• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • The 1980s TV character Angus “Mac” MacGyver is a secret agent with a unique ability to improvise solutions on the spot with odd combinations of found objects. A characteristic MacGyver solution: “Alright MacGyver, think. Rope…a smoke alarm…sheets of plywood…yeah. It just might work.” (You can view this clip in all its 1980s glory here.)

    Your team might find itself in a MacGyver situation. You’re facing a deadline (for MacGyver, there always seems to be a timing device wired to a bomb). The custom tools you’ve brought with you just aren’t doing the job. And yet…you need solutions. If MacGyver can figure it out, so can you! He models four dimensions of creative genius that we can learn from.

    • MacGyver stays calm. That impending explosion never seems to ruffle him. He squeezes the maximum value out of each second by staying awake and aware in the present moment.
    • MacGyver maintains soft focus. Whatever mattress or telephone or cigarette lighter is at hand, MacGyver notices it. His determination to solve the problem at hand doesn’t give him tunnel vision, but an expanded peripheral view that increases the range of options.
    • MacGyver doesn’t let temporary setbacks distract him. Can’t disarm the missile? He shakes his head, frowns for a moment, then opens himself up to the next possibility. (Aha! Let’s try a paper clip!)
    • MacGyver lets himself make unexpected connections. All of the above puts MacGyver in a frame of mind that allows him to see that he can use egg whites to seal a radiator or build a bazooka out of a muffler. The core creative act is connecting things together that don’t seem connected.

    MacGyver’s secret-agent lifestyle does make things a bit easier for him: the circumstances are never boring and call for a continual state of high alert. That may be the biggest obstacle to MacGyver brilliance in the workplace. How many creative solutions can you design with sticky notes and whiteboard markers? That’s one good reason to get your team out of the office and into other environments from time to time: it gives you more fodder for creative connections.

    But the core of MacGyver’s genius is his curious, open, relaxed frame of mind. That’s available to anyone whether you’re a secret agent or not.

    Try It: At an upcoming team meeting, assemble a collection of random assorted objects (you might ask each person to bring something for the task). Explore as a team how you might combine those objects in unexpected ways to provide insight into a problem you’re facing together.