This morning I went to see (again) a Wow Project in the backyard of my friend Gerald. It’s a long winding garden path of stone walls, trees, fountains and surprises. He started it 16 years ago as a “creative expression, more than anything else,” he told me. In contrast with a typical (mediocre) backyard, this makes you say, Wow!… over and again.
If you do nothing else this week, read a single article, The Wow Project, written almost 15 years ago by Tom Peters for Fast Company. If you’ve already done that, re-read it, remind yourself. It may be the most important thing you’ll read all year.
The idea: take on some drab assignment no one else wants and turn it into something that makes people say, Wow! Or you may have an idea you’re passionate about, at work, at home, anywhere. How can you turn that into something amazing?
“Project work is the vehicle by which the powerless gain power. Forget about “empowerment programs.” Instead, volunteer for every lousy project that comes along: Organize the office Christmas party. (Turn that dreadful holiday party into an event that says, “Thanks for a terrific year!” to all employees.)”
Wow Projects can range from cooking a meal to Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt movement in Kenya that planted 50 million trees. They show up in many Tom Peters books. You are, he says, the portfolio of your Wow Projects.
Every assignment or mundane task—a board presentation, an annual report, expanding your reading, that bare spot in the yard where nothing grows—has the potential to be a Wow Project. When you decide to turn one into something cool, something “Wow, Beautiful, Revolutionary, Impact, Raving Fans quality,” you’ve begun, your brain is in a new mode.
Peters offers some starting points:
- Ask if the project is worth taking to wow project level? Does it matter?
- “No project is too mundane to become a wow project”
- Constantly observe, learn to identify potential Wow Projects
- “Use superfast approximations to refine your Wow Project… The fastest, smartest way to get your project defined and refined is to practice the art of quick prototyping.”
Which of your tasks are you passionate about? Which have promise? How can you make them pop and sizzle?
The point, says Peters, “is not to do a ‘good job’ of managing the project that your boss dumped into your lap. It’s to use every project opportunity that you can get your hands on to create surprising new ways of looking at old problems.”
“Project work is the future of the company waiting to be discovered. Somewhere, in the belly of every company, someone is working away in obscurity on the project that 10 years from now everyone will acknowledge as the company’s proudest moment. Someone is creating Java, designing the iMac, reviving the VW Beetle, engineering the Mach3. Why isn’t that someone you?”
See expanded page here.
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