March 07, 2024 •

8 min reading

Leave room for magic: A powerful personal and business strategy

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Do you find yourself aligning more with the team of “organized” individuals, thriving on meticulous planning, or do you resonate with the “spontaneity" of the team that embraces the unexpected?

In our fast-paced world, where productivity and efficiency are often prized above all else, it can be easy to forget the importance of leaving room for some unscripted, unplanned moments. These are the moments where the magic happens. In this article, we will delve into understanding why and how I believe, we should leave room for magic, both in our personal lives and in business.

Frequently, people commend me for my exceptional organizational skills, a trait that admittedly brings me a sense of pride. However, it also elicits a certain discomfort.

Why, you might wonder?

Allow me to explain: In the complexity and stress of modern life, a sentiment amplified by the presence of COVID-19, I, like many others, can easily feel overwhelmed by the myriad tasks that demand my attention—or at least, I perceive them as such. Recognizing this, I realized early on that maintaining a high level of organization serves as a valuable tool to keep my anxiety in check.

Consequently, I embraced the use of calendars, to-do lists, reminders, and other organizational tools to effectively address and mitigate my inherent tendencies towards disorganization. In my quest for order, I found myself adopting a bit of Monica Geller's flair from Friends, taking her meticulousness as my own. Much like Monica, I became a cleaning enthusiast, embracing precision and order in my surroundings. I shared her obsession with keeping things in designated places, a practice aimed at avoiding forgetfulness. Even her secret messy closet and her unwavering loyalty to friends were aspects I identified with, finding humor and relatability in her character traits.

However, these traits also bring along challenges when faced with chaos or unpredictable events that disrupt this meticulously organized world. While society may view these traits as highly functional, they come with a certain inflexibility. In instances where we fall short or are unable to meet the high standards set by ourselves, it can trigger feelings of stress, a sense of unaccomplishment, and more. Similar to Monica, each of these valuable traits can sometimes work at our expense, highlighting the delicate balance between order and the adaptability needed to navigate the unpredictability of life.


The concept of magic

When we talk about 'magic', we aren't referring to pulling rabbits out of hats or levitating objects. Instead, we're talking about those moments of serendipity, spontaneity, and unexpected discovery that light up our lives and our work.

Cultivating an environment that encourages these magical moments has the potential to foster greater creativity, spur innovation, and enhance personal satisfaction. It's about embracing the beauty of the unpredictable, finding joy in the unforeseen, and allowing room for the enchantment that unfolds when we least expect it.

"The magic is in the mess." - Brené Brown


Leaving room for magic in business

In the business world, magic can represent the moments that happen outside our scheduled meetings and structured processes. These are the moments that can't be captured or repeated, but have the potential to be transformative. This might look like a spontaneous brainstorming session during a morning coffee between colleagues that leads to a breakthrough idea, or an unplanned conversation that sparks a new collaboration.

But can we also encourage more of these magical moments? I strongly believe we can: by creating opportunities for them to occur! This might mean leaving some blank spaces in our schedules, being open to deviating from our planned agendas, allocating time for brainstorms and team reflections, or being present and attuned to the needs and ideas of those around us.

However, we are forced to notice that this is not always the case in many organizations. Why? The most accurate answer I could find is: it is simply not part of their culture!

This magical culture should certainly incorporate some of these aspects:

Encourage open communication: It implies fostering a culture of open communication where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, even unconventional ones. Within teams, it can take the shape of regular brainstorming sessions or virtual suggestion boards where team members can freely contribute ideas.

  • Embrace diversity: Recognize the value of diverse perspectives and experiences. A diverse team brings various insights, increasing the likelihood of innovative solutions and unexpected breakthroughs.

  • Promote flexibility: Allow for flexibility in work processes and encourage adaptability. This enables the team to respond effectively to unforeseen challenges and take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

  • Provide autonomy: Empower employees by providing autonomy in their roles. When individuals have the freedom to explore and experiment, it can lead to the discovery of innovative approaches and solutions.

  • Celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities: Create a culture that views mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement, rather than as failures. This mindset encourages experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Create collaborative spaces: Design physical and virtual spaces that encourage collaboration and spontaneous interactions. These spaces can be conducive to idea generation and creative problem-solving.

  • Incorporate play and creativity: Integrate elements of play and creativity into the work environment. This can include team-building activities, creative workshops, or designated time for unstructured exploration.

  • Acknowledge serendipity: Recognize and celebrate moments of serendipity and unexpected success. Highlighting these instances reinforces the value of leaving room for magic in the business process.

  • Support continued learning: Foster a culture of continuous learning, encouraging employees to explore new skills and knowledge. This can lead to unexpected intersections of expertise and innovative solutions.

