Sixty percent probability of rain! The weather forecast threatened to ruin our evening plans to go boating with another couple. After looking at the radar and discussing the risks, the four of us crossed our fingers that the sun would prevail and loaded onto our boat. We cruised to our favorite bay and cast our anchor. No sooner had we gotten settled when the skies opened up, and it started to pour. We didn’t have time to pull up anchor and run for cover, so we did our best to stay dry. My girlfriend and I squeezed into the bow of the boat, which was covered with a tarp. The guys pulled on their raincoats and stood under the Bimini cover. Giggling about our bad luck, we managed to keep our good humor and stay reasonably dry.
About 20 minutes later, after the rain shower passed, we crawled out of the bow and into a storybook panorama of color. A double rainbow stretched from shore to shore, framing the bay. It was the first time I’d seen the full arc of a rainbow from end to end. As the summer evening turned to night, the rainbow became even more intense until it was eventually replaced with a brilliant orange-red sunset that lit the lake with color. After watching the final rays of sun slip into the horizon, we turned our heads and witnessed a full moon rising on the opposite shore.
Serene and surreal, the lake was magical that evening. Smooth as glass with very little boat traffic, the water mirrored the light show in the sky. We were rewarded for braving 20 minutes of pouring rain with three hours of nature’s spectacles.
Looking for the Pot of Gold
A common approach to business storytelling involves extracting deeper meaning(s) from personal and professional experiences, then applying these stories to work situations. Pondering the deeper meaning of my rainbow story, I’m drawn to the parallels between our adventure and innovation. We flirted with risk and were rewarded in unexpected and delightful ways. What lessons can this story offer to entrepreneurs and innovation teams?
- Measured Risk Taking—If the forecast had been for thunder and lightening storms, our decision to proceed with our boating plans would have been foolish … even dangerous. Instead, we leaned into the risk of getting wet, not a risk of being electrocuted.
- Prepare for Challenges—Knowing we faced uncertain weather, we brought the tarp for the bow, raincoats, umbrellas, and towels. These few preparations allowed us to keep relatively dry in the downpour. When leaning into risks, innovators identify potentially negative consequences and ways to mitigate them.
- Perseverance Pays Off—Rather than scampering off the lake with the first raindrops, we held off to see what the weather might do. Innovation leaders don’t abandon their ideas when faced with challenges. Instead, they trouble shoot and learn from the rain clouds that dump cold water on their ideas.
- Embrace the Unexpected—While we had hopped for a pleasant boat outing, we never dreamed of experiencing the spectacle of lights that evening displayed. But once it appeared, we allowed the rainbow to define our experience. The pot of gold just might be in the experience itself.
- Keep a Sense of Humor—Laughter didn’t keep us dry, but it certainly lightened our moods. With humor, even hiding from the rain can be fun.
The rainbow story yielded five insights that might be used to coach and inspire innovation teams. When exploring if a story might be used in your work, look at it from a few different perspectives to see whether you can extract deeper meanings that have parallels to a business challenge or situation. If you can’t find a business connection, share it at a campfire!