May 23, 2017

You’ve taken on a super-complex challenge with a basic mission in hand: Devise a strategy for positive and transformational change, and implement as much of it as you can, as fast as you can. You have few resources — no fancy gadgets, no budget, no support team.
So how do you survive in this scenario, and more importantly, how do you thrive? Here’s my playbook for making the mission possible and even enjoyable. It’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch. You could write a book about each one of these tips — and many have — but it’s a place to start, a way to get you unstuck.

1. Keep Perspective

Think of yourself as a participant on a season of Survivor. View the journey ahead as a game that can be won through smart alliance-building. Every challenge you encounter will offer you a chance to problem-solve. Recognize and seize each opportunity that comes your way.

2. Take Small Bites

Break your mission objective into a set of smaller projects. When one project stalls, put it down and focus on another exercise. Over time you will achieve measurable success.

3. Start Now

Recognizing that big projects take time to materialize, start the most complicated parts as soon as possible to make sure you get to the finish line.

4. Build Alliances

Leverage the work and efforts of other innovators around you. Collaborate where you can and look for ways to add value to existing initiatives. Many hands make light work.

5. Develop Stakeholder Maps

Identify all those who will have influence on your progress — who will support you, and who might be more skeptical. Find ways to work with the skeptics to win their support, or navigate around them.

6. Build Your Persuasion Muscles

Be prepared and methodical about how you pitch your ideas to stakeholders. Use the SCARF framework and leverage what we know about neuroscience by appealing to people’s desire for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

7. Invest In Relationships

Offer to work on things that people around you care about, even if those tasks are not in your mission plan. Shared goals will build trust and develop solid working relationships.

8. Do Some Homework

Find inspiration in the biographies of pioneers you admire. And if that isn’t your cup of tea, try reading these books: Power: Why Some People Have It — And Others Don’t; Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World; and Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries. They may help you flesh out your game plan.

Good luck!


Rob Henning is a FUSE Corps alum, and currently serves as Assistant Director at the Chief Administrative Office of the City of San Francisco.