Get Lost

Making Discoveries by Losing your Way

A standard compass is a device that helps you get oriented to your location because the needle of the compass points north no matter what direction you face. Being oriented means that you have a way to understand your position even when you are in new or strange surroundings. A traditional compass works because the location of magnetic north is fixed.

UM Compass

When it comes to orienting ourselves to our workplace dilemmas, we treat the assumptions that guide our traditional problem solving approaches like an immutable “magnetic north.” Unfortunately, the rules of the game in business by which we steer our organizations are shifting.

When your tried-and-true routines for making progress stop working and you can’t understand why, you become disoriented. If despite your best efforts a problem persists or you see an opportunity, but have no idea how to pursue it, your orientation to the situation may be part of the problem. The Unstuck Minds Compass is a tool to help you evaluate your orientation to your situation by pushing you to ask questions you have not been asking.


In today’s volatile, hypercompetitive environment, we can no longer set our course by the rules of the game that served as “magnetic north” since the emergence of the modern corporation. As an example, consider one magnetic north assumption that has oriented business leader’s thinking for generations, namely an organization’s relationship to its competition. One guiding assumption of business has been, “protect your secrets.” The formula for Coca-Cola must be kept in a vault. The source code for our software cannot be shared. Lately though, attitudes about competition and collaboration have begun to shift. A 2013 Harvard Business Review article written by Ben Hecht, the President and CEO of Living Cities declared, “Collaboration is the New Competition.” In his 2014 book about the emergence of new organizational forms called, “Reinventing Organizations,” Frederic Laloux wrote, “when an organization truly lives for its purpose, there is no competition. Anybody that can help to achieve the purpose on a wider scale or more quickly is a friend, an ally, not a competitor” (p. 195).

You can agree or disagree with what may seem like radical attitudes about competition. More importantly, you may want to ask yourself, “Which set of assumptions about the competition do I want to steer my organization by?” When your guiding assumptions become ineffective, you may need to start by letting go of your assumptions. Instead of getting oriented to your situations, you may need to start by losing your way. A standard compass keeps you oriented to predictable options, the Unstuck Minds Compass gets you reoriented so that you can venture into territory that presents unpredictable options.

Photo Credit: Peter Bernik

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