The Answer is the Stick

Many of you probably read the title of this post and thought this would be some diatribe about discipline or punishment.  Nope.  A few days ago, something amazing happened.  Joining the ranks of Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly, Silly Putty, Barbie, and the Atari 2600 in the National Toy Hall of Fame was the unassuming stick.  That’s right, the stick.

The stick might be the perfect toy come to think of it.  It is cheap.  Always available.  Easy to use.  Does not need instructions not assembly.  The stick, can be anything we want it to be.

So the answer is the stick.

Before you swear off this site and vow to never return, let me explain some lessons we can learn from the lowly stick.

  1. The stick is simple.  We all want to complicate things.  We want more features, more data, more input, more analysis, more…more…more.  The stick is simple.  It is just a stick.  One of the first lessons I learned from an early mentor was K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid).  And lucky for me, he believed it.  “Simple processes are easy to do, complicated processes are not”…he would preach.  “Make it easy to do a good job.”  “People quickly understand what is simple, so keep it simple.”  “Only make it as hard as it has to be, then look for ways to simplify.”  I can almost hear his voice ringing in my head years later.  The stick teaches us that simple is good.
  2. The stick is inclusive.  In a world of all shapes and sizes, colors, races and ages, diversity is critical to the success of an organization.  The stick is inclusive.  No one is left out.  No one is left behind.  We have all played with a stick at some point and if you wanted to go play with one right now, you probably could.  Even animals play with sticks.  Dogs love sticks.  In a world filled with differences, the stick teaches us to be inclusive.
  3. The stick can be anything we want it to be.  A sword, a cane, a bat…anything.  The stick teaches us to think, to be creative.  To make something out of nothing.  To use our mind to create matter.  The stick shows us all that with a little imagination, we can take great journeys with just…a stick.
  4. The stick shows us that design matters.  In order for something to be simple, you have to design it to be simple.  For something to be functional, it has to be designed that way.  So from now on, every time I experience a door handle in an inconvenient place, or telephone hard to hear, or shoes that hurt to walk in, I will think of the stick.  Simple, elegant, functional and flexible in its design.
  5. The stick has been around for awhile and yet after a long, long time of being the toy of generation after generation it finally received its due recognition.  And thus, the stick teaches us about persistence, sticking to it and never giving up.  Allot of people create success simply by being determined.  The stick teaches us to “stick it out.”
  6. The stick teaches us to have fun.  Pick one up, make it your fishing pole or your scepter or the bat that hits the winning home run.  The stick teaches us to imagine and play, to dream, to go on journeys far away.  The stick shows us that what we do can be fun, whether it is life, work or play.
  7. There is a good chance if you are walking through the park with someone and you pick up a stick and begin to play with it, they will do it also.  How many sword fights did you have as a kids with sticks?  How many rounds of “hit the rock?”  The stick teaches us to be interactive, to be social, to use the tools we have to connect and begin to have conversation, dialog, fun.  The stick may have been the first ever “high touch, low tech” social networking tool.

The lowly stick deserves their entry into the National Toy Hall of Fame, as it teaches us more about life than most of the other toys it now resides with in Rochester, NY.  I guess I still hear the words of my early mentor ringing in my ears.  His desire to keep things simple, design things to work with ease and his persistence to achieve that outcome.  In addition my own head rings with the thoughts of inclusion, creativity, imagination, fun and play (the ultimate social event) the stick has brought to my life.

So when things do not seem right…simplify, work on design, include others in the challenge, get creative and have fun overcoming the obstacle.  Isn’t that what the stick would do?

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