“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
“Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city.
Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.”
James and the Giant Peach
Ok. This is about dreaming and business.
Suffice it to say, someone needs to be talking about dreaming because dreamers have been having a tough time of it for a while. Shit. I could argue dreams themselves have had a tough go of it.
Pragmatism is the ‘watch word of the day’.
In business, ROI, optimal effectiveness & efficiency is more important than imagination, attaining fullest value & effectiveness.
Reach for the stars? No way. You need to think “attainable.”
In addition the outside world seems to get crazier and crazier and more chaotic which encourages the majority of us to just hunker down and get shit done. It encourages us to not only NOT think about dreaming, but even worse: “why dream? I just need to figure out a way of surviving.” It just doesn’t seem pragmatic to dream <note: it never has>.
All that said. I have two thoughts today.
The first is the increasing importance of businesses to an individual’s dreams, and dreaming, and the second is just about dreaming itself.
Ok. The first.
I believe the business world is going to start playing an incredibly important role with regard to the future of dreaming. In fact. I believe the successful business organization of the future will be a ‘dream incubator’ rather than the current, more pop culture popular, ‘purpose drive’ organization. And I say that as a ‘purpose driven organization’ believer.
Let me explain.
The outside world, as I have noted earlier, doesn’t really seem conducive to dreams and dreaming.
The inside world, your job and business Life, is becoming more and more focused on the daily grind and meeting the needs of the grind. In general we are getting squeezed, but dreaming, in particular, is getting suffocated.
This means there is little space in-between the outside world and inside world for dreams and dreaming. This is where I believe business steps in and maybe sharpens its elbows and creates some space for individual people to remember having dreams can be good and dreaming can actually be a good thing. Businesses can step in and remind people that there is big value in pragmatism and personal responsibility in doing a good job AS WELL AS there may be an equal value in placing a dream or two within the pragmatic ‘do what you need to do’ Life — it kind of adds some rich & royal hues to what could be a duller palette.
Let me address the practical aspect of business and how the idea of ‘dream incubator’ can fit because a shitload of shortsighted business people are going to suggest they have no desire to have their employees “dreaming” — they want them focused on doing their jobs.
Purpose was offered as a glue to hold together, and align, functional behavior <departments & responsibilities> of an organization while providing a deeper value to instill in attitudes & behavior. It certainly offered a version of a North Star from an ethical & moral standpoint, but its true objective was to take the place of ‘vision’ in a pragmatic business world seemingly devoid of anything but functional outcome driven behavior.
Good intent. Good objective.
My belief of ‘dream incubator’ is less functional driven, but rather attitudinally driven. My belief is that in a world in which dreaming is not being encouraged a business which encourages you to pursue your dreams WITHIN the business itself will be rewarded <attitudinally, functionally & profitability>.
My belief is that employees, in general, are not driven by their departmental function <which is actually more the ‘keep your head down and do what you need to do’ daily grind> but rather by their dreams which can come to life in a variety of ways — $, ideas, innovations, making an impact on the bigger world and … well … let me even suggest “perfection.”
<please note: this is a simplified version of a more complex organizational idea which I have shared elsewhere, in other words, I know there are more layers to this concept>
Perfection, in general, is a shitty concept. That said. Some people dream of operational excellence. They get frustrated with politics and missteps and the normal inefficient behavior of a normal organization. These are the ones who offer up the zany process changes which, as a manager, you look at, screw up your face and think “Jesus Christ, what a mosh pit this would be to implement.” And, yet, these are the same zany changes which the organization most likely NEEDS to do to step up from where it is currently running. They dream of process.
It would be naïve to ignore the fact some employees are financially motivated and that their dreams are tied to more material aspects. They want money and things and your objective should be to inspire them to dream for more and be the organization which can enable their dreams to come true <within the construct of whatever is construed as ‘fair play’ within that organization>. They dream of some tangible things.
Some people dream of thinking … and thinking up ideas. Imagine a business which encourages the people who like t come up with ideas actually helps their ideas come to Life — even if they do not directly apply to the business itself.
Here is a secret a lot of good business people know. While we love to talk about focus and ‘staying in our lane’ and the danger of less-than-strategic expansion, the truth is that a business can accommodate a shitload of different lanes if they are actually good lanes <and good ideas>. I know when I managed groups while I needed people to focus on what they needed to do … I always encouraged them think about new ideas and talk to me about their ideas – even if it didn’t have shit to do with what we actually did to earn our living. Why did I do that? I could offer a dozen reasons but suffice it to say that it offers them a valuable sounding board for whether they have a viable idea or not <which they liked & appreciated> and I would get the brain working on non-related shit <which invariably gets you thinking about your related shit differently — and I liked that & appreciated it>.
Plus. People like thinking about their dreams even if they can’t actually do them. They dream of intangible things (that maybe someone else can make tangible).
I don’t need to say anything about this. This is obvious. The best innovations are usually a reflection of smart dreaming.
Ok. The second. I believe we need to remind ourselves on occasion that it is okay to dream and dream often & big. Remind ourselves that relentlessly pursuing a dream can be inspiring, not discouraging.
Being a big dreamer doesn’t mean that you walk around with your head in the clouds. It means that you have a purpose. A big purpose that makes your life bigger and fulfills some promise within you. Of course … as usual … the key is to find a balance. Think ground and clouds (I actually suggest feet in the clouds and head on the ground).
Maybe think about it as being pragmatic with no guardrails. A contradiction? Sure. But big dreams are a contradiction. As a practical relatively pragmatic human race we would never have them unless some of them defied the odds and actually came true.
Yeah. Some really do happen.
I like the thought of business accepting the role as a dream incubator and actually re-energizing the human spirit toward dreams and dreaming.
I like the thought of a business being a ‘dream incubator’ is fulfilling a role life & society seem to be abdicating.
I have always been a huge proponent that business should accept a larger role in driving societal norms & mores and, in this case, I actually believe that in doing so the business acumen & success is rewarded. As Drucker said, “In, and of, society.”
Can you imagine how many resumes a business would get if it said “we want you to make your lives extraordinary, help you make your dreams come true, because if you do … we believe our company will be extraordinary.”
Dead Poets Society:
“Make your lives extraordinary.”
Originally published June 2016