You are probably not surprised that I have been out on the trail again. It is indeed where I put my best foot forward to a creative solution and make space to reinvent myself. Especially now in a uncertain, chaotic world.
Two of my last three outings were to complete the 26-mile Sterling Ditch Trail which snakes around the mountainside of the Little Applegate Valley. At least that is until you get to one particular point – and likely the most popular section of the trail – Tunnel Ridge.
Built in 1877, the Sterling Ditch Trail is considered an engineering marvel of its time – all focused on an economic outcome. Gold.
Turns out that this extraordinary effort panned out to be a $4 million success story at the cost of just $77,000. The 400 laborers that created the hydraulic wonder, however, might express a different opinion if we could ask them today.
It is at this point that I imagine how a physically-tired and mentally-fatigued individual brainstormed a better idea (perhaps) to go through the mountain instead of around it. And today, if you choose, you can still crawl through a 130-foot tunnel to the other side (pictured).
Maybe all that open space created “margin in the mind” to look at the problem differently. I am guessing the white board exercise or a spaghetti diagram was not yet an option there on the side of the hill laden with ticks, poison oak, and rattlesnakes.
Conicidentally as I was crafing my thoughts for this “blog” I read an article (seemingly more like a plea) from well-known author Patrick Lencioni. He suggests we stop over-engineering decisions and noted how in these last few months “many of us have seen more good ideas than ever go from conception to implementation in record time with minimal over-engineering.”
Simply restated: less talk, more action.
SOREDI has been participating weekly in Regional Economic Recovery Team (RERT) meetings, facilitated by local representatives of Business Oregon and the Governor’s Regional Solutions Team. After a few pertinent updates about reopening our economy and timely debriefs from the participants, we move into our roundtable. Our question of the day, which I am passing on to you to carefully ponder: How would re-orienting around creativity or reinvention change your way of doing business?
My response, and that of many others, was not so much on the “how” but on the “why”. Every community, agency, business, and individual must be compelled to think differently.
SOREDI is already forging a different path in response to the pandemic because it is not business as usual. Our daily activities have drastically changed to fit the need that exists today. With reopening upon us now, some businesses may not know just what they need yet. We are listening to businesses, waiting, and preparing to respond. Our current environment demands that we create more physically space for a period. We must see this time as the opportunity to also intentionally create mental space that allows for creativity to flow freely. Many would insist that we cannot go back and cover the same territory again. From a hiker’s perspective, we really do not like to backtrack!
Re-orienting for me, is leading me to say no to back-to-back meetings and appointments. We need to take time to absorb and process discussions and take time to mull over ideas before going headlong into yet another – albeit important – conversation. Our creative genius has been dulled by a needless urgency to create the perfect map or work plan and participate in every meeting for the sake of being a good collaborative partner.
Every trail has a starting point. In my Sterling Ditch meanderings, I needed to tackle the end sections which are the least traveled and require a little more effort to get there. On the drive there, it was a forest service backroad or two through mud bogs and around downed tree limbs. On the path itself, it was trekking through a less than spectacular section adorn by some serious poison oak, with the added surprise element of a rattler or two (within minutes of one another three weeks ago!) to experience the best views.
At some point, you must decide to go halfway and backtrack (say no!) or make it a full loop even if it includes a two-mile jaunt back to the car on a remote graveled road.
Whichever path you are on, there is uncertainty. I hope you will opt for a footpath less traveled and create space for personal and professional reflection and reinvention. Say no to a few meetings – especially when it covers territory you already covered. If you are interested in picking a good read, may I suggest “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni.
Urgently creating space and waiting,
Colleen Padilla, Executive Director