There's no place like home! - The pull of conventional thinking.

Leadership Blog  |  5 minute read

Gemma Toner

Written by Gemma Toner

There's no place like home! - The pull of conventional thinking.

Seasonal blog alert!

Panto season is upon us and I have received the inevitable invitation to go see a friend’s child on stage in the role of the scarecrow in his school production of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

Of course, I said no.

“Oh no you didn’t” I hear you cry. And I thank you for getting into the panto spirit so quickly!

And oh, yes, I did. But for a couple of very good reasons:

  • I feel uncomfortable at Pantomimes because I get flashbacks of me bursting out of my ill-fitting elf costume in front of a hall of strangers (I was a chubby child), and
  • Because, as a consultant in Breakthrough Thinking, I can’t help thinking that there’s some stuff we can learn from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or, more specifically, about Dorothy’s journey.

I’ve always liked Dorothy, she’s quite a determined girl and she has a dog. I relate to her. But now that I know Breakthrough Thinking, I can’t help but see the story in the context of the breakthrough paradigm  -and what I see happen very often when people relate to Breakthrough Thinking as a short term fix.

For me, Dorothy has a very familiar story. It reminds me of what happens to many of us in our organisations when something disruptive occurs (We call this a breakdown – something that has us stopped.) and we must think and act differently to get past it. Many people are introduced to, and start to use, Breakthrough Thinking tools in the context of such a challenge.

The tornado that hits Dorothy’s farmhouse could be compared to anything that we just didn’t see coming that blindsides us and our organisation. Just like a twister, these things are usually unexpected and often devastating.

And, like Dorothy, we can often feel vulnerable, helpless, and transported to a very different reality. The landscape we are used to quickly changes. What we know for sure is that we’re “not in Kansas any more” (Unless, of course, you are reading this and happen to actually work in Kansas). We also know that we need to do something different to change things. Right now!

So we get going.

 

Don't let breakdowns break you down!

Like most of the people I’ve worked with, one of the reasons I admired Dorothy was that she did not give up in the face of such a massive breakdown. Sure, she gets a little upset by her inability to control the circumstances - it’s human nature, but she knows she must move forward. She makes a clear commitment to see the Wizard (which she freely tells everybody she meets), whom she is sure can help her in her seemingly impossible quest to return home.

Top marks, Dorothy. Breakthrough Thinking starts with a Breakthrough commitment!

And whilst in the weird old world of Oz she is given some tools in the form of silver slippers which help her on her way on the clear but winding Yellow Brick Road. Our version of these magical talisman are:

  • The X-ray vision given to us by surfacing hidden context
  • The window to our reality and that of others through accessing Little Voice
  • The ability to hear background conversation and work to separate facts from interpretation
  • The ability to transform concerns into requests

Like many people who have been through one of our programmes, Dorothy’s journey sees her step up to the challenge in front of her and operate in a very different capacity than we would expect.  She becomes a true leader.

She interacts with a diverse range of characters. She becomes someone who enrols others (The Scarecrow, Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion) to join with her on her journey. She listens to their conditions of satisfaction, clear that, although they are different from her own, their ultimate objective is the same:  they all wish to see the Wizard. In this way she effectively forms a team around her, committed to a common goal. Her journey becomes their journey and together they overcome many obstacles to their success.

But there is success!

In the end, the Lion gets his courage, the Tin man gets his heart and the Scarecrow gets his brain and they all grow from the experience and are permanently transformed.

Dorothy gets her wish too and returns home. Back to her comfort zone. And of course, that’s wonderful for her, she’s only twelve and that’s where twelve-year olds should be.

 

“There’s no place like home”

 

And there’s the rub.

The pull of familiarity is strong.

Dorothy set out on her journey with the intention of returning back to what she knows.  She takes the tools and operates differently to get past this difficult period and then slides comfortably back to what she knows.

We all do this. Whether it’s backsliding on a New Year’s commitment to lose weight or deciding to return to the way we thought about and did thing before we knew a different way.

We’re only human.

But humans are powerful and it’s all about choice.

On one hand, we may choose to take on our journey, transform and continue to grow after achieving what we thought may be impossible and on the other, how driven we can be to just get to the end of the journey and go back to the way things were before.

So what do you choose?

Can anyone hear heels clicking together?

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