This week…Be That Pain

Be That Pain!

It’s impossible to imagine the world without his work.

He was just 41 when he witnessed an event that would transform his life and touch every single one of us even to this day.

As he stood in a provincial market town in England, he witnessed a distressing scene not uncommon in those times.

A postman brought a letter to a young woman who refused to accept it and then burst into tears. He asked her what had happened and she explained that she simply didn’t have the money to pay for a letter that had come so far.

Puzzled by so many tears he pressed for more information. It turned out that the letter was from her fiancé whom she hadn´t seen in months and it was the only communication she’d had.

It was 1836 and in those days a letter was paid for by the people who received them according to how far it had travelled. His name was Rowland Hill and the plight of this young lady touched him so much that he determined to do something about it.

In a little over four years, with a lot of ferocious effort, the Penny Black stamp went on sale and Hill’s idea of adhesive postage stamps went on to change the world.

But what if Hill had just shrugged his shoulders or refused to get involved?

One of my favourite quotes of all time is from a Microsoft poster that I saw at a train station.

“At the heart of every innovation is a gigantic pain in the neck. Be that pain.”

Be that pain. In this world of team players and political correctness we seem to forget that most innovations or improvements are driven by the passion of single men and women who won’t let it go.

Hill was in his forties before his defining moment came, his chance to change the world. When you look at his life it’s as if everything he did before then was preparing him for the job of implementing this idea.

But what if he had refused the chance or passed by on the other side?

In many successful companies these days, people are encouraged to innovate, to suggest changes, and to question current processes and procedures. The Japanese call it the spirit of Kaizen or continuous improvement.

But someone has to start it. Someone has to open their mouth. Someone has to be the first one to speak.

What has your life so far prepared you to do? You may not get the chance to issue 68 million stamps but somehow, somewhere we all need you to make a practical difference in the world whether in the world of work or the world of not work.

What moves you as you look around at your workplace? Where are you being presented with the chance to make the innovation that makes the difference?

This week, Be That Pain!