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Design, Human-Centered Design, Innovation

The Titanic, Dinosaurs and Burning Platforms


Thank goodness for Peter Fuda. More on that in a moment.

For the past decade, the “sky is falling” change management approach seemed to be THE way.  The sky did seem like it was falling, and it was a quick way to get employees and organizations to rally around a new concept, initiative or change. And it worked…for a time. But then the sky kept falling more and more, faster and faster, and with little fanfare the sky was perpetually falling.  Without exception,  gloom and doom ruled.

“We’re dinosaurs.”

“It’s like trying to turn the Titanic.”

“Can we link this to a burning platform?”

If innovation is the breath of fresh air to build new, valuable stuff, the burning platform is the life-sucker that stole the joy. I wish I was the one smart enough to know this.  But alas, it wasn’t until two years ago when my friends at the National Health Service Helen Bevans and Lynne Mayer (now at Ko Awatea) introduced the ILN.org to a poweful youtube video by a researcher named Peter Fuda.   (Please watch it and share widely). He laid the foundation of moving from “burning platform” to “burning ambition.”

Now I have to admit one of my fabulous fails. Ten years ago I proudly used the burning platform metaphor, and didn’t even use it correctly.  I thought a burning platform was an intensely important political issue (as in a plank in the Democratic platform).   However I actually used the image of a real burning oil rig platform for the presentation.  Indeed as most of you know the oil rig is the metaphor. And it’s a dark, scary, death-y one to boot.

And so, two years ago I stopped using it. Then lo and behold while teaching at an innovation event it reared its ugly, fiery head. An attendee shared and asked, “Fear is our motivator.  How are we supposed to get stuff done if there isn’t a burning platform?”

Its a good question, and paraphrased, here is my response (knowledge courtesy of Fuda):

The “burning platform” is only a metaphor.  Its not real. We are not on fire. We don’t need to jump off a real burning platform into the dark freezing ocean.  It is a paradigm shift; an intellectual choice to view our current challenges from a different len and with a different metaphor.  You can choose any lens or metaphors you want.  But why are we so sure that fear is the only tool we have?

So let me say loud and clear:

We are not the dinosaurs.

We are not on the Titanic.

We are not on a burning platform.

Our asses are not on fire.

 

We are working really hard to make a difference in the lives of patients and the people who serve them.

We are making healing and wellness the best it can be.

We are doing this work with our hearts, minds and souls.

 

It’s our Burning Ambition, not a Burning Platform.

 

Thank you, Peter, for shattering this fear metaphor.

 

 

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