The Special Work Approach

This approach starts by a person building on their strengths and aiming to do something special. They then do the solid work, superb work and special work to achieve the picture of success.

There are several definitions for the word special. These include doing something unique or outstanding. Sometimes it involves going into another dimension and doing something extraordinary.

A person may do such work in the arts, sports, medicine or another activity. They may do it when working as an individual, in a team or in an organisation.

Many specialists combined their talents during Covid 19, for example, to produce vaccines. They created something special that saved many lives. They also passed on knowledge that could be used to treat future pandemics.

Imagine that you want to follow elements of the special work approach. This nvolves focusing on the following themes.

Clarifying The
Picture Of Success

Great workers build on their strengths and love to explore future possibilities. Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company, said that such people have what he called a memory of the future.

They anticipate challenges and find potential solutions in their area of expertise. Looking ahead, they use their imagination to create potential pictures of success. Some follow the path described in the often cited quoted by Arthur Schopenhauer.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Let’s return to your own work. Imagine that you aim to do a piece of work in an activity where you excel. If appropriate, you can explore the following questions.

What is the piece of work I want to do? What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What will be the benefits of achieving these goals?

What are the strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? How can I do the required solid work and create the right foundation?

How can I deliver high professional standards and do superb work? How can I go further and do something special? How can I add that touch of class and deliver the picture of success?  

Imagine that you have explored these themes. You may then want to do the following exercise.

Solid Work

Great workers do the solid work that is required to build a platform for success. The kinds of solid work will depend on their chosen activity. Whatever work they do, however, it may involve aiming:

To prepare properly and plan ahead … To clarify their strategy … To translate this into a clear action plan… To do the practical things required to set things up to succeed.

The athlete prepares properly – both physically and psychologically. The leader makes sure their team will be following the right strategy with the right people in the right way.

Great workers then move into action. They follow their chosen strategy, perform good work and get some early successes. They continue to follow good habits and maintain the momentum.

Such workers always do the solid work. They begin by making sure they always achieve 7+/10. This provides the foundation for moving on to the next stage.

Superb Work

Great workers aim to do superb work. One approach is for them to continue to deliver high professional standards. The way they do this will obviously depend on the kind of work they are doing.

A mentor will prepare properly before meeting a person. They will clarify what the person may want to explore, rehearse the session and then do their best to help the person to achieve their goals.

Good organisations also encourage the people to perform superb work. They show how people can follow certain principles and deliver high professional standards.

James Kerr’s book Legacy describes how the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team took this approach. They did this after the team had failed to go beyond the semi-finals in the Rugby World Cup.

They encouraged the players to behave in ways that would create a positive legacy. They created a mission that was based on the words of Jonas Salk, who pioneered one of the polio vaccines. They encouraged the players to be good ancestors.

The All Blacks were then urged to follow certain principles that would help them to achieve this mission. Here is an overview of the approach that the players were urged to take.  

Special Work

Great workers sometimes go into another dimension and do something special. The footballer scores a remarkable goal. The dancer does a quadruple turn.

The inventor has an enlightening breakthrough. They translate this into action and go beyond excellence. They produce a piece of work that is extraordinary.

Danny Boyle took this approach with the Isles Of Wonder segment for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. He helped to coordinate a cast of thousands to create something special.

In 2022 The Guardian newspaper looked back at the ceremony which had shown the best sides of the Britain. It described in in the following way.

Isles of Wonder was one of the few attempts to tell a fresh, modern, inclusive story about what Britain was, is and could be.

We might not have lived up to it in the short term, but the fact that the vast majority of us responded so positively to it is as important now as it was then. Given all that’s happened since, Britain needs stories like this more than ever.

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is for people to build on their strengths. It is then for them to do the solid work, superb work and special work to achieve their picture of success.

Let’s return to your own work. Looking ahead, can you think of a specific situation where you may want to follow elements of this approach? How can you do this in your own way?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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