Bernie Anderson
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Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Your Idea Is Probably Not Big Enough (But Don't Go Home)

"Go big, or go home" is a fundamentally flawed leadership philosophy. The cavalier, devil-may-care sentiment might feel right. But, it's not right. Or, at least, it's not right for most.

The reason is simple:
Very few ideas are big enough.

Sure. There is always "next big thing." And you may have "the next big thing" idea churning inside of you. But you probably don't. That doesn't mean you should "go home." That means you should learn the art of iteration.


This is very much a "Lead From the Front" mentality. Only those with the biggest and the best ideas can step into the game. The rest must sit on the sidelines and wait until they have an idea good enough and big enough to count.

"Go Big Or Go Home" mentality limits the number of people who can play. It leaves most sitting on the sidelines under great duress, trying to come up with something new and interesting - and, hopefully, big.

Leading from the back uses a very different approach.

Lead from behind means establishing a culture where it is safe to risk. It's not safe to risk when everything is on the line and massive failure is the only other option (which means failure can’t be an option). Give people an opportunity to fail in small, non-devastating ways, to iterate, and to learn. That's how we get better. Make it okay to fail as long as we learn from failure and leverage failure for gradual, incremental change.

Intentional iteration negates the chance of catastrophe.

This means to set yourself and your team up for small wins. up. Make small, achievable goals. This doesn’t mean juvenile cheap shots, over-accessible and soft. Dream big, but start small. Small achievable goals can be challenging and stretch everyone involved. And if they’re organized as a series of incremental small wins, those goals are completely winnable.

Small wins are how I learned a foreign language. The prospect of fluency in another language seemed like a hopeless, pie-in-the-sky goal. “Go big or go home” is a hopeless proposition when it comes to language learning. If mastering the nuances of grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and pronunciation in one fell swoop had been my goal - I’d have definitely gone home.

But I can learn enough vocabulary to take a taxi. Then the syntax necessary go to the store. Then to pronounce my words well enough to ask for directions on the street and answer the phone. But by bit, over time, fluency is achieved.

Create a journey. Implement a graduated series of small wins. Incremental winnable goals produce exponential results. Your team will be more productive and less frustrated.

And so will you.