For New Year, Don’t Resolve To Simplify

Jan 4, 2018 | Self-Improvement

You’ve probably made some New Year resolutions or, perhaps, set out your 2018 intentions. Many of you will have weighed the pressures of work and home and determined that 2018 will be a more efficient, productive, and less overwhelming year. Apps and tools, processes and behavior fixes offer the promise of a decluttered and simplified life.

Don’t be too hasty. In fact, I’d encourage you to embrace the complicated, the nuanced, the uncertain and the messy. Why? Because it is in those landscapes that creativity emerges, resilience is developed and meaningful relationships are nurtured. In the workplace, these are attributes increasingly deemed essential by global business leaders.

Writing in Inc. magazine, Larry Robertson’s piece, Want to Be More Innovative? In 1 Sentence, This MIT Scientist Nails What’s Getting in the Way, notes:

“Leaders again make clear that the skills they most want are those that ‘can’t be performed by machines’: creativity and innovation, leadership, emotional intelligence (EI), and adaptability. Accordingly, those are the skills they’ve directed their HR departments to prioritize. And yet companies are finding meeting this goal incredibly difficult to do: 77 percent finding creativity and innovation difficult to hire for, followed closely by leadership at 75 percent, EI at 64 percent, and adaptability at 61 percent.”*

What gets in the way of innovation, according to Robertson, are those practices that inject predictability, simplicity, certainty and the minimal into our lives – the practices many of us are resolving or intending to introduce into our lives for 2018. When overwhelmed by the obligations of our social and professional roles, it is natural for us to seek relief. There are, of course benefits to simplifying our lives, pruning away unnecessary and unhelpful behaviors. Yet a more rewarding approach must include seizing the possibility and potential inherent in the messy and complicated. We lose so much by sanitizing our lives, when there is so much more to gain from the uncertain and, yes, uncomfortable.

So how do you accept the messy? Robertson’s article references one of my favorite experts, MIT scientist Sherry Turkle, an expert in sociology and, especially, the role of conversation in our lived experience. Conversation is one of those aspects of life diminished by efficiency and productivity apps, tools and processes. Talking with people has the veneer of inefficiency, prompts our awkwardness and frightens us with its unpredictability, which can be “solved” with the latest communications platform, integrated online system or streamlined me-first attitude. As Brené Brown pointed out in her book, Daring Greatly, “Most people and most organizations can’t stand the uncertainty and the risk of real innovation. Learning and creativity are inherently vulnerable. There’s never enough certainty. People want guarantees.”

It is through conversation, however, that we are able to capitalize on the opportunities for innovation, creative pleasure, and fulfilling relationships. Moreover, the principles and practices of conversation provide the aptitude we need to build the fortitude and resilience to take on the messy and overwhelming.

2018 will throw the unpredictable and overwhelming into your work and home life regardless of resolutions intended to insulate you. Why not, instead, endeavor to enhance your conversational life to make the most of the possibilities inherent in those uncertainties?


*Robertson is drawing from PwC’s 2017 global 20th CEO Survey.
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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