“Why it’s simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don’t you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing’s impossible!”
~Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
Obviously impassible and impossible are similar sounding words. On the surface, they have similar meanings. And, in a world where achieving objectives equate to results, they can be interchangeable. But, is assuming that achieving results the same as achieving objectives correct? Is the destination identical to the process? If solving a specific problem does not equate to achieving the ultimate objective, then impassible and impossible are just two characteristics that unfortunately look and sound similar. Yet, they are dramatically distinct!
Like many of us, Alice had a problem. She had to pass beyond a door to continue her journey. The other side of the door was not the objective. It was merely a problem to be solved on her way to Wonderland. It was a step in a process toward achieving a much more significant, yet less tangible objective. The objective was Alice returning home with a new sense of self-actualization. Wonderland was only one step. So, how did she discern impassible from impossible?
Distinguish the Problem from the Objective
Problems are opportunities looking for a solution. Physical, mental, and/ or emotional obstacles block reaching these solutions. But, problems can be overcome by changing the variables. Imagination, attitude, and curiosity can manipulate variables to reveal an answer. However, reaching the objective requires solving multiple problems and a commitment to a process. Keep focus on the objective.
Objectives Require Algebra, Not Arithmetic
Ordinary managers assume that linear cause and effect relationships get desirable outcomes. This leads to solving problems with arithmetic. The approach assumes the problem solving tools are already known. However, impassible problems are attacked with algebra. Variables, unknowns, and processes must be comfortably manipulated. Trial and error is welcome and necessary. Leaders who regularly achieve meaningful objectives trust processes and have confidence in possible solutions regardless of degree of difficulty.
Change Your Assumptions
Trusting in the algebra to calculate a solution provides leaders with the freedom to creatively approach any step that may lead to the objective. If the path meets an obstacle, then change an assumption and try again. Leaders who subtly change perspectives from impossible to impassible often benefit from more attempts and more success. Such leaders eventually shrink the girl to pass through the keyhole.
The most valuable lesson that Alice teaches is that solutions are available. Enough creativity exists to achieve more objectives than anyone can imagine. In Alice’s case, she accepted the fact that she could have a conversation with a door. Her challenge was believing that she could proceed beyond a closed door.
Extraordinary results depends on extraordinary thinking. Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Thus, great achievement often requires innovative approaches. Alice’s constraint of walking through a door, stunted her progress. A completely out-of-box idea of becoming small enough to fit through the keyhole was the breakthrough idea to continue toward her objective. Alice’s experiences affirm that impassible is not impossible. Impassible is just part of the process.
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond