McDonald’s Theory

This is brilliant!

I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s.

An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge. Magic!

It’s as if we’ve broken the ice with the worst possible idea, and now that the discussion has started, people suddenly get very creative. I call it the McDonald’s Theory: people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.

This is a technique I use a lot at work. Projects start in different ways. Sometimes you’re handed a formal brief. Sometimes you hear a rumor that something might be coming so you start thinking about it early. Other times you’ve been playing with an idea for months or years before sharing with your team. There’s no defined process for all creative work, but I’ve come to believe that all creative endeavors share one thing: the second step is easier than the first. Always.

Anne Lamott advocates “shitty first drafts,” Nike tells us to “Just Do It,” and I recommend McDonald’s just to get people so grossed out they come up with a better idea. It’s all the same thing. Lammott, Nike, and McDonald’s Theory are all saying that the first step isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. Once I got an email from Steve Jobs, and it was just one word: “Go!” Exactly. Dive in. Do. Stop over-thinking it.

The next time you have an idea rolling around in your head, find the courage to quiet your inner critic just long enough to get a piece of paper and a pen, then just start sketching it. “But I don’t have a long time for this!” you might think. Or, “The idea is probably stupid,” or, “Maybe I’ll go online and click around for—”

No. Shut up. Stop sabotaging yourself.

The same goes for groups of people at work. The next time a project is being discussed in its early stages, grab a marker, go to the board, and throw something up there. The idea will probably be stupid, but that’s good! McDonald’s Theory teaches us that it will trigger the group into action.

It takes a crazy kind of courage, of focus, of foolhardy perseverance to quiet all those doubts long enough to move forward. But it’s possible, you just have to start. Bust down that first barrier and just get things on the page. It’s not the kind of thing you can do in your head, you have to write something, sketch something, do something, and then revise off it.

Not sure how to start? Sketch a few shapes, then label them. Say, “This is probably crazy, but what if we.…” and try to make your sketch fit the problem you’re trying to solve. Like a magic spell, the moment you put the stuff on the board, something incredible will happen. The room will see your ideas, will offer their own, will revise your thinking, and by the end of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, you’ll have made progress.

That’s how it’s done.
Jon Bell
Do you agree?

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Expert Generalist

Just read a fascinating article entitled Picasso, Kepler, and the Benefits of Being an Expert Generalist. I was attracted to this because as much as “expert generalist” sounds like an oxymoron, it’s exactly who I think I am. I have always had the personality of “jack of all trades” and been even called a “renaissance man.” And as much as that sounds nice, it’s one of the most frustrating things. Because a “jack of all trades” is a “master of none.” Because a “renaissance man” is known for just being a “renaissance man” and not for what they actually do.

It’s frustrating because even though there are many things that I enjoy and God’s even gifted me in many areas, I feel like there’s not an area or certain thing that I can be excellent in. There’s always a limit to my growth in the path that I’ve tried to focus on. Whether it be music or computers or ministry or whatever … I feel the limitations more than my competence. The other frustrating thing about it is that because there’s not one thing that you’re excellent in, you don’t stand out … you don’t become the expert in that area. When I tell others about my frustrations, they sometimes tell me, no you ARE a master at this or that. But that’s just because I might be better at it then them. To be a master of anything, it takes focus. And so to focus on many things is actually to focus on nothing.

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