Consider the words of Mark Twain:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
We all have our own understanding of the world of work. Some would call this “culture”, but at a more plainspoken level, it’s just a set of beliefs. Things that look true, but ain’t necessarily so.
I remember the time I brought a senior executive from headquarters to meet with my largest customer. The ride to the customer was a long one, and when we got there, we received an unwelcome surprise. My contact was not available and would not be able to meet with us.
I explained that we had traveled a long way, that a senior executive was here to speak directly to the company’s concerns...but my pleas fell on deaf ears.
As we walked in silence back to the car, I knew one thing. I wasn’t sure where it was going to happen. But it was happening. I was about to be fired.
I sat in the passenger seat of the large rental car, staring at the buttons on the radio. I saw the senior executive grip the steering wheel, tightly, even though the car wasn’t on. Was he bracing for impact? Trying to find the words to let me know my career was over?
No, not at all. He was pausing to think about where we could go to have a drink in this new town. “Did you think,” he said to me, “that I was upset or something?”
The conversation opened up. I tripped into it and fell on my sword. “I thought you were going to fire me!” I said, finally able to breathe and feel my fingers and toes.
I was distraught. I was disturbed. I was disappointed. But I was not done. Not by a long shot. My traveling companion knew what you probably already suspect. Namely, that meetings sometimes get cancelled. Even big meetings. Really really big meetings.
Of course, having gone through the pandemic, we all experienced lots and lots of cancellations. We learned how to be ok with things not being ok. Experience teaches us that new possibilities are always available. And, even when we don’t like our circumstances, we are often more capable than we realize.
In this game, we look at what it is that you thought you knew about the world of work. It’s time to find out what you think you know that just ain’t so.
How to Play the Myths of Work Game:
Break into teams of 2-4 players or tackle these questions on your own. Take 3 minutes per question, per team, to find as many answers as you possibly can.
What did you know to be true about work, before the pandemic began, that isn’t true anymore?
What’s good about this? Consider a difficult situation or challenge at work. (Dealing with the pandemic is a global example, but you can use something more specific from inside your organization). Ask yourself and your team this simple, four-word question: What’s good about this? For example, when you think about what you went through during the pandemic, what was good about it?
What else could this mean? Choose a particular challenge or difficult situation at work. It can be the same one as #2, or a different one. Ask yourself and your team this simple, five-word question—to make sure there’s no misunderstanding of what’s really going on: What else could this mean?
We look to the past to create the future. It’s only natural: we use our past experiences to build new ones. Notice that what looks rigid and fixed (“Work means everyone has to be in the office,” for example). What looks solid really isn’t. We can always think about things in a new way.
Innovation is infinite. Tap into that resource as soon as you are ready—and here’s the good news: you’ll never run out of ideas. Time marches on, and so do we. Clinging to the past isn’t the way to the future—and it never will be.
I called this the Myth of Work Game, but it’s also the path to progressive consciousness. That’s right: when we see what’s not right about the past, we take the first steps towards change.
The more myths you bust, the better. The more old thinking goes away, the better. The more that we can discover what's good about this, the better off we will all be.
Breaking through to new ideas of success means shattering the myths that don’t serve you. Move beyond progressive tolerance, and discover new ways of tackling the same old problems. Game on!