© Crockett, Johnson “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” 1955 HarperCollins

Where’s Your Purple Crayon?

What if you had a pen or pencil…or a purple crayon…and could draw your path through life? When’s the last time you read a children’s book? You should – they are the best books for lessons about business and life. One of my favorite books growing up and reading to my kids was Harold and the Purple Crayon. I’d get out a purple crayon and draw and draw. As I re-read the book, I discovered Harold was a founder of the 20th Century maker movement! Talk about a master of making, designing and dreaming!

Harold used his purple crayon to live out his dreams (sailing in balloons) and save himself from catastrophe (drawing a boat in the ocean). He didn’t need a box of 152 crayons of every shade imaginable. He just needed 1, purple , not your typical color. With that 1 crayon and 1 color, he made new paths emerge, created new experiences, and discovered new destinations.

© Crockett, Johnson “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” 1955 HarperCollins

What are you overcomplicating, over-engineering, over-designing? There is power in simplicity, usability, and authenticity. Just because you can, because you have the tools and the know-how, doesn’t mean you should. Look at your organization –its structure, policies, procedures and processes, rules and regulations, ideation, production, delivery to and support for customers. What can you simplify and by doing so actually make more streamlined, elegant, compelling, and valuable?

Harold used his crayon to try different things in different ways, even going back and trying again. Some of his attempts were very successful and some were near disasters. But Harold continued to try, to adapt and modify as he went along, based on what worked and what didn’t, based on how others felt it worked or didn’t. Harold was a master of prototyping and Lean startup methodology before we knew they existed!

What can you prototype and test out to see if you’re on the right path, if you understand what your customers’ really need and want? Sometimes, perfection is the enemy of accomplishment. If you rush to discover instead of solve right away, if you try a few things out with the people who will use it before going into production, risking selling something no one may want, you may create a compelling product customers can’t live without.

Harold got lost. Sometimes he was afraid, but he still drew a path to freedom. Those paths led to new experiences and discoveries. Our world views getting lost as a failure or even crisis. Yet, sometimes we need to get lost, to find ourselves in the unknown to learn about our abilities and opportunities, including our ability to overcome our fears.

© Johnson, Crockett, “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” 1955 HarperCollins

Today, getting lost is easier than it’s been, even with a GPS. Economic, geo-political, societal, security circumstances are and will remain uncertain. Anyone who says they are certain is either prescient, focused on the few things left that are certain, or delusional. Start drawing several paths out of ‘lostdom’. Assess, prioritize, and try them. Then share and apply the learnings, experiences, new knowledge gained. Become great at getting lost and getting found.

Harold created his own world, drew his own path, invited others to participate and lived his dreams. He imagined and created new worlds and experiences. His purple crayon was his means of discovery. Where’s yours?

© Crockett, Johnson “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” 1955 HarperCollins
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