What Goldfish crackers and speed have in common

My son eats Goldfish crackers on the way to school.

(I checked the nutrition info, and a handful of Goldfish roughly equate to a quarter cup of Lucky Charms. So, I allow it.)

It is more habit than anything than a calorie-deficit necessity.

Last week, we were on our way out the door. Rushing and late, as usual.

“Mama, can you get the Goldfish?”

“No, buddy. I’m late. I’ll get them out of the cupboard, but you’ll need to pour them.”

His eyes got big as he realized that this responsibility also meant he was in charge of how many he poured.

I selected a small plastic container with a lid that locks.

He filled it to the rim.

At first, I found myself frustrated. That his greedy instinct had caused such waste. The ride to school isn’t long enough for anything more than a handful.

But, as we walked out the door, I realized this was such a happy accident.

That, by giving control, autonomy and responsibility to someone else…someone on the front line, we’d broken through a status quo pattern.

My child had just shown me the solution to the last minute scamper out the door, and the incessant demand to find time for ‘the pouring of the Goldfish’.

By overfilling, he’d done the task for the rest of the week. Now, the remaining goldfish would sit in the car, container top closed, until we were back for that ride tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Until they were gone.

One of the most important leadership epiphanies is that innovation happens at the frontline, by the people who make the product or by the customers who use the product. A leader’s responsibility is to create two-way dialogue with employees and customers and to create environments where happy accidents (or poignant insights) can be harnessed into ground-breaking ideas that solve problems and find efficiencies. Fast.

You don’t need to invest in a fancy ‘system’ for innovation to make this happen.

Try little things like:

  • Let a team member run the meeting they way they want to and in a way that they believe would be most effective
  • Ask at least five other people for their input on a project you’re working on – “Here’s what I’m trying to accomplish. What do you think of this ___________” and then show them an idea or something tangible that they can react to
  • Release the rules by which you live your life – and there are so many, you probably haven’t even noticed them: we always go to school on time, the house must be clean, bedtime is at 8pm, etc. Just go a little crazy, let go of a few rules for the day, and experience your world in a new way. You’ll begin to notice how the ‘must’s’ aren’t actually must’s at all, and you’ll enjoy the day observing the freshness of new ways of thought.

Bringing opportunities for innovation to more areas of the business will not only cause you to move faster into new, untapped innovation, you’ll release the creative capacity of your organization.

And, you know what’s wild?

All that capacity. All those great ideas…

…they’re already there.

They simply need someone to ask them to ‘pour the Goldfish’.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Amy,

    As usual, I love your blogs, they are spot on! Lately I’ve been a little bit more flexible with my kids bed time (8 and 8:20 vs 7:30 and 8 pm respectively) and I’ve found a new freedom that I didn’t know it was possible. There’s less argument into actually going to bed and more quality time.

    I also like your recommendation about letting others lead at work, you never know what you might learn by being on the other seat and most importantly the positive impact you may have on that person by trusting in him/her it could be actually a priceless moment.

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