Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the clearest solution is the very last thing you see? How do we become oblivious to the obvious?
I found myself in this exact scenario just recently when I was getting my oil changed. Generally speaking, when I take my car to our dealership it is a several hour-long process. Besides just waiting in a long line to get your car checked in (first come first serve after all), the actual wait time can be an hour or more once they get started. But, to my elation, they recently changed this policy and now perform oil changes by appointment only. So, I chose the earliest appointment possible and planned to drop my car off the night before so I didn’t have to wait the next morning. And while this was a perfect plan, naturally it stood to be foiled.
In a torrential downpour, I drove my car to the dealership only to find its parking lot under two feet of water. I couldn’t get within a block of the establishment. To my utter dismay, the plan was derailed and an early morning drop off became a certainty. Not surprisingly, at 8am the next morning the line to get in to the service department was outrageous. In disbelief and worried that my appointment would be given away, I parked my car and walked into the service department to see if I could just leave my keys and go.
Here is where I recognized how so many of us are oblivious to the obvious (including me). Speaking to a technician, he pointed out the solution–get into the second lane and be the first to enter into the service entrance.
Yes, as I looked out at the line with ten cars deep, I saw the adjacent garage door with zero cars in front of it. All I had to do was drive my car into that lane and I could come right in. Sure enough, I did exactly this. Easy. And not surprisingly, as soon as I entered, I began to see other cars follow suit. By the time I got out, 4 cars had moved over to the lane behind me. I was taken care of immediately and had no more than a 30 minute wait, start to finish.
How is it possible that not a single driver in the multi-car build up recognized the second lane? It’s certainly tough to narrow down the answer. Perhaps those in the beginning of the line simply didn’t notice the second gate. Maybe others assumed that if the gate was available, one of the technicians would have alerted them to move over. It could have been assumed as well that the second gate was reserved for certain services. For me, the line was so far back that I couldn’t even see that a second lane was even available.
In the end, this long line developed out of blind acceptance. It’s easier to follow suit than step outside the norm. And why not? After all, if everyone is doing the same thing surely the alternative isn’t allowed or acceptable, right? It’s much more difficult to take a risk and head down a path that no one else is on. Believe it or not, asserting yourself confidently isn’t as easy or natural as it may seem. Case and point, as I maneuvered my car around the line I couldn’t help but be nervous. I was running the risk of upsetting everyone in front of me, and leaving them agitated with my attempts at bucking the system.
My move served me well though and was, in actuality, a solution that essentially helped the entire group. Interesting how quickly a sour situation can change in a matter of minutes just by making one swift decision. Imagine what else could be done if our perspectives began to blossom and the once not-so-obvious action became the all-too-obvious solution?
Taking risks and embracing failure is a subject matter we often discuss on The Methodology Blog. Consider this advice, direct from the mouths of AccelaWork consultants:
Trusting yourself enough to take risks and experience failure is a great method for achieving success. Thinking outside the box, and realizing that when you mess up it isn’t the end of the world is the only way to ensure you reach the heights you hope to …
Stop following the norm—make a mess, avoid recommended tools, operate out of order. Taking steps such as these can inevitably change perspective and help bring to light processes that may have been overlooked or underestimated.
We may not always see clear solutions to every process or problem, but when we do it’s time to take action and embrace the obvious. Don’t allow anxiety, worry or blind acceptance dictate how your decisions are made and your work is performed. Stand confident and you’ll lead others to do the same.