Blue Skying

Trish - Winchester, Virginia
Entered on July 21, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: creativity
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It has happened more than once. The staff presents an idea to the library board—one on which we had labored mightily. All eyes in the room look at Dave, dreaded Board member!

Dave says it again, “Let’s blue sky this one.” He is asking us to think outside the box—again.

This time, many staffers as well as a few other board members worked on the plan to move out of our old library so it could have a complete renovation. The group concluded the only way to move everything to the new temporary library was to close down library service for two weeks. We had developed a staging plan to unload 150,000 books off the shelves, take down the shelves, move everything, and then put shelves and books back up. We were immersed in the details of taking down, moving and then re-installing computers, furniture, equipment, and service desks.

Dave says he wants us to find a way to be open during our monumental move. I am torn. I do not want to close down all city library service for two weeks. But we are doing this move without hiring outside help—how much can staff and volunteers do?

In the past, when we explained the impracticalities of ideas to board members, they accepted our view. If the staff is not willing to adopt and implement an idea, Board members will drop it. And after exposure to the staff’s judgment and long experience, they don’t volunteer new ideas quite as often.

Not Dave. After hearing all our objections to changing course–listening patiently to the long list of tasks ahead and our worries about the cost of another facility, he says, “Well, let me noodle on this.” For most folks, such a remark is a way to save face and let the idea die.

Not Dave. In a few days he calls back. “I’ve found a location for a small branch that can be open while you move. Not only that, but it can remain open during the entire renovation to take some of the overflow that will not fit in the temporary library. This space is at the mall, and I have convinced mall management to keep the rent low. I know there isn’t much room in the budget, so I’ll pay the first few months rental. Let’s talk about what you need to make this happen.”

I’ve been steam-rolled again—by a great idea, by a great leader.

But this time I get it. It’s not the wild ideas, the blue skying, the outside-the-box thinking that drives me wild. It is being left alone with someone else’s great idea.

Creativity is wonderful when we collectively roll up our sleeves and figure out how to make it work. Give me more Daves because now I believe in Blue Sky leaders!