When I used to direct shows I would often refer to my process as organized chaos. I would make sure that my actors knew their guidelines and then I would let them use their own creativity to fill in the rest of the picture. I’d say something like, “At the beginning of the scene you are on the couch and at the end of the scene I’d like you to be by the door. How you get there is up to you.” My actors had a framework to work from and they then made their own choices as to how to accomplish those goals. Years later when I taught English at the High School level, I did the same thing. I’d often give my students group assignments and give them 3-4 things that had to happen during their presentation. The things they came up with were always pretty amazing. My students came up with ways of presenting the material that I never would have thought of. The organized chaos of the presentations was fun to watch and many of my students went on to create even more interesting things over the years. The other day it occurred to me that this process applies to more than those two scenarios. It applies to asking for the things that you want. I discovered:
When you limit other people’s opportunity to be creative, you limit what you can get.
I used to think that if I asked for things in a super specific manner, then I would get the best results. I tested this for a while and sometimes specificity helped me, but what surprised me most was the things that happened when I wasn’t super specific with my ask. Just like my students would always give me mediocre results when I gave them too many guidelines, the people I met would always come up with introductions and opportunities that were nice, but weren’t moving me and my business to a higher level. I started experimenting with asks that encouraged more creativity on the part of the other person and started to see very different results.
The same way I would work with my actors and my students when asking for things, I would give a more general request and let the other person come up with their own answers. One example of this was when I was in a conversation with a new connection and he asked me how he could help me. I said, “I’m really excited about the content I’m creating, and I’d love to get it out to a wider audience. I’d love to hear any ideas you have around this.” He then introduced to me to someone who interviewed me on a podcast which led to more opportunities than I can count. I can also say that my recent Forbes interview wouldn’t have happened if not for that first introduction. If I had asked specifically for interview opportunities, who knows if I would have gotten that particular introduction or if I would have gotten any introduction? Since that time I have made it a point to try and create more organized chaos in the asks that I make. I present a problem or a challenge and ask the person I’m talking to what ideas they have. This has led to an incredible number of opportunities. Just like with my students and my actors, I put my trust in the other person’s creativity. You never know what they’ll come up with.
So if you feel like you are not getting what you want out of the meetings you’re currently taking, ask if you’re giving the other person an opportunity to be creative.
The more you provide a framework and let people play, the more interesting and exciting your results will be.
Go ahead give it a shot.
I’d love to hear what you discover.