When we gather in a conference room with our smart and creative colleagues to tackle a problem, what is the typical directive by a free-thinking manager? Think big! Think outside of the box!
Perhaps we should contemplate turning that paradigm on its head. All around, I’m seeing examples of “thinking small,” and for this outdoor girl, it’s resonating.
How many times have you said, “D’oh! I wish I would have thought of that”? Nine times out of 10, you’re pulling a Homer Simpson not because the idea in reference is of some massive number on the scale of enlightenment, but rather because someone solved a minor, daily inconvenience. The biggest ideas are often borne from thinking small.
Case in point. The cycling industry is scrambling to find ways to encourage more women to ride bikes. (For that matter, just about every industry that values its future is seeking out ways to engage more women.) Do we design women’s-specific bikes? Yes. Do we reflect values more typically associated with women in our marketing materials? Yes. Do we hold seminars, women’s-only rides and sponsor women’s pro teams? Sort of.
Are these sweeping efforts working? It’s debatable.
Then along comes one simple, small-minded (said with all compliments, naturally) solution. The organizers of one of the most badass hill climbs in the U.S. are asking all cyclists to encourage women to take part in one event – the 2014 Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb. The race director, who happens to be a woman, references the greater push to involve more women in cycling. But by focusing on one identified event, she breaks the issue down into chewable chunks. I have next to no influence over the male to female ratios of two-wheeled enthusiasts, but I certainly can encourage all of my female friends to set the Mt. Evans Hill Climb as a goal for 2014. It’s localized. It’s specific. It’s measurable. And, it’s personal.
Check out the organization’s newsletter that details the effort here. I especially like how they acknowledge two ends of the spectrum. First, the organizers tap into our competitive side by mentioning the male and female course records. Admittedly, there’s a fair gap, but why can’t I be the one to close it?
Second, they recognize that this monster climb may not be in the wheelhouse for every casual cyclist. “Not a mountain goat?” the newsletter says. “That is fine but you can help by using your voice and spreading the word. Who do you know that could embrace this climb?” This relaxed, skillful wording doesn’t demean anyone’s cycling efforts if they’re not into climbing for 27.4 miles. It simply and effectively encourages them to pass along the info to a woman who may be. And, I add subjectively, the overall approachable tone of the note makes it easy to imagine that the Mt. Evans Hill Climb will be added to hundreds of “goal” lists everywhere for 2015 and beyond.
So gather your intelligentsia and creatives for whatever challenge you’re facing. And think small.
By Brook Sutton