I’ve been working on a project with the chairman of a company who was really pushing the idea that people need to think outside the box and push the bar higher. These are things that I am sure you would know that I totally agree with. But there was a subtle difference in this situation. He was dictating what the outcome should be, which was the big idea or go home.

What I realized, right then and there, was how polarizing only looking for the big idea can be. And, oh no! How many times have I probably been guilty of the same thing, causing people to give up too early. If you only chopped wood or carried water when you thought you had the big, big idea, I am not sure that you would ever get there. What I am sure of, though, is that the way to the big idea is to take action on 1000’s of small ones.

It has always taken a lot of small steps on the journey and we can’t forget this. Especially when we are challenging people to be creative, we have to remember that it is a cumulative process, and through these small steps will come the big, big idea.

I have to admit, it was a little painful going through this process as an outside advisor. I had never before thought that if someone else dictates what they want — and dictates that they only want the home run — that it is counter-productive to getting where you want to be.

So if you’re working with someone, and you want to accomplish something big, don’t polarize them by pushing only for the big thing. Encourage them to take small steps and chop wood everyday. There is a lot to be said about enjoying the journey. Many times, it is the cumulative thought process and confidence that come from working on those smaller steps — as well as the people that join you along the way — that creates the atmosphere so you can come up with the big idea. Or should I say maybe the big, big idea!

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