Originally publihsed 14th April 2020
I spent much of the weekend in the garden trying to nudge it along from surviving to thriving (I do occasionally try and practise what I preach). I even tried planting some seeds. AS I carved out the trench to plant them into, I started thinking about the difference between a rut and a furrow.
Ruts are a negative thing. To be ‘stuck in a rut’ suggests linear, myopic thinking, devoid of innovation or inspiration, resistant to change. And yet to be ‘ploughing your own furrow’ is generally regarded as a positive thing, suggesting you’ve found the space in which you are at your best in and are performing well,; you’re in the groove.
So when do we go from being in the groove to being stuck in a rut? It’s all about perspective. Which means getting out of your narrow channel and looking at it from another angle.
To be precise, you need to get delirious.
Delirious is from the Latin, delirare which means ‘to go out of the furrow when ploughing’ or, more poetically, ‘to jump the furrow’. It came to be used figuratively to mean ‘to wander mentally’ or, in extremis, ‘to be out of your mind’. Clearly, a word with many negative connotations, but which at its root points towards a behaviour that is vital if individuals, teams and whole organisations are to remain innovative, creative, energised and successful.
Mindful delirium is a wonderful juxtaposition, calling us to manage the tension between two apparently competing agendas, to conform and comply and be consistent on one hand, and to be creative, curious and to challenge the status quo on the other.
Mindful delirium is exactly what we need to practice if we are to remain tuned into possibilities and avoid ourselves getting stuck by groupthink, complacency or fear. It’s exactly what we need to stop us getting over-confident, too well pleased with ourselves or arrogant. Its exactly what we need to keep us energised, motivated and moving forward as we move through the next few weeks and months.
Let me be clear ; this isn’t about kicking off yet another strategic review or feedback session. Invariably these things end up ploughing the same, linear, corporate furrow.
No, this is proper, stepping back, walking away, thinking the unthinkable, asking the question no-one dares ask, looking at it from a completely different perspective. Unless you do that, then you’ll just end up swapping one rut for another.
Only by stepping out of it completely can we properly discern whether it’s a groove or a furrow.
Right now, several weeks into a home-working and lock-down, it’s possible that you and your team are finding your groove. It equally possible that you are getting stuck in rut.
Is it time for you to jump the furrow?
Could your life, your project, your team, your organisation, your benefit benefit from some mindful delirium? Do you need to schedule some time to stop just ploughing on and step back from the doing and ask yourself ‘where and how are we headed?’
Is it time to get delirious?