If you're the type of movie buff who watches "the making of . . ." bonus materials, you're probably also the type of person who is fascinated generally with how things are made. This healthy fascination has become more fashionable over the past few years, with Maker Faires and crafts events growing in popularity.
There has always been a justifiable interest in what it takes to make something from nothing.
Thinking about this can start with the realization that most things we take for granted and even treasure -- wine, basketball, movies, talk shows, music, granola, socks, publications -- do not occur in nature. Nearly every "something" we use in daily life once never existed at all. Even the bowl holding the fruit or the bag wrapped around the vegetables had to be made somewhere. How did these things come into being? Where and how were they made? How did it get here?
Almost our entire economy is predicated on this transformative practice of making something from nothing, yet how this happens is something we don't talk about nearly enough. The Industrial Revolution separated craft from consumption by concentrating craftspeople and automating major craft functions. Factories concealed the act of creation from the outside world, and specialization and automatic processes compartmentalized the act of creation from many of the people involved in the actual work.
International trade and the globalization of the economy has hidden the creative process even better. We don't see where the iPhone is made, or the flatscreen TV, or the laptop. They arrive in boxes on trucks from faraway lands. The only connection to the source is a tracking number.
The need to make something from nothing is a shared need for every organization -- nothing is finished, nothing is set, something is always in need of being created. Too often, however, because the creative process is so well-hidden in the modern world, it's sometimes hard for leaders to realize what it's possible to make from the raw materials they have at hand.
Let's assume there is a leader convinced that an organization needs transformation, needs to make something from nothing. What then?
If you read books and articles from experts in entrepreneurship and creativity, optimism and persistence are two traits often cited as critical to success in making something from nothing. Watch those "making of . . ." segments, and you see this. Film directors spending days pursuing the perfect light, composers spending weeks seeking the perfect chord and sound structures, or business people spending years refining their market and pricing plans.
The hit musical "Hamilton" didn't appear on Broadway all at once. It started off-off-Broadway, was revised and refined until it made it to off-Broadway, refined some more (staging, music, lyrics, pacing), and finally allowed to open on Broadway. By this time, it had been performed dozens of times in various stages of refinement. Underlying such painstaking processes is a certain optimism and resistance to setbacks that can look like patience but really is hope -- hope that a breakthrough is just around the corner, that potential sensed can become potential realized.
Remembering that a primary function of any organization is transformative -- not disruptive, not passive -- is vital to success. And having the patience and optimism and persistence to do the painstaking work of transforming nothing into something . . . having all that hope . . . well, that is still amazing.