When do we fight?

Posted on February 9, 2009




Senior Creative Designer Paul Bennett of IDEO once said a great nugget of wisdom about creative leadership decision making:

Fight the battles BIG enough to matter; SMALL enough to win

This simple concept is a common reason why I see leaders crash and burn. Creative leaders take on battles that are too big to win thus getting frustrated and losing heart. Or they fight the battles that are too small, they get bored and lose interest. There is a misguided optimism towards engaging in the causes that can never be won. Sure there is something to be said about sacrifice, duty, and honor- but my advice, leave it for the war movies. You are a LEADER. By design, you have to lead to win- and lead others to win. Not all the time, but if there are more notches in the loss column versus the win column, something isn’t right. Your need to ask your self:

  1. Is the project big enough to really stretch my abilities, creativity, and leadership. Does it feel like I am taking a risk or does it just feel foolish?
  2. Can I realistically start and finish a project with measurable results? Can I finish it with a sense of excellence and pride?

Re-adjust your criteria, ask a lot of questions, count the cost, take calculated risks, then go for it with passion. So to recap, I’d like to borrow wisdom from the great Vizzini:

  • Never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this:
  • Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
  • Always, fight the battles BIG enough to matter; SMALL enough to win

Also posted at: http://spin.willowcreek.com/c/blogs/arts_blog/archive/2009/03/17/time-to-fight.aspx