It’s a beautiful day in Austin, Texas! We’ve left a chilly and grey Michigan and gathered with iDashboards users from all around the country to discuss best practices, swap success stories, and share key insights. We began on Monday night with a happy hour on the rooftop at the Westin Downtown, and then a down-south feast over at Cooper’s BBQ. It was a great way to kick up our boot heels and get to know each other in advance of the more formal presentations.
We began the day with Trip Dixon, our Operations Director, who set the stage for the conference and helped us get oriented. We categorized our sessions this year with the designation of Mild, Medium, or Hot (just like the hot sauce we’re all enjoying down here in Texas). This was a fun way to organize sessions, and let our users know how complex and technical they could expect the presentation to be.
Our keynote, Mike Rayburn, is a classically trained guitarist who has become a world-renowned speaker, comedian, and recording artist. He began his presentation wordlessly, with a gorgeous guitar riff, playing just the neck of the instrument. It produced a hauntingly lilting sound that filled the conference hall and mesmerized the audience. He stopped, and said with a devilish grin, “I just played that… because I could.” We knew right away this would not be any ordinary speech.
Our brains are constantly asking questions, trying to analyze our surroundings and prepare for survival and success. Sometimes these questions can be helpful, sometimes they can send us spiraling, but Mike focused on one simple question that we can all ask ourselves (and each other), no matter the situation.
This question has some super powers, as it turns out. One of these powers is the ability to continue a conversation that otherwise would have been closed. “We can’t do that.” “That’s too expensive.” “We don’t have the resources.” Or the classic, “it’s never been done that way before!”
Mike introduced us to the concept of “conditional surrendering.” You can concede that an idea is crazy, impractical, or dang near impossible. Still, asking “what if we could?” allows for ultimate creativity, because you can release yourself from the consequences or impractical action, or the bounds of what you thought was possible.
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“What it” also helps you look for reasons you can do something, not the reasons you can’t. Letting “bad requests” (the ideas that you might immediately reject) be your inspiration. For Mike, that meant letting the drunken requests of the jerks at the bars he used to perform traditional blues and rock inspire him to make hilarious parody songs of popular music. When he let go and decided to have fun with these “bad requests,” it opened up a whole world of expression, performance, and opportunity. Plus, he has a whole bunch of fun doing it.
Mike’s story is a great example of embracing the possibilities of change, and the power of “What if?” What if you played Who Let the Dogs Out like a country song? What if Bob Marley sang Garth Brook’s classic “Friends in Low Places?” What about Bruce Springsteen singing the theme song from “Green Acres”? What would it sound like?
Turns out, not bad, and pretty hilarious too.
Approaching problems with this “What if?” question is particularly effective. Not only does it allow you to keep an open mind, it also opens up the levity in a problem. You can throw out absurd ideas without the judgment of having to make them reality. So often we approach problems with a closed mindset, defeated by their inevitable insolvency. By asking “what if… this problem was actually an advantage,” you change the fundamental order of things. The problem is no longer scary and in charge, you are!Click To Tweet
Mike had asked us at the top of the presentation to think about an idea. Any idea, crazy or not, that could be shared with the group at the end of the speech, would be made “worth your while.” He wasn’t joking! When our client Julie raised her hand (not a little meekly) and shared her thoughts, he rewarded her with not only a package of his music, but a beautiful blue guitar, inscribed with (of course) “WHAT IF?”!
My main take-away from Mike’s presentation is this: If everyone thinks it’s impossible, and you’re the only one who still asks “what if,” you’ve got a truly unique opportunity to make a difference. Whether that’s seizing market share, finding a solution to a problem that’s stumped your colleagues, or writing a song no one else could, this simple question opens up a whole world of possibilities.
What a great way to start off a day of learning and exploration! Stay tuned to the blog this week for more notes and insights from #iDashboards17.