Breaking Through the Bottleneck

I was looking forward to drinking a 2008 Listrac Medoc from Chateau Reverdi. Not one of the best wines of the region but still a nice thing for a lazy evening of hamburgers on the grill.

Now there I stood, helplessly looking at the partially opened bottle sitting on my counter with a small part of the cork still stuck in its neck. Somehow, I had managed to break the cork, preventing the wine from flowing out into my glass.

A bottleneck in the neck of the bottle. Right there at the top. Stopping good things from happening.

Have you noticed how the bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle? It sits there in a position of power lording over all the nectar below.

It reminds me of what happens in companies. Right there at the top where the hierarchy narrows is often the place where good ideas go to die. They get stuck in the narrow neck, unable to escape, their potential squelched.

Meanwhile, the problem the idea was meant to solve persists. Or the new invention is created by some other organization, one that has a culture of keeping the flow going.

I recently led a client leadership team meeting where an expansion idea they’d been kicking around for a while temporarily got stuck in a bottleneck. I listened to a litany of reasons why expansion was not to be: too expensive, no people for it, so hard to break into a new area, too risky for us.

I watched as the neck became clogged with the detritus of small thinking. No matter that those below had worked hard on gathering the information, were excited by the idea, and were willing to do what it would take to make it work.

Suddenly, a visitor to the meeting, who was not caught up in the negative thinking, made a suggestion that stopped everyone short. The leadership team members looked at each other in amazement as they realized this suggestion cut right through most of their reasons for not moving forward.

The bottleneck dissipated. The most amazing thing of all was that those who created the plug now delighted in the opportunity before them.

All it usually takes to get through bottlenecks is simply a willingness to accept that the path forward is blocked and an understanding that blockages can’t be quickly exploded. It requires continuous thinking and pushing and working toward that one great idea that will open the path.

Look around. Where is your bottleneck? And what is the idea that will allow you to break through it?

As for me and that bottle of Lestrac Medoc, after rummaging around in my kitchen drawer I found the amazing device designed to solve my bottleneck. Undoubtedly someone with the same bottleneck between them and their wine had invented the device, a rod with little arms sticking out at the bottom perfectly set to grab a wayward cork and extract it perfectly.

And to my delight the wine proved to be the perfect accompaniment to my hamburgers from the grill.







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