As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”
That’s a powerful idea, and it’s one any inventor or creative person needs pushing them onward.
There are risks, however, to blindly thinking you can do something and proceeding into dangerous territory. On the other side, there is risk in thinking you can’t do something and limiting possibility before you’ve even begun.
Let’s take a look at both.
RISK: Naively thinking you can’t do something
There are many reasons not to try. The most compelling is that if you don’t try, you won’t have to endure failure. But that’s the subtext to more commonly stated reasons, such as:
“Others are already doing it and doing it better. There’s not enough time, money, talent or whatever else. ”
But the biggest risk of all—if you don’t believe you can do something, you’ll never get started.
RISK: Thinking you can do something that’s impossible
If you’re spending your life building a time machine, you may never get there.
You may end up wasting time, money, and resources going after an impossible dream that all amounts to nothing. You may do all of this with others watching. It may be painful.
These are all humbling realities of creative, inventive work.
Now let’s put all that aside
Ask yourselves: How can we balance optimistic realism? How can we create and dream without fooling ourselves?
How do we push with dogged persistence while keeping a willingness to pivot when a prototype or idea just isn’t working?
At GoKart, we specialize in setting realistic context for breakthrough ideas. Here are six lessons we’ve learned in the process:
1. Let go of the past, and begin with openness and optimism
Simply agree to begin from a place that is unburdened by the past, so you are free you to think in new ways.
When working with others, ask them to join you in starting from now. It’s natural to want to hash out what did or didn’t work in the past. Give those discussions a time and place.
But when generating ideas or new solutions, ask others to join you in the present. Setting that intention together is critical to unlocking ideas together.
2. Identify a focused problem to generate ideas around
When solving difficult problems here at GoKart, we often use a “How Might We?”, a common design thinking practice. This helps us frame up the problem we are solving.
“How might we meet our customers sooner in their decision process?”
“How might we help our employees live healthier lives?”
“How might we increase the average order value in our online checkout?”
Starting with this question helps set a shared context for teams to share ideas. Have people write down ideas in 3-5 minutes per question, then share and identify themes.
3. Assess your assets
Think about all of the resources you have at hand. Look at the people able to help, the partnerships, and ecosystem of support that could propel your idea forward.
Use those to the best of your ability. And if you think you need something more to proceed, don’t let “needing” that thing get in your way. Find small ways to start making progress rather than waiting until you have that future thing.
4. Do your homework (but not too much homework)
It’s important to know the context within which you are creating. Look at what competitors are doing, then look out at the world where others are solving the same or similar problems.
Last, decide what you are willing to invest in order to take your product or project forward. How much will you give? The goal should be to gather enough information to make you smarter and stronger – but not to burden yourself with so much research that you never begin.
5. Stay in the present
The further you get along, the easier it is to get distracted by past stories or future hypotheticals. When that happens, take a moment to observe the moment without judgment.
Then take a deep breath, plant your feet firmly, and pull yourself back to the present.
6. If at first you don’t succeed, take another small step
The way forward truly is one foot in front of another. At GoKart, we embrace the spirit of continuous improvement in the way we work and build our products.
It’s wonderful and even essential to have a plan, but plans are not guarantees. You can only truly know the moment at hand, and from there, figure out how to put that next foot forward.
One last thing…
Creating is scary. Things will go wrong. But you’ll never get started (or keep going) without optimism. Remember, start with “haves” rather than the “have-nots” in your current moment. Then. Begin.
GoKart Labs is a digital invention & growth lab, a recognized ‘Top Place to Work’, and one of Inc’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. To learn more about our services, contact us here: AJ@GoKartLabs.com.