Curiouser and curiouser – lessons from Alice

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Have you ever felt that you had to work really hard just to stay in the same place? Like a duck swimming in a current. Above water looking effortless and somewhat nonchalant. Underneath the water paddling like your life depended on it.

I see many organisations feeling this especially now. We’ve never been able to predict the future, but now the only certainty is uncertainty.

There is a need to think differently about how to solve some of the problems that we are facing. In uncertain times I believe that there is even greater need to work in collaboration with businesses, local communities, entrepreneurs and charity partners to achieve our shared objectives.

What road do we take?

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”

The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Perhaps it’s just as well that we are all paddling really hard and staying still, because in our experience many organisations are not entirely sure about where they are going. Or in some instances some teams and departments are clear on where they are going, while others are just paddling and others are heading in a completely different direction.

The end result is that we all feel like the Mad Hatter (not good).

The first questions we ask when working with clients are, ‘Where do you want to go?’ and ‘What does success look like?’ It should be a basic question but the Alice in Wonderland quotes really chimed with us because often people and organisations don’t know where they are going, or different departments have different ideas about what the final destination (i.e. success) is.

It’s all very well for Alice. We can’t just disappear down a rabbit hole and eat cake and turn up again later and hope everything will be alright.

If any of the Alice quotes resonate with you, our advice is;

  • Stop running (or paddling) – Take time to think about where you are going. This is really difficult, you might drift backwards briefly, but it will make for better results in the medium to long-term.
  • Go back to basics – reassess what you are there to do. What is your core purpose? Stop doing anything that is not helping you to achieve it.
  • Involve your team – make sure they understand their core purpose and they also reevaluate anything else that are doing that is not helping them achieve it.
  • Check with your management team that you are not running in conflicting directions. And if you are – stand still. Regroup. Work through the difficulties. Start off again, this time all in the same direction.

And if you’d like some help with focusing on success then get in touch at 

2 thoughts on “Curiouser and curiouser – lessons from Alice

  1. “I rarely end up where I intended to go but I often end up somewhere I needed to be.”

    When I’m in search of wisdom I pretty much always reach for my bible. My bible is the complete works of Douglas Adams, of course. 🙂

    Do you think it’s possible that the question of where you want to go is maybe the wrong one to begin with? It’s like asking a child what they want to be when they grow up. It’s impossible to answer that question properly. I mean, how on Earth would they know?

    I think we’ve always had an assumption that as we get older we gradually get clearer about where we are going and that one day it is possible to answer that question. I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption. I’m not sure, even if it were a safe assumption, it would be the right thing to do.

    My main thing is creativity and I tell my clients that creativity is about being able to work with what you have, no matter what that is. Maybe instead of trying to go somewhere specific we need to work on being good at dealing with wherever we end up?

    We can have ideas about where we’re going but too strongly held these ideas become blind spots. We miss the opportunities in front of us because we’re on the look out for something specific. Maybe we need to get good at the journey and worry less about the destination?

    As George said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

    1. An excellent bible 🙂

      Perhaps the question is what makes you happy? I guess it depends on the organisation you work for/in but unless you have some sense of what success looks like, then how can you do the activities that help you get there. Success/where you are going might change along the journey and getting better at dealing with where you might end up is important too. I don’t think that we all have the assumption that we get clearer as we get older, in my experience the more we learn, the more we are curious about the world the more opportunities are presented and more indecision can occur. I agree that there is massive value from being comfortable with ‘not knowing’ – especially working in/with creativity and innovation, ( but, for me, I believe that there must be a purpose – a destination that you are aiming for.

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