Doin’ What Comes Naturally?


In the Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun, one of the most memorable songs was one called Doin’ What Comes Naturally. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I thought about that song and the idea of doing what comes naturally during a recent webinar delivered by an intelligent, passionate presenter who was doing just that.

His own ‘naturally’ seemed to be about positioning himself as the sage-on-the-stage with webinar participants as his attentive audience. That became clear, when one of his first requests was that everyone turn off their cameras and mute their audio.

At a time in history where there has never been a greater understanding of the need to ensure all voices are heard and partnering and collaborating are being emphasized, I’m not sure his implied shut-up-and-listen was the right approach.

Instead, perhaps we should all be trying to do more of Doin’ What Comes Un-Naturally?

To better explain, I thought about five critical behaviours that used to be unnatural for me but have evolved to become more natural.
1. Cultivate Curiosity.
Even as a young girl, I wasn’t a fan of asking people questions when in essence it meant I was admitting I didn’t have the answers. One of my most important learnings from my futurist colleagues was not to ignore something because I didn’t have the answer or have a folder to file it in. I’m learning to resist the desire to ignore what is new, or what may seem irrelevant, because often these ‘emerging’ or ‘weak’ signals can become important trends. For example, a weak signal in 1993 would have been the Internet. At the time, it was dismissed by most people as being irrelevant.

2. Trust Your Instincts and Intuition.
While education has taught us to believe in research and the facts, the reality is that trends are determined on the basis of evidence and conclusions based on what has already taken place. That means while trends are important, they don’t tell the full story. Even the futurists admit they can no longer predict the future because so many of the solutions we need to respond to complexity don’t yet exist. Individual or collective intuition is another way of thinking and knowing that shouldn’t be ignored. My personal experience with boots-on-the-ground work is that intuitive conclusions were typically accurate several years before the actual evidence was gathered.

3. Make Time for Conversations and Reflections.
In organizations, businesses, or communities, it could be as simple as carving out time to have conversations focused on three questions with both internal and external stakeholders: “What should we (1) stop doing, (2) keep doing and (3) start doing or do more of?” Paying attention to the word-on-the-street is also critical because there is a great deal of too-often ignored insight to be found among our own clients/stakeholders and at the grassroots of our communities.

4. Get Used to Messy and Non-binary Thinking.
It is becoming increasingly rare to find one solution or one best way for resolving complex challenges. Instead, it is more likely to be and/both, rather than either/or. Non-binary thinking requires that you empty all of your folders and find ways of ordering their contents that are a little more flexible and nuanced in order to reveal qualities and opportunities that may not have been readily evident. In many cases, this helps determine one’s values, outcomes, and ultimately strategic priorities for moving forward.

5. Act in a Spirit of Hope.
Believe that you can, and will, make a difference in your corner of the world. While this is likely the most challenging strategy, it is probably one of the most important. It is oh so tempting to play ostrich and bury our heads, or even just stand still. However, it is ultimately far less stressful and far more rewarding to turn toward the future with hope and a positive spirit. Not always easy for sure, and it may not always be Doin’ What Comes Naturally, but it is the most important work we will ever do.

Posted on 02-04-24

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