Of Note...

Brian Remer Receives Award for Lifetime Achievement. Read about it here:

What We Do

The Firefly Group helps people connect their every-day tasks with a bigger, wider sense of purpose and meaning. After working with Firefly, people are energized to attain the mission of their organization and they have a specific action plan to help them achieve their goals.

We do this through leadership development, performance improvement training, strategic planning, and clarification of organizational mission and vision. Our methods are engaging, thought-filled, and results-oriented.

If this sounds like a good direction for your organization, let's talk about how we might collaborate! Please give me a call (802.257.7247) or send an . - Brian


Where Can You Catch The Firefly Group?

THE Performance Improvement Conference (ISPI), Toronto
April 20 - 23

"Performance Improvement
in 99 Words"


Rotary Club,
Brattleboro, VT
May 3

Say It Quick! Presentation


ASTD, Lincoln, NE
May 17

Keynote Presentation and Performance Improvement Workshop


North American Simulation & Gaming Association (NASAGA), Columbus
November 7 - 10

Keynote Presentation, Game Design Certificate Program Leader


Your ETR (Estimated Time to Read): 5 minutes
Your ETII (Estimated Time to Implement Ideas):
5 weeks

Read my new book
Say It Quick!

April 2012

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today
Limits A Foolish Move? A Foolish Idea Be Foolish, Say "Yes!"

Say It Quick

A Fool's Perspective
We often commemorate the beginning of spring by playing foolish tricks. Here are some foolish thoughts about the impossibility of big projects for you to ponder beginning with this 99-Word Story.

Three times a week, that's my swimming goal. The results are better health physically, mentally, and emotionally. But that doesn't mean that I am always motivated. Some days, looking at the end of the pool 75 feet away I feel tired before I begin. Too much work!

A dip in Sweets Pond is different. When I look down its length, I see a half mile of glassy smooth water that feels like satin as I dive in. I could swim forever here, relaxed but challenged!

How easily we allow ourselves to be limited by the horizon we see.



A Foolish Move?
Draw a line east of Omaha and another north of Lincoln. Where those lines intersect you'll find the very small town of Bruno, Nebraska. It's off the main roads surrounded by rich farmland and a tradition of community that's just a fertile.

Nearby, Herman and Donna Ostry owned a farm with a barn near a small creek. Unfortunately, the barn was close enough to the creek that the floor inside was always wet. In 1988, the creek flooded the barn to a height of 29 inches and the Ostrys were convinced that something needed to change.

Building a new barn didn't make sense. Besides being expensive, it would still leave the old barn in the flood zone. Moving the barn was the next option but the cost of hiring a company to do it was prohibitive. Perhaps it was April because someone made the foolish suggestion that, with enough people, they could simply pick the whole thing up and move it wherever they wanted. After the chuckling died away, there was probably a silence in the room as each person wondered whether, with enough hands, that old barn really could be lifted.

Crazy as it was, the idea was inspiring. After calculating the weight of the building plus a steel grid of reinforcement during the move, Ostry figured the whole structure would weigh less than 10 tons. With 350 people working in concert, each would only need to lift 56 pounds to move the barn. The Ostry family presented their idea to friends in Bruno who decided to make it part of the town's centennial celebration. This insured not only enough lifters but over 4000 cheering spectators on the day of the move. On July 30, 1988, the barn was lifted and carried to its new foundation six feet higher and 115 further away from the creek.

You can watch a video of this remarkable story here. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o83W0gj_CRE)



A Foolish Idea
Move a barn by simply picking it up? What a foolish idea! Yet what a "moving" story!

The friend who told me about Ostry's barn and the people of Bruno included a brief commentary. Often people think something cannot be done because they know they cannot do the task by themselves. It's easy to become so overwhelmed by the size of a task that we never even start. Like the 99-Word Story, we let our immediate frame of reference limit how we view the situation. We become discouraged before even making a trial first step.

I liked this interpretation but the folks in Bruno demonstrate such a wonderful spirit that I was inspired to think about their story in other ways. How many layers of learning could I derive from their barn move? I decided 12 would be a good number to shoot for but I "failed" in my goal. Instead, here are a dozen (plus two) lessons I was able to derive from the Bruno barn move.

