loren Eric Swanson: Red Stilts--Are you having any fun?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Red Stilts--Are you having any fun?

At the last Leadership Community gatherings in Dallas and Big Sur, John Handy told the story of how he named his company "Red Stilts" (http://www.redstilts.com/). It's named after a Dr. Seuss book called "The King's Stilts." John tells the story below but today I got an visual application of a externally focused church team that still knows what it is to play at work. John told a story of the fun they had at Mattel...how one time, while a muckity-muck was on vacation, they drywalled, painted an weathered over his office door so when he returned to work, he couldn't find his office. This was Grace Fellowship Church's application towards their team leader.... (By the way, I don't want this kind of fun pulled on me....that included finding my cell phone within a Jell-o mold!

Red Stilts

I want to tell you the story about the statue of David. It has to do with implementation. It is 14 feet tall. It is in Florence. It is a very large piect of marble. it has been in florence for a long time. Many have tried to do something like this. People said it couldn't be done. Michaelangelo looked at the stone and decided that he could sculpt it. What he did was mark up the stone. At one moment he took a giant chisel and hit it hard. That was the moment of commitment. Following that the vision was unfolded with several hits on the chisel. This is encouraging to me. When I am on the edge of doing something huge, ubt you just need to make the first strike of the chisel. It all starts with that first strike. It is scary, but only you can do it ant you have to do it by taking a chance.
My card is red stilts. At mid career i had an experience. I was on a roll with my group. We were growing fast and flourishing. We went off on a big trip and innovating. I grouped people together and asked people what they thought about what was going on at Mattel. I heard fear. They were afraid of layoffs, and other things. I had reached the point of ceasing to have fun at my job. I wondered how I could figure it out. I could no longer see the passione on the faces of our people. My boys were 4 years old. I got home and Corrine told me that
The Kings Stilts. There was a king who was busy all the time. He had a kingdom with everything going for him but it was below sea level. Held back by dike trees. Misery birds pecked away at the dike trees. Patrol cats guarded the dike trees. The king looked forward to the end of the day when he would run across the kingdom in red stilts. He did it for himself. The people saw the happy king every day and concluded that the kingdom was in good shape because the king was at play. Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Carter was a workaholic and worried all the time. Reagan seemed to spend a lot of time at his ranch fixing.
One of his uncles took the stilts away from the king, and put him back to work. The people began to worry again. The nephew came back and renewed the joy of the kingdom.
This same thing had happened to me. What I did was buy a bunch of the books and he gave them to everyone to read. Gave the assignment to read the book, written in 1932 and write up a book report and come back to talk about it. We decided to change the culture of the company to where they would make it fun. As leaders he challenged people to grab their own red stilts. Ford flathead engine driven motorcycle. He wanted to build it from scratch looking like 1940's technology. Build it from scratch. A bunch of folks at the company joined in on the effort. The hotwheels project was very excited about this project.
they then converted the design space and let each group design their own work space. Did it without permission. 1940 gas station with cars parked in it.
One group built a matrix set in their workspace.
One group built a treehouse to look like a 7 year old built it.
Find a way of injecting red stilts into what you are doing to show people that you are having lots of fun doing whatever you do.


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