• Nevin Danielson

Do it for the Data

A long time ago, I had a blog titled “Proceed Until Apprehended.” Don’t bother searching. I quit paying the hosting fees a while ago.

Proceed Until Apprehended is a philosophy with more edge to it than I actually believe. Maybe for marketing, the title is OK. As advice, it suggests more conflict and more belligerence than I think is helpful. You can probably learn and grow from your actions long before someone actively stops you.

Here’s a less catchy, more reasoned title:

Take initiative and do what you think is right. It won’t be a perfect answer, so embrace what you learn to get even better. Whatever you do though, don’t censor yourself preemptively.

Can you even get a URL that long?

In my last post, one piece of advice was Do it for the Data. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Getting data has been a compelling reason for me to start sharing these thoughts instead of theoretically thinking that sharing is a good idea

Here’s some of the data I now have because I made that post:

I look forward to more data, but I have already received positive feedback, saw that the length was reasonable and actually resulted in a few people willingly choosing to follow me for future content. I also saw the traffic results of sharing that post on other social media.

Do it for the Data isn’t just advice for doing something in public. Internal to your organization, any place where you’re discussing valuable actions instead of doing them, there’s a cost. Our abstract, predictive, thoughtful, reasoned discussions about what we should do are at the expense of the timely, rich, accurate and instructive information we would be receiving if we proceeded with our earlier decision.

I’m expecting a defensive reaction here. Some of you are pointing out that operating on our very first instinctual reaction is extreme. We’re experienced, thoughtful people that can do better. I agree. However, over-planning without action isn’t right, either. If we’re not in balance, it’s almost always because we’re overthinking and over planning.

Perhaps we can ask some questions to find a better middle ground.

  • What negative results might happen if I take an imperfect action?

  • What benefits do I miss if I delay taking action? Do those risks outweigh the benefits?

  • How can I mitigate those risks and still take quick action? [Hint: Telling your colleagues you’re trying something new might dissolve ALL risks.]

  • How will I listen and react to the results to refine and evolve the solution?

I’m going to tag this post with Holacracy. Even though most of you don’t know what that is, I can’t post much longer without talking about this system of organizing our work. This post is about shipping first, learning and responding quickly. That principle is a fundamental driver of Holacracy.

Holacracy (and more generally, principles of self-management) help us objectively look at how we work and organize to better access the creativity, energy and ownership of everyone. We have some strange, traditional expectations of who knows the best solution. That might keep us orderly and predictable, but it leaves a lot of potential value hidden and unused.

I definitely use Holacracy and self-management ideas to challenge and improve my own effectiveness. I coach them to my colleagues for personal performance and organizational effectiveness, too. The advice may feel foreign and unnatural, but I have to share it. It’s too powerful. Perhaps you could say I just need to proceed until I’m apprehended.

ps. Want a crash course in Holacracy? You should begin and end your search with Chris Cowan, EdD., MDiv.

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