A world famous magician and master showman,
He did this by setting up shows in local jails.
Before coming into town, he contacted the local officials to put on his demonstration in a jail and invited local reports and photographers to capture the drama and excitement on paper and film.
Houdini would have himself locked in the jail cell, shackled in handcuffs, wearing not much more than a mischievous smile.
The consummate showman, Houdini would make a grand show of the task of freeing himself from his shackles, unlocking the cell door, and escaping at the final moment on the countdown clock.
Once freed to excited applause, he let the crowd and reporters know which in which theater he’d be performing even more exciting feats than these.
Because of this show, Houdini routinely played to packed houses.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
Houdini was in a small town jailhouse. The press came out. Photographers jockeyed for position to capture on camera the great artist making his breathtaking escape.
He walked into the cell, and all heard the click of the door behind him.
As always, Houdini maneuvered out of the handcuffs in no time. For dramatic effect, he would wait until the last possible moment to click the door of the jail cell and walk through triumphant.
Houdini worked the lock, seeing less than a minute on the clock, he went to open the door.
He tried something else. Again, the door stayed locked.
As the audience’s murmurs became louder speculations that at last the Great Houdini was trapped, he tried every trick he know.
Desperately looking at the clock, Houdini imagined his career coming to an end, in a small town jail cell in full view of press and photographers.
As the final seconds ticked by, in utter frustration and succumbing to hopelessness, Houdini slumped forward, his head pressed against the cell door.
And with that, much to Houdini’s surprise, the door swung gently open. And Houdini, with dramatic flare, forever the consummate actor, exited as though this was all part of the show.
You see, when Houdini entered the cell, he heard a click. He assumed the click meant the door was locked. So, each subsequent time he heard a click, he thought he was unlocking the door, when, in fact, he was locking himself in.
What assumptions do you and your team have that are holding you back?
Recently, I was consulting with a newly promoted director at a health insurance company whose RFP department is experiencing extreme organizational drag.
The company has grown quickly, and as happens often, processes from the smaller company they acquired and their own processes are getting layered on top of each other, instead of closely examining and using best practices from both companies to streamline and support their work.
The solution: Spend the time to examine assumptions.
An unspoken assumption is that the company can continue to have the RFP department work 12 hour days and even weekends.
This is clearly not a sustainable business model, and without change, these valuable employees who are responsible for writing the proposals that literally bring in the business are in danger of burning out.
Whatever your department, this process will help you take a more thoughtful look at how you’re getting your important work done.
Start with the basics and invite a team brainstorming session. This is how we want our work to be. This is how it is now. These are the facts about how our work gets done. These are the assumptions we’re making.
Challenge each other with what people are putting under the “facts” column. This is often where you’ll find assumptions that are keeping you and your productivity prisoner to unfounded ideas.
Crystal Jonas is the “Employee Performance Optimizer.” She helps leaders break free from stifling assumptions and to leverage their employees’ time, talent and energy so they can be more productive in a drama-free workplace.
Leaders, if you’d like some insight into what to do to help your team break through the barriers of false beliefs, contact me to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. You can reach me at 719.291.0366 or Crystal@CrystalJonas.com