  • Encourage cross-functional collaboration: Facilitate collaboration across different departments and functions. This cross-pollination of ideas can lead to novel perspectives and innovative problem-solving.

By incorporating these strategies, businesses can create an atmosphere that not only embraces the unexpected but actively encourages the magic that can fuel creativity, innovation, and overall success. Ultimately, leaving room for magic in business is not about relinquishing control but acknowledging that, sometimes, the most remarkable achievements emerge from the unexpected and the extraordinary.


Leaving room for magic as a personal motto

When we're working on a project or tackling a problem, be it personal or work related, it can be tempting to keep pushing until we find a solution. However, sometimes the best thing we can do is to step away and let our minds rest. By doing something completely unrelated, we can give our creativity time to percolate and regenerate.

“Studies have found that after a period of mind wandering, the mind makes more creative connections between bits of information you already know.As for the shower? It's kind of the ideal epiphany incubator. Not only does the warm water elevate your mood, you focus your attention inward.”

It requires commitment, at first, to creating an open and flexible, space where the unexpected can unfold, before it can become a guiding principle. Not that easy for over-organized and over-prepared people like me! Yes… Usually, over-organization and over-preparation go hand-in-hand.

Indeed, meticulous planning is my forte. Whether orchestrating a family getaway with meticulously researched destinations and pre-booked tickets, or navigating a work project with a methodical approach to every step, I thrive on organization. Yet, there are instances when my penchant for control impedes the potential for genuine engagement and shared experiences.

In both personal and professional settings, being overly prescriptive can stifle the sense of adventure and discovery that enriches any journey. Participants, be they family members or colleagues, may feel more like passive observers than active contributors. Embracing the concept of creating space for magic involves relinquishing some control and nurturing an environment where others can participate in shaping the experience.

So, how do we cultivate these conditions? Here are three essential responsibilities:

  • Understand what 'magic' means to each group you're serving. Recognize that the definition of magic varies among individuals, and tailor your approach accordingly.

  • Engage the group as co-creators of the conditions conducive to magic. Encourage collaboration and invite input from all stakeholders to foster a sense of ownership and empowerment.

  • Allocate dedicated time and physical space for magic to manifest. Allow for spontaneity within the framework of your plans, and be open to unexpected discoveries along the way.


Overcoming the habit of over-preparation

Overcoming the habit of over-preparation requires a delicate balance between readiness and allowing space for spontaneity to flourish. While meticulous planning can instill confidence and ensure readiness for important projects or meetings, excessive preparation can become a hindrance rather than an asset.

Drawing from the principles of the Marine Corps' 70% Rule, which emphasizes that: “You take action on any decision when you have 70% confidence in the success of the decision”, we can apply a similar mindset to our preparation process. Instead of striving for absolute certainty, we can aim for a level of preparedness that allows for flexibility and adaptation when necessary. This approach saves time and creates opportunities for unexpected magic to unfold.

Here are some strategies to help combat the tendency to over-prepare:

  • Track your time: Take stock of how much time you allocate to preparation tasks and evaluate whether it aligns with the importance and complexity of the project. This awareness can help you streamline your preparation process and avoid unnecessary time sinks.

  • Have a partner: Seek input from a trusted colleague or mentor who can offer an objective perspective on your preparation efforts. Their insights can help you gauge whether your level of readiness is appropriate or excessive.

  • Determine your triggers: Reflect on the situations or factors that trigger your inclination to over-prepare. Whether it's pressure from a demanding client or a fear of failure, understanding these triggers can empower you to address them proactively and adopt healthier preparation habits.

  • Create a framework: Develop a preparation framework that outlines the essential elements to cover while leaving room for flexibility and improvisation. This framework serves as a guide to ensure thoroughness without succumbing to unnecessary detail.

  • Rip the band-aid off: Challenge yourself to enter low-risk situations with minimal preparation and observe the outcomes. This hands-on approach allows you to test the validity of your preparation habits and discover that not every endeavor requires exhaustive preparation.

In conclusion, embracing the concept of leaving room for magic is not just a whimsical notion; it's a powerful strategy for both personal and professional development. By creating space for spontaneity and serendipity in our lives, we unlock a myriad of opportunities for growth and fulfillment. Whether you're planning a business meeting, working on a creative project, or simply going about your daily routine, remember to pause and ask yourself: Am I 70% confident in the success with this level of preparation? In doing so, you'll discover new pathways to creativity, innovation, and overall satisfaction. So, embrace the unexpected, cherish the moments of spontaneity, and always leave a little room for the magic.

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Business Development Senior Manager - Consultant at EHL

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