Create a light bulb moment


I walked out of a client meeting the other day with a lightness in my step. The sun was glinting a little bit brighter and I was smiling.

An organisation I had been working with had just made a big breakthrough. And it had left everyone feeling brighter. More in control. On the brink of possibility, rather than wrestling with perennial problems.

And this was not the first time. Over the past few months I have had the privilege of seeing a number of the socially minded organisations I work with achieve significant breakthroughs.

Sometimes it is a classic light bulb moment. At others, it is more gradual. The people I am working with start holding themselves differently. And there are subtle changes in their language as they begin describing their organisations with a new confidence, talking positively about the challenges ahead.

While every organisation has a different journey to their own breakthroughs, there have been common elements that have helped get them there. Here are the three I've observed.

1. Keep it simple
Sometimes teams just get stuck, and quickly feel overwhelmed : “Everything feels connected to everything else and we just don’t know where to start” or “We’ve tried everything to solve this, but nothing seems to work”.

Paring back the layers of complexity to describe simply the issue, process or choices has huge power. In my experience, the most analytically-able teams are often the ones that struggle most. Steeped in expert knowledge they trade in complexity and caveat every argument. If this sounds familiar, how about drawing the problem or process. Or force yourselves to summarise your options in no more than 140 characters. Try putting yourself into the mind of an eight-year old and ask the simple, open questions they might pose. These small prompts can make a big difference in looking at issues afresh.

2. Shift your focus
Coming into organisations from the outside, I have observed teams how teams can become fixated on a specific concern. One issue soaks up disproportionate attention, time and effort and this just serves to further increase the pressure to find a resolution . And yet paradoxically the more they focus, the less able they are to solve it. In these cases, shifting focus seems counter-intuitive but it works.

This lesson was really brought home to me recently when doing something totally different. I was in a portrait painting class when my teacher cajoled: “Keep painting around the picture and the face will paint itself”. Naturally we fixate on the face. Features matter enormously to us; it is the essence of what makes us human. And yet, focus too much on the face, you end up with an overworked sludgy mess of paint.

Similarly in organisations, the issues that matter most sometimes need to be approach from the side, and not head on. For example, instead of grappling with the wording of a vision statement, try describing instead how you relate to the organisations in the world around you. With fresh perspective, the vision statement you were previously struggling with can be written quickly and without tears.

3. Stop processing, start creating
When information is so readily at our fingertips, the temptation to find out more and more can be overwhelming. And this means you can easily tip into over-thinking the task in hand.

I am great believer in good enough. Yes you need to do the groundwork and do it thoroughly, but when creating a new way of working, nothing substitutes for trying your ideas out. Give yourselves permission to experiment with doing differently, ensuring you take time out to learn as you do so, and breakthrough frequently follows.

If you are looking for help to breakthrough to your own light bulb moment in 2019, then get in touch for a free initial discussion by dropping a line to
Wishing all my clients and readers all the best for the festive season.

Katherine Rake