In the pursuit of your Big Audacious Meaning, I’ve professed that there are three things you absolutely must have. Humility, empathy, and wonder. Let’s talk about that last one.
Wonder is the ability to look at the world through childlike eyes. It’s the ability to find amazement in what others may see as mundane things. It’s an incredible innocence that opens us up to the world.
When we were kids, we were full of the stuff. Life then was filled with discovery. Backyard expeditions. Amazing things just around the corner. Life was wonder-full.
Somewhere along the way, we got in a big hurry to grow up. Christopher Robin leaves the hundred acre woods. Peter Pan trades in his sword for a briefcase and career ambition.
And we were willing to let the wonder go in what seemed like a fair trade to pursue this new adventure. ‘Adulting’ as my twentsomething kids would say.
But it wasn’t a fair trade. The price was too much to ask. We too quickly left behind something that was more valuable than we could ever realize.
Is there value in wonder?
We live in a data driven frenzy. We can parse and measure our actions with unprecedented speed and accuracy. We quantify our every move. And use it to define the world we now inhabit.
This isn’t to say that all this hasn’t had great benefit. It has. That’s not the point. It’s not a judgement of what we have gained in our advancement. Rather, it is question of what may be overshadowed by the technological strides that we continue to take at an accelerating pace. It is a question of what we may be pushing aside.
In the mad rush to quantify our every move, we may be giving up a little too much of our humanity. We may be leaving wonder behind.
We don’t often think about the value of wonder. There is no metric to evaluate its contribution. So grizzled leadership teams dismiss it as a baseless factor. It becomes some messy and emotional unknown that makes everyone a little uncomfortable because we can’t put it on a spreadsheet.
Yet, think about those moments when a business — a cold and unemotional entity — has brought us to the brink of tears. Or shared a thought that has made our hearts skip a beat. Taken our breath away. Or, given us goosebumps. At the core of those experiences is wonder.
It could be something that shakes us out of our malaise and reintroduces us to a little bit of the magic in the world around us. It could be a thought that helps us rediscover something revelatory about the relationships we share. Whatever it is, it opens our eyes. It removes blinders. It helps us return to that state of wonder that we lost, yet we are so desperately drawn to.
These are the moments that businesses desire. They want us to have a visceral reaction at the very mention of their names. They want us to become fans, advocates, and even evangelists for them.
That kind of feeling doesn’t emerge from a spreadsheet. It doesn’t magically appear when you recite your litany of features. It arises when you reconnect us humans with that thing that we are all longing for. A sense of wonder.
What wonder releases
Wonder helps spark two pretty awesome things. Inspiration and optimism.
First, let’s talk about inspiration. Without wonder, it’s impossible to open ourselves up to the really world-changing possibilities that we could embrace. Wonder helps us see the world without the restraints of cynicism. It frees us to explore areas we may have fenced off or discover things we may have overlooked. Imagine a brand aligning itself with the good things to come or reconnecting us with those forgotten things that bring us real joy. If we desire game changing ideas, then we must find the courage to allow ourselves to embrace a sense of wonder.
Then there is optimism. Wonder engenders an incredible positivity. Optimism is a powerful force. It can help us envision greater things. It can strengthen resolve. Most of all, it can unleash enthusiasm and energy. That’s the kind of thing that can transform prospects into evangelists. And help an entire organization go farther, faster.
Care and feeding
Returning to a state of wonder is no easy chore. The idea of it may run counter to the way we have lived our business lives over the years or even decades. But there are a myriad of ways for an organization to foster it. Exploring mindfulness has become a trending method. Practicing gratitude is also a way to ground ourselves and open the door to wonder. There are plenty of other approaches as well. It doesn’t take too much searching to uncover all kinds of ideas you can put to use.
But, recognize this. Wonder is fragile. If an organization is going to harness its power, it has to believe in it. It has to nurture it. Cynicism can crush it. Indifference is just as dangerous (leaders who don’t buy in can kill it by just going through the motions.) It takes strong leaders to help everyone believe that their sense of wonder is valuable. And powerful.
Help everyone believe that and you’ll find yourself in awe of what you have created.
Dan is an expert brand strategist and creator of the Big Audacious Meaning. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life. He regularly shares his insight here on Linkedin and at dansalva.com.