled, “Leadership in the Age of Robots: How To Be Better Humans”. My co-presenter was Dr. Sean Joyce, an old friend and dear mentor. We had spent the previous 2 months discussing what separated humans from robots, the evolution of technology and the importance of self-awareness. We agreed on the key points we wanted to address, a general outline of the talk, and a PowerPoint deck to emphasize important ideas.
Sean began the class by warning the audience that we weren’t sure exactly what we would end up sharing. Yes, we were prepared, but the more we worked on the class, the more ideas came into play. How the audience reacted could change what might be called our “script”.
It happened sooner than expected. I’d prepared several examples of the positive impact of technology on our daily lives. Because we were using robots as a cornerstone, the focus was going to be on the last 30 years. As I started to talk, I looked at the audiences faces. Something clicked, and I realized the examples I prepared were wrong.
A thought rushed to my mouth, and I began talking about technology tens of thousands of years old. I watched smiles form and heads nod. In a second, I knew I was on the right track.
As my co-presenter will tell you, I’m a person who loves structure. Over the years, I’ve developed techniques and methodologies that help achieve success. I conduct test drives, use checklists, and rehearse speeches. While I only made it to the rank of Webelo, I live by the Boy Scout motto – “Be Prepared.”
My preparation helps me react when unexpected problems arise. Equally important, I’m able to shift when new possibilities become available, or when inspiration strikes after I begin. Which means I must begin before I know how the story ends. Even when I’m the author.
We can actively engage our imagination through processes like brainstorming and free association. However, we don’t control when innovative ideas will enter our minds. It might be while we’re taking a walk, having dinner with friends or in the middle of delivering a speech.
It's impossible to know everything that will occur when we begin working on any project – personal or professional. When we keep our minds open to new possibilities, we’re taking advantage of the immediate preparation, as well as all our life experiences up to that point. We’re improving our chances for success, even when the goal shifts.
Let’s begin with an element of uncertainty, and embrace the opportunities before us.