Repeat

If you only try something once, you’ll never get good at it.

How can an institution organize work to be generative?

In the past few weeks, I have suggested that overinvesting in the young and making jobs small enough to do and big enough to matter are keys. Other generative practices might include organizing a work team with people from diverse backgrounds or offering employees time to work on whatever they want, as Google does.

Whatever is on your list, one key to moving from a good idea to generative organization is the practice of repeating.

I work with creative, visionary leaders who are able to translate big, important ideas into action. In the process of implementing these ideas with creative and resourceful teams, I have learned the importance of doing things more than once. The mantra is, “if we do something only one time, we will never get good at it.”

As a mid-level leader, I invite colleagues to define the core activities needed to accomplish a visionary idea. Do we know how to do those activities? If so, we are ready to go. If not, will we have a chance to learn the activities and practice often enough to get good? If we don’t know how to do something, we can always look for a partner who already has the capacity.

In “Change or Die,” author Alan Deutschman writes that repeating is one of the three factors that help individuals and organizations make lasting change; the other two are relating and reframing.

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule also comes to mind. He rejects the “innate” genius myth and implies that perseverance is a key character trait of people who do remarkable, creative work. He argues for practice, practice, practice.

Repeating seems so simple.

Yet it can also seem boring.

But repeating isn’t about mechanical repetition. It is about practicing a skill so often that, when the time comes to use it, it is second nature. Those who preach once a year, for example, experience the thrill and terror of the moment. But those who preach every week (with the proper amount of time off) can get into a rhythm that can lead to excellence.

What are the activities in which you and your organization engage that, if repeated, can be fuel for organizational generativity?