Life is like an Etch A Sketch

Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life“.

Oscar Wilde.

During this pandemic, my “Screen Time” stats, like most other people, have spiked up significantly. With almost no in-person meetings, our screens have become our sole means of interaction with others – family, friends and co-workers. What a dystopian existence.

As a kid, one of the very first “screens” I had was an Etch A Sketch – named as one of the 100 most memorable toys of the 20th century.

A quick check on Amazon confirms its lasting legacy. Based on etching an aluminum powder coated screen using two mechanical knobs, each controlling a stylus, it afforded me hours of safe, low tech creative play without suffering digital eye strain.

The beginning of a new year is like flipping your Etch A Sketch upside down, shaking and then, turning it right side up again with a clean slate. A blank canvas. A fresh start.

Some adroitly finesse the knobs to fill up that canvas with a plethora of resolutions.

Some stare at that blank canvas for a long time. Hesitant to touch the knobs to make any resolutions lest they fall by the wayside when the calendar turns to February.

Some turn one knob then the other knob and back again waiting to see where their fingers will take them as they continue to turn the knobs. Content with whatever emerges.

The great thing about Etch A Sketch is that redo’s are easy. Everything is etched in aluminum powder, not in stone.

Does art imitate life? Or does life imitate art? Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

What does it matter? Just start by turning the knobs and see where it takes you.

What if we applied the same thinking to business?

I can think of a number of Etch A Sketch candidates from the business world.

  • Project charters
  • Team charters
  • Value stream and process maps
  • Kanban and Scrum boards
  • Business model canvas
  • Change canvas

These business activities all share some great attributes:

  1. Powerful questions
  2. Collaborative
  3. Shared meaning
  4. Visual
  5. Dynamic

What would it look like if we were to Etch A Sketch these business activities? Imagine crowdsourcing the knob movements by collectively and collaboratively considering, answering and debating some powerful questions. The result would be a shared sketch for all to see. And the best part – it can change with another turn of the knobs.

So, if the start to your new year has not been great, flip and shake your Etch A Sketch vigorously to start over again.

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