Silly Putty and Super Glue

Blog Quote

Each year Fast Company magazine puts out a “100 Most Creative People in Business” issue. I love reading through the descriptions of these individuals’ innovations and approaches to their creative endeavors because they stretch my thinking, and cause me to consider the challenges before me in new and different ways. The experience always brings to mind a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

So what has your mind been looking like of late? Are the dimensions of your perspective the same today as they were three months, six months, or even a year ago? If you had to describe the parameters of your thinking, which term is a more accurate representation — silly putty or super glue? (Hang with me here . . .)

Does your thinking stretch beyond the egg-like shell that originally contained it? Do you have the ability to expand your understanding, your horizons, your sense of possibility to lengths far beyond what one might imagine when first viewing the malleable little ball that is your mind? Do you pick up ideas, impressions, from others and adapt them to create a new picture, and bounce back when you run into walls? Silly Putty.

On the other hand, do you stick with things, unwavering in your commitment? Can you be counted on to hold tight to that which you have been called to do? Regardless of the stress or pressure being placed upon you, are you the one that people rely on to remain strong, to stand tall, and to serve as a yardstick against which to measure their own actions? Super Glue.

Which is better? Wrong question. The answer is an “and” not an “or.” As leaders, I believe we are charged with demonstrating Super Glue tenacity when it comes to our values, our mission, our passion, and Silly Putty adaptability in finding new ways to reach those goals.

Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People are a perfect example of that. These are people who have held fast to an idea in the midst of some pretty significant obstacles/push-back/box-like thinking. And yet, regardless of the pressures they faced they did not waiver from the passion that fueled them. Super Glue. In virtually every case however, they also had to expand their thinking in new and different directions. They had to stretch to find new ways over, under or around some impediment that had deterred others from considering that path to success. Silly Putty.

The best leaders have to be willing to stretch if they want to stick tight to what drives them. Don’t believe me? Pick the best, most accomplished leader you know . . . look closely . . . I’d be willing to bet you’ll find a healthy balance of both silly putty and super glue.