14 Lessons from Moving a Barn

  1. Power of Vision - a well-articulated, inspirational vision can galvanize people around a task that seems impossible
  2. Effectiveness of Collaboration - as a group our work is exponentially greater than that of a single person alone
  3. Big Problem, Small Steps - breaking a big problem into small steps makes it manageable
  4. Group Effort - most tasks worth doing take the effort and cooperation of many people
  5. Leading and Following - there's a time to be a leader and a time to be a follower
  6. Planning is Essential - for big project success, everyone must know their part in the plan and stick to it
  7. Foolish Ideas - sometimes a crazy idea is more inspiring than a conventional idea
  8. Generate Enthusiasm - a crowd of cheerleaders has a big impact on our inspiration and purpose
  9. Avoid Technology - relying on human power rather than technology builds more than barns, it creates community
  10. Embrace What's Weird - foster free-for-all anything-goes brainstorming because the outlier ideas can be the most promising
  11. Leaders must Provide Information - What was it like as one of the lifters inside the barn where they could not see the result of their efforts? The voice of the leader informing of the progress was critically important!
  12. Head in the Clouds; Feet in the Clay - It's important to combine hair-brained, creative ideas with practical knowledge grounded in real-world experience
  13. Maximize Impact - Connect your idea to an even bigger cause, like Bruno's centennial celebration, for a multiplying effect
  14. The Power of Possibility - Learn to say "Yes" more often. (See the Activity section below for ideas about this.)

I invite you to use one or more of these lessons to spark a discussion in your team or organization. Then, please what conclusions you drew and how it applied to your work.



Be Foolish, Say "Yes!"
If you're like most of us, your typical reaction to a crazy idea is skepticism, disbelief, or at least an attempt to point out its flaws. We are trained to be critical, to look for the holes in an idea, and to make something better by pointing out how it can be improved. The 99-Word Story this month points out how defining our horizon in these ways constrains our actions. Brought up in a society that values this approach it seems foolish to say "Yes" more often. After all, none of us ever gets everything we want. Saying "Yes" too much could invite chaos!

Yet, saying "No" or even "Yes, but…" is the killer of creativity. It's the quickest way to strangle enthusiasm and convey disregard for the input of others. Imagine the likelihood of moving the Bruno barn to a new foundation if a few people had said, "Yes, but you'll never find 350 people to do it."

However, when people say "Yes, and…" possibilities are opened and more opportunities present themselves such as, "Yes, we would need 350 people and the Centennial Committee could help us recruit them!"

We are so accustomed to saying "Yes, but…" that it's difficult to do otherwise. Fortunately, there is a quick, fun activity from the world of improvisational theater to give us practice. Try this activity with a colleague or among partners in one of your teams then note the creative change in the atmosphere!

Yes, But…/ Yes, And

Round 1:
Working with a partner, your objective is to plan a celebration for your team. Designate who will be Person A and who will be Person B.

Person A begins my making an initial suggestion or idea for the celebratory event, "For the celebrations we could…"

Person B replies beginning with "Yes, but…" filling in with a reason not to do the suggested idea.

Person A makes another suggestion. Person B responds again with "Yes, but…"

Repeat this sequence a few times. What sort of tone results? How enthusiastic do you and your partner feel? Have you planned a fun celebration that you would be excited to attend?

Round 2:
In Round 2, Person A begins as before with a new idea for the celebration.

Person B replies with, "Yes, and we could also…" saying something that builds upon the previous idea.

Person A makes another suggestion. Person B responds again with "Yes, and we could also…"

Repeat this sequence a few times. How is the resulting tone of your planning different from Round 1? How enthusiastic do you and your partner feel? How is this celebration different from what you planned in Round 1?

Wrap up by talking about the opportunities at work or at home for generating enthusiasm rather than highlighting deficiencies. When it would be helpful to say "Yes and…" more often? Describe what effect that might have on productivity, relationships, creativity, and motivation.

When you finish this activity and have some insights, please ! In the meantime, for more information about the "foolishness" of saying "Yes." consult the following sources:

If you like what you have read in this issue, I would like to bring the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.257.7247) or .

-- Brian

Read previous issues. Click Library!
To add or delete your name to our mailing list, email with a short note in the subject line.

I want this newsletter to be practical, succinct, and thoughtful. If you have suggestions about how I can meet these criteria, please let me know! Send me an with your thoughts and ideas.

Home | Services | Products | Mission | Ideas | The Group | The Buzz
(c) 2012 The Firefly Group