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The Burning House And Innovation


If your house was on fire, and you had to grab five things to save from the flames, what would you save?


Most people aim for the sentimental if you apply this to your home; precious and priceless items; photographs, jewellery, etc. since there would be no guarantee that it would survive. Then there is the emotional weight to consider, do you have animals? Of course you can trust those you live with to make their own way out, within reason, you can wake your kids up, your partner etc. but your cat isn’t necessarily as reliable, so you have to sacrifice something for the cat. It’s a matter of impulse.


I spoke to my colleagues about this idea and they responded with the following:

Imogen, our content writer, said that due to having four dogs, she would have to grab them, and with just one more thing left to take, she would choose her birth bear, relying on her sister and parents to grab other sentimental items such as photographs, or jewellery.


Alternatively, Lolly, our illustrator, said: herself and anyone else that may be in the house, of course. She followed this up with car keys, money, and photographs if she could get to them.

The logic behind this scenario is highlighting that, everything else can be replaced, or have its survival on the line.


Shelley Kramer of Talent Culture suggested that by applying this to your business, you would be able to work out what was the foundation for growth within your company. So, if your business was on fire, what would you salvage? Computers? USB drives? A diary? The calendar? A notebook from a desk? What do these things mean within context of business?


Theoretically, if you were to struggle to unplug your laptop, run down however many flights of stairs just to make sure your work survived, this could mean many things: you value your work in progress, and the rate of progression. You have your eyes on the future and value the rate of upward progression in your field, your industry, etc.


Equally, you can interpret saving a USB drive as having your eyes on the past. You want to make sure you have access to records, retain knowledge of your mistakes and pitfalls to prevent them. You are practical, and have gone for portable organisation, as opposed to racing downstairs with a laptop under your arm. You acknowledge that the nature of your work is just as much hindsight as it is foresight.


Then the diary: if you took hold of your diary, you can argue that your attention is focussed on the idea of retaining a professional approach, your contact details for clients you may have to reschedule with etc., details of appointments and commitments that you had planned. Retaining a level of control and professionalism whilst your office is in flames demonstrates an approach to work that is centred around efficiency.


A calendar is similar, it may refer to deadlines across departments; who is in the office when, who has meetings, is anyone coming into the building from external organisations which may need to be rescheduled.


But what about the notebook: a notebook could be filled with margin doodles, meeting minutes, brainstorms, it could contain limitless ideas and thoughts. There is no guarantee that this mysterious notebook has anything to do with work within its pages. Perhaps it is just a series of to-do lists from a colleague with poor time management skills, or maybe, it was someone else’s: that quiet brilliant mind, who is constantly scribbling in different coloured pens.


Taking the notebook means you are a risk taker. You have no guarantee that this random notebook on the table has anything that has value inside. But, saving it from the flames means you are willing to gamble on something brilliant being hidden in plain sight.


Everyone in your workplace works differently, although they may all have the same, or similar roles: Helen has a colour coded obscenely neon pink diary, covered in post-it-note reminders of what she has to do. The book appears to be coming apart at its spine, but, her entire working day is there. The man opposite her, Larry, is the opposite; his desk is ridden with clutter, papers covered in coffee cup rings, and the paperwork tends to be creased, as if he’s rolled over it on his spinning chair.


But just as easily as the next big idea could be stuffed within the pages of Helen’s colour coded daily diary, it could be under the wheel of Larry’s chair, stained with coffee and creased. Does that make it any less credible, outside of aesthetics? No.


Of course, we do not wish arson upon our businesses, but, in this entirely theoretical situation, we can simply encourage you to pick up the random notebook from between table during the fire alarm.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com

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