Road to success: Being mentally nimble?

Picture this: you’re a 100kg bodybuilder that can lift tremendous amounts of weight, influence everyone in the gym with your huge stature and size …

But you can’t even touch your toes.

Hmmm, imagine spending all that time trying to place as much power and strength into your muscles but yet cannot perform the simplest of tasks proficiently. I draw this analogy not to insult bodybuilders or to comment on the efficacy of their training. (I might not live to see another day if that was my intention)

I use this analogy to describe organisations, large ones at that.

Many large organisations possess huge punching power, they have the ability to command traditional media at the snap of their fingers, they can afford to attract the best talent out in the market. But yet, more often than not, we find these large organisations to be inflexible, unable to make what seems to be the littlest of adjustments from a consumer point of view. This causes lots of customer dissatisfaction amongst consumers like you and I.

Just a couple of weeks back, my friend had gone down to collect some food that he had ordered for the family. Due to a communication mishap and a packed restaurant, he took the wrong order and ended up with half the amount of food needed to feed the whole family.

After realising that a small box of fried rice would probably not feed 10 hungry people for dinner, he called the restaurant back to inform them about the mix up. Immediately, they apologised for the error even though it was understandable and they sent an employee down to his place to rectify the error.

Half an hour later, the food arrived at the door successfully. The employee even prepared a box of chicken wings as an apology. That changed the edgy sentiments in the house

This small restaurant was nimble enough to make adjustments on the fly and rectify errors immediately without much hesitation or need to “report” to the boss man before executing the solution.

Contrast this to getting the wrong order from Grabfood delivery …

For those who aren’t familiar with the South-East Asian behemoth, Grab is a modern day super-app that dominated Uber (in South-East Asia) and diversified their services to include food delivery and the like.

Many out there in Singapore can attest to the poor customer service received when trying to rectify a bad order. It feels like you’re on the phone with a bureaucratic robot from the movie Elysium whose only command was to say no to you or to shun you away. I’m not trying to bash on Grab, yes they have changed the way we live in Singapore and they will continue to shape the way we live for many years to come.

But this rapid expansion and growth has come at a cost …

It has made them stiffen up and implement processes that make the customer experience seem very rigid as well.

So how can we avoid such rigidity?

I believe that the answer to this is in innovation. I define innovation a little different from how the world does. To me innovation means simply exercising the inner child in you. Putting kimchi in your grilled cheese sandwich is being innovative … and delicious.

“The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart.” — Mencius

Fostering a spirit of innovation is kind of like stretching the next day after a long work out session. You encourage employees to step out of their mental “box” for a little while and exercise their inner child for a period of time.

Obviously, there are organisations out there who claim practice “innovation” from a top-down approach. But nothing is really enforced or respected and employees end up merely doing the bare minimal just to get the task out of their hair.

I’m talking about the real organisations who truly value innovating, the ones who truly believe that there are great ideators and executors hiding in their ranks waiting for their opportunity to contribute at a higher level.

Just like what serial entrepreneur Inderjit Singh wrote on his blog: “If we believe entrepreneurship is the state of the mind, then anyone of us can act as an entrepreneur.”

Here is a man who has embodied that philosophy repeatedly through stints in huge organisations like Texas Instruments and even the Singapore Parliament.

Was he laughed at? Yup.

Did he get the last laugh? Yup.

And so, to anyone reading this who might feel stuck in a large organisation, the onus is on you to restore purpose into your life. If you’re in a place that stifles innovation and personal growth, you need to find an avenue to release all of mental creativity.

If your organisation refuses to be nimble, that doesn’t stop you from being nimble in your life. Start working on that podcast that you’ve been procrastinating on for years.

Innovation is a state of mind. It’s time to exercise it.

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