For me, a lot of the fun of a vacation is the planning. I enjoy mapping out fun activities for the family, finding places to go that everyone will enjoy. Of course, the actual experience is rarely exactly what I imagine. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes much worse.
Wednesday found our family on the road. We left Chicago in early morning, avoiding traffic, but also allowing enough time get to our stop for tubing on the Mohican River in Ohio. Tubing is an activity our family has enjoyed before. Picture it: a sunny day, a meandering river, splashing, lounging, stopping to swim in calm spots. We’re always sad when we get to the end of the trip.
Wednesday was different, though. The temperature hovered just below 70. Drizzly, grey. But we planned our itinerary around this stop. We had reserved a cabin on the river; pushing on toward our ultimate destination would mean forfeiting the price of our night’s lodging. Despite my husband’s suggestion that it might not be the best day for tubing, we pulled on our bathing suits, grabbed our tubes, and stepped onto the van that dropped us off upriver, about a two hours tube ride away from our cabin.
It was a bad idea.
The drizzle turned to a downpour. On a hot day, the cold water would have been welcome refreshment. On a cooler day, it felt frigid, and no one wanted to stop to swim. By the time we finished our two hour trip, my daughters’ lips matched their purple life vests. In an attempt to get down the river faster, my husband and I walked through the shallows, and I slipped on the rocks, cutting and bruising my leg. There was whining, and not just from the kids. It was a miserable trip.
As we went down the river, I was thinking about good ideas gone bad. On vacation, in every day life at home, or in business, it is important to know when an idea should be abandoned. Otherwise, we create miserable conditions for ourselves, our families, or our organizations.
Lots of ideas start out sounding good. Remember New Coke? Tweaking a good product to make it even better sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? But more than 20 years later, we are still drinking the classic formula. Coke avoided disaster by knowing that it was okay to abandon a good idea turned bad.
Polaroid started out manufacturing polarized sun glasses in 1937. Eleven years later, they sucessfully shifted the entire focus of the organization to a new great idea: instant photographs. In 2001, after Polaroid declared bankruptcy, Forbes predicted: “Unless Polaroid is bold enough to follow through big changes, its brand name will become a faded picture.” Sounds accurate, doesn’t it?
In order to stay relevant, we need to know how to abandon an idea. As leaders, we are probably not accustomed to giving up on plans, but sometimes reason needs to overcome persistence. We need inuition about timing for change. When presented with real evidence that our plans are not likely to succeed, we need to be flexible enough to try something else.
For our organizations, sticking with a bad idea will likely have consequences worse than a banged up knee and purple lips.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.