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Orienteering (ExPLORE Part Four)

This is the fourth leg of a six-part journey through ExPLORE℠, our powerful, proprietary Expedition framework. ExPLORE℠ blends time-honored principles with historical planning models and methods of the Great Discoverers to help organizations thrive in their bold endeavors.

Orienteering is the fourth step in the methodology of great Explorers. Orienteering represents the path forward. It is the cartography of ideas. We look ahead, we chart, we interpret, we analyze, we predict, we adapt, we measure, we log.

For me, classic Orienteering is the work of Thomas Edison, who with his team developed the electric light bulb. He had his invention factory with many people working to find the best solution. Over time he tested many different potential filaments for the light bulb (Experts say anywhere from 700 to over a 1,000 different options). He did not know which one would work but he learned the properties of many different possibilities and came to an understanding of the relative strengths weaknesses and benefits of them. Edison’s Orienteering took many different paths before he found the solution that was the best.

The hardest part of Orienteering is recognizing that failure and risk are not only part of the process, they are to be anticipated and expected. While Orienteering the Explorer is always trying out different ways to get from where they are to where they want to be.

The grandest parts of Orienteering are the unexpected discoveries. In considering this I look to Lewis and Clark for great examples of great Orienteering. They had a goal to get to the Northwest. They knew some of the rivers, but they were continually listening to the Native Americans, taking guidance from likely sources and unlikely sources like Sacagawea. They were tracking the terrain, the rivers and the mountains to determine the best way to their destination. In doing this they were able to map the land and at the same time discover the flowers and the animals along the way. While they had great expectations, they were open to the surprises and course corrections that would ultimately help them get to their goal.

Today in our organizations we tend to want to find the single best way forward. And why not? Management is about efficiency, effectiveness and the financial bottom line. Yet it’s not hard to see how this often leads to a certain limited homogenization of ideas and isolated groupthink. Remember a few years ago when all of the new model cars coming out of the Detroit started looking the same?

In organizations where Exploration thinking is allowed to thrive, Orienteering allows diversity and openness to creation. New options have the chance to be tested and discovered, bringing benefit to the organization. It is true that Orienteering does not have the efficiency of management, but what it does have is the potential for discovery that allows the unexpected to appear and multiple ways forward to be observed.

Here are several benefits for Orienteering in your organization.

1. Allows new possibilities to be tested. 2. Allows employees to apply innovation with low risk projects. 3. Allows a team to be tested on their ability to deliver results. 4. Discovers new ways forward. 5. Creates the space for curiosity, imagination and wonder in the workplace.

From a timeline standpoint, Orienteering may take a few days, a few months or even multiple years (like testing spacecraft for Mars). The scale of the project guides the timeline.

Two final thoughts on orienteering:

1. The initial Orienteering may not address all the current Pondering and Landmarks that need to be considered. For this reason, in the midst of Orienteering it may be necessary to go all the way back to the beginning of the Explore methodology to consider various factors in light of what is learned on the journey.

2. Great Explorers are always reading the horizon in looking at what needs to be considered, adding new and necessary insight. This insight may occur because of the observation, or from the insight of unexpected counsel like that of Sacagawea. She was never anticipated in their planning, but her insight was critical for the success of the journey.

Orienteering is the journey that gets organizations to their desired discovery, the Realization of their goal. That Realization is the R of the ExPLORE methodology, next, part five.

Don’t miss parts one through three of the ExPLORE℠ framework: Expectation, Pondering and Landmarks.

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