30: We Need Dreamers: How Well Do You Think Outside the Box?

I had a board member of my organization that told me a couple of years ago, ?Hans we don?t need to think outside the box, we need brand new boxes!”?? So how many of us are really comfortable with thinking that way?? For most people, change is hard.? But leaders have to change and they have to embrace dreamers.

This podcast is about learning to take risks, think outside the box and dream a new dream. ?I hope you will listen.?

Peter Drucker says this about living with risk-takers in our organizations:

Every organization needs risk-takers, to discover…

1. Risks you can afford to take.

2. Risks you cannot afford to take.

3. Risks you cannot afford not to take.

Question: ?If you were living during the days of the Oregon Trail, would you have joined your family and friends and headed west?

Oregon Trail Scottsbluff Historic Monument 10394126

This is an excerpt from a book I wrote on change a number of years ago.

Playing Takes A Dreamer

?We don?t stop playing because we grow old,?

we grow old because we stop playing.?

Wound & Wound Toy Store, Universal Studios City Walk, California

Hans, what in the world are you doing here?

My ankles were wrenching painfully against old, rock-hard dirt ruts. Burning wind sliced across a barrage of prairie grass and straight through my flimsy cotton shirt. Overhead, a blistering Midwest sun made a mockery of the straw hat I?d worn to ward off its rays.

Next to me, my wife and children were actually laughing, enjoying themselves. And to be honest, despite my discomfort, so was I.

Hans, what in the world is wrong with you?

Fallen prey to some kind of shared, masochistic psychosis?

Sort of, but not really. You see, the year was 1993, and America was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Trail. Seized by an oddly ambitious curiosity, the Finzel bunch piled into a motor home and set out to follow the old path along its entire route, learning its history and its lessons.

History we learned ?? in spades.

We learned that the Oregon trail stretches some two-thousand miles ?? half of the width of the U.S. ?? from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon.? At both ends of the trail and all along the route lie informative interpretive centers where we soon learned of the many who tried and the many who died.

Of the 6000 people who set out between 1843 and 1846, 1000 died along the way.? Yet tales of hardship did not deter these early pioneers who settled the Pacific Northwest.

Two-thousand miles doesn?t sound like much in the age of the Interstate. But try even a quarter-mile of the Trail on foot and you get a different picture. Standing where they had stood, braving the elements of heat, humidity and bugs that they had braved, the questions roared through my head.

What was wrong with you people? Why didn?t you quit?

The questions never let up. They only grow louder as our family trail wound on.? Our air-conditioned motor home stood ready for us nearby; theirs was a Conestoga wagon with wooden wheels and no indoor plumbing.? ?Why did they do it?? ?Would we have gone along??

In the middle of my misery, I started to picture being somewhere else. Hawaii. Alaska. Even the Hampton Inn in the next town over ?? anywhere but here. And that?s when it struck me.

They were dreamers!

Their minds weren?t showing them this baked-out oven. They were focused on swimming images of Oregon! Of lush green valleys and rows of Douglas Firs lining the banks of the Willamette.

?The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,? says Marcel Proust.? The eyes of a dreamer.

Risk Takers

That brings me to the other germane fact about the Oregon Trail pioneers: they were risk-takers. I truly believe the two qualities ?? dreaming and risk-taking ?? are totally intertwined.? Very few people have the intestinal fortitude to take risks (at least the kind of mammoth risks necessary to make a real difference in this world) without possessing the ability to fantasize a desirable destination. ?Do not follow where the path may lead.? Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.?? Renn Zaphiropoulos, former President and CEO of Versatec, Inc.

We somehow imagine risk-takers as precisely the opposite. We tend to picture them as Type A slave drivers, the emotional and social opposite of a free-wheeling dreamer.? Type A people are stereotyped as hard driving linear people with an an obsessive compulsive objective view of reality.? How could they be dreamers?

That stereotype is wrong. Risk-takers come in every shape and size.

Peter Drucker says this about living with risk-takers in our organizations:

Every organization needs risk-takers, to discover…

1. Risks you can afford to take.

2. Risks you cannot afford to take.

3. Risks you cannot afford not to take.

Maybe not everyone was cut out for the Oregon Trail.? But creativity and risk-taking in our organizations are not just for the gifted few.? They are a necessary component of every learning organization.? Your group needs risk-takers at every level. Are the leaders allowing them? Here?s how they can:

How Leaders Can Reward Risk-takers

  • ?Reward creativity and pioneering
  • ?Allow new blood into leadership
  • ?Cross training/ conferencing
  • ?Networking
  • ?Site visits: call on those who do it right
  • ?Allow failure: trial and error
  • ?Read outside your field
  • ?Listening to the troops
  • ?Promoting open-ended brainstorming sessions
  • ?Bring creative people into leadership
  • ?Make it safe to be creative in your organization
  • ?Celebrate creative acts in your group
  • ?Relax the controls that stifle coloring outside the lines


The Starbucks Creed

Anybody who gets to know me for any length of time learns pretty quickly that I am a coffee lover.? I come by it genetically.? My father was born and raised in Leipzig, Germany, in the State of Saxony, and Germans are world renowned for their love of coffee.? In fact, every year they reserve for themselves the top choice in coffee beans from around the world.? And of all the coffee lovers of Germany, they say the folks from Saxony are the most fanatical.? They actually call them ?Coffee Saxons.?

When Starbucks came along, I became their perfect customer.? Donna and I grab Starbucks lattes together nearly every afternoon after work so we can catch up on our day.? We have our own table and they know us on a first name basis!

Years ago, when Howard Schultz bought the Starbucks franchise and began to dream about bringing the European caf? culture to America, countless skeptics and critics scoffed. ?No American will ever pay more than a dollar for a cup of coffee!?? He proved them massively wrong.? Everywhere I go, not only in the United States but also around the world, I have seen that familiar green-and-white disk.? On a recent trip to New York City, I found a Starbucks on almost every street corner.? In Vancover, BC, the taxi drivers claim there is only one street in the downtown area without a Starbucks!

It?s a lot more than coffee. Howard Schultz actually changed the habits of modern America. What he had seen in the streets of Naples he grafted into his home culture. Schultz tells how in his book, ?Pour Your Heart Into It.?? I love the four principles upon which he operates as a coffee evangelist:

  • ?Care more than others think wise
  • ?Risk more than others think safe
  • ?Dream more than others think practical
  • ?Expect more than others think possible

If you enjoyed the podcast

  1. Check out my leadership videos hansfinzel.com/videos
  2. If you love it, ?tweet it!
  3. Three question about the content to send?me: ??What did you learn about yourself today as it relates to dreaming?? ? ?Are you one?? ??Do you stifle dreamers that work around you?”

0 Responses

  1. Really enjoyed this Podcast, Hans. Thanks so much for your insights. May the Lord bring us more dreamers, as our organizations are built and remain viable and engaged for the future.

    1. Thanks Henry. You are a dreamer for sure and it is great seeing you get traction on your dreams. I am excited to have you on the podcast this coming Friday the 18th!

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