Tips, Videos, Handouts

Let people change plans

On a little footpath outside his local library, Craig explains how the library didn’t plan on making the path but they built it anyway. Because that’s what people wanted! And Craig explains how that was a good move. This video is all about giving ourselves permission to not plan too much and to change plans once they are made.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey, it’s Craig Freshley here. This is my local library, one of my favorite places in town. I want to show you this path. Can you see this little path I’m walking along here? This didn’t use to be a path. In fact, when they first designed and built this library they didn’t plan on a path being right here. This whole little area along here – this was a little patch of lawn.

So, they had this piece of land here and I think the plan was that people would walk along the sidewalk, take a left and go into the library. But here’s what happened: after they opened the library, people walked here and it turned into an ugly dirt path because people didn’t want to walk all the way up and around the corner. Now, the library could have made a thing about this, they could have put a nice little sign here that said “Please keep off the lawn.” But they knew what would happen, people would still walk along this little path, because look – it’s a shorter way from here to there. They could have made a stronger sign, they could have said, “Keep off the lawn, police take notice.” People still would have walked here and it would have been an ugly dirt path. They could have put up a fence around this little grassed area to try and stop people from walking on the lawn.

But instead they decided to build a path and make it look nice. Do what the people wanted. It’s pretty cool and now it looks really nice and anybody who wants to take a little shortcut instead of going up to the corner and around has a beautiful little path to walk along.

So what does this have to do with good group decisions? Well for one thing, I am here to say that if you’re making plans and building stuff, go only as far as you absolutely have to. If you don’t have to put in the footpaths right from the get-go, don’t. Hold off and see what works best. There are a lot of things like that in a lot of the plans that we make. If stuff doesn’t have to be done right from the get-go, hold off and see how people use it, make adjustments along the way, leave things to the last moment as much as you can.

Another important principal at work here is: If you have to change the plan, do it. The most important thing is not ‘sticking to the plan’. It’s making things that are useful and that people enjoy. And that’s what they’ve done here at the library. They didn’t put up a fight about it. Instead they said, “Okay, that’s not going to hurt anybody. We’ll make that into a really nice path.”

So a couple lessons from the footpath at my local library. Thanks for letting me make this little video for you, and here’s hoping that you help your group make good decisions.

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