One of the great benefits of parenting is discovering new kids books. Especially the whimsical ones with useful lessons for kids and adults. One great example is Kobi Yamada’s What do you do with an idea?
It’s a beautifully illustrated story about a child who has an idea. At first, the child is afraid of the idea and tries to ignore it and get away from it. But the idea follows the child. He eventually realizes that feeding and growing the idea makes him feel more alive. (Even if it’s terrifiying to let others see the idea). The book begins with gray illustrations, which slowly transition to more colorful and vibrant images. Spoiler alert: the end is a literal picture of vibrancy and flourishing.
The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of our ideas. That we should be courageous and tend to our ideas. That growing our ideas can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. The story resonates with adults because so many of us have an idea that won’t leave us alone. We need the reminder not to be afraid or ashamed. In my line of work, I talk with a lot of adults who are changing careers. Often, they’ve felt the pull of their idea for several years before acting on it. It gets to a point where they can’t ignore it any longer. Once they finally begin to feed that idea, it becomes scary and exciting. They wonder: Why did I wait so long?
My idea has been following me, too. It started as a research question for my dissertation: What happens when embodied “living and learning” education moves online? Through my doctoral research, I began to discover how online learning and face to face experiences can work together to spark significant transformation and deep learning in adults. (If you want to follow a side tangent, you can find my published results here).
Along came the pandemic
A few years later, the pandemic hit. My entire lived experience seemed to be online. Suddenly, everyone else was wrestling with my research questions about online learning! I was trapped at home, sheltering in place with my idea. Everywhere I looked, my idea was at my side, staring me in the face.
Adaptive leadership problems exposed
My coaching business picked up as I met (virtually) with stressed and overwhelmed leaders. The pandemic was clearly exposing the vulnerabilities and growth edges of leaders. I noticed a system wide problem: most leaders needed more support if they were going to manage their own “stuff” while leading their organizations through adaptive change. Leading an organization through disruptive change requires a keen self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and an understanding of organizations as systems.
My idea crystallized as I considered my doctoral research, my training as a coach, and my experience with online learning. The world didn’t need another leadership webinar on Zoom with the five secrets to success. Instead, leaders needed personalized resources that would help them to understand their own motivations, behaviors, and blindspots. Raising the self-awareness of our leaders would equip them with the emotional intelligence and resilience needed to thrive while leading their teams through a crisis and adaptive change.
My idea: develop a platform of online courses that would help leaders become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent so that they could more effectively lead adaptive organizational change.
Let it grow.
So, I took a deep breath and started feeding and growing my idea.
I bought my first domain and starting experimenting and building. I immersed myself in the world of video editing, microphones, web design and hosting, WordPress plugins, and blogging. I joined an online instructional design community. Though I had already studied online learning formally, this was a new level of learning and problem solving.
For better or worse, my wife found herself trapped at home with me and my idea! Her wisdom, support, and feedback as a professioal educator is also central to the story. She helped me to better understand and refine the idea. Months later and countless YouTube tutorials later, my first homegrown online course is ready! My vision is to eventually offer a range of online courses that support people’s leadership growth, career development, and overall well-being.
What's your idea?
It’s impossible predict the long term impact that the coronavirus pandemic will leave on our world. The pandemic has brought immeasureable suffering around the world. It has also brought new attention to old and pernicious problems: systemic injustice and pervasive inequality.
One thing is clear to me: the pandemic has shined a glaring light on many of the problems we face as a nation and world. In a widely circulated article at the beginning of the pandemic, Andy Crouch observed that every organization needed to start thinking like a startup. In other words, we need a lot of new ideas. We need new approaches to old problems. We need new approaches to new problems. We need a lot of people to start feeding and growing that idea that won’t leave them alone.
What if the pandemic – in all it’s terribleness – ends up becoming a catalyst for desperately needed innovation and transformation in our individual lives and collectively as a society?What would this mean for you? Maybe it’s time to start that non-profit, apply to graduate school, start your own practice, launch that blog, or finally switch careers. What if your idea is just what the world needs?