April 9, 2009

Puddle Avoidance

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , at 1:16 am by lindaslongview

standing-on-carAbout 20 years ago when I was in graduate school, one of my pet peeves was the inconsiderate drivers who would park in the pedestrian walk area (not a parking spot) near the door of the parking garage that I often walked through to get to the chemical engineering building.  Maybe the drivers of those parked cars couldn’t find a parking space or maybe they just preferred the spot nearest the door, I’ll never know.  What I did know is that when it rained, those cars blocked the only puddle-free path to the door.  Although I am certain that those drivers did not intend to require that pedestrians trudge through deep puddles, it was their lack of consideration for unintended consequences of others’ (pedestrians) that drove me crazy (short view thinking).

When the puddles were deep enough (and I just could not navigate the path without getting wet), I resorted to walking over the car to get to the door.  I just stepped up on the back bumper, walked over the roof of the car, down the hood and stepped off the front bumper, arriving dry at the exit door.  One of those times when the puddles were deep, my prospective father-in-law accompanied me and as I walked over the parked car blocking the path to the door – I startled him with my boldness.

My father-in-law recently recounted this story to me and admitted that at that moment, he had loved my boldness, but it made him think twice about me (the implication being that my action had been too risky, too out-of-bounds, too unconventional). This story reminds me of the fine line between boldness, a positive characteristic, and out-of-bounds (OOB), a negative characteristic.

In the leadership of emerging technology, this tension exists deeply, because leaders must be capable of unconventional ideas, transformational thinking, and boldness.  However, because most organizations (rightfully) believe that their employees are their strength, it is imperative that leaders be seen as approachable and capable of working well with others. So even though leadership in emerging technology requires unconventional ideas, transformational thinking, and boldness, it also requires considered, rational, and reasonable actions – otherwise it will be a lonely path forward (no followers). Leaders must then be capable of discerning bold v. OOB.

As time has passed, I have gotten much better at distinguishing bold v. OOB. However, given my proclivity to the unconventional, my passion, and my intensity, I still occasionally check strategy with an honest friend (the ultimate long view principle – think before you act!).  One thing that I have learned is that navigating the fine line of bold v. OOB, means that if you are not sure, it is probably OOB!  Thus, my long view advice is when unsure, check your strategy with a friend/confidant and be willing to soften and/or withdraw based upon honest advice.

P.S.  I don’t walk over cars anymore.  😉


  1. Ed said,

    You are just amazing! My application of Bold vs OOB is 60%-40%

  2. Topsy-Techie said,

    See now, want to know something interesting?…The thought of walking over the car would never have even occurred to me. But I probably don’t have a bold OR out of bounds bone in me! 😉

  3. Deborah said,

    Wonderful picture of you climbing those cars…
    For me the only true way to know the difference between bold and OOB was to test those limits (Then be sure to listen to my internal reaction.)
    “Uneasy” = OOB and “At ease” = bold.
    I’ve grown to hang in bold more. Listening (to myself, or a friend) has made all the difference.

    • lindaslongview said,

      Great compass: uneasy vs. at ease. Thanks for sharing!

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