6 ways to foster resourcefulness at work

By Greg Dardis | Guest Column

The highest praise you can give entrepreneurs is to call them resourceful.

Sure, it’s good to be industrious, intuitive, bold.

But resourcefulness is that rare quality where it all comes together – someone smart and scrappy and inventive enough to stare at something sideways until she spots the flicker of a solution. A resourceful person can take the status quo and reimagine or rejig it.

Iowans are naturally resourceful. Growing up on a farm cultivates it. You make the most of what you’ve got. You find a way to fix whatever’s broken. You tinker and tweak.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos credits his grandfather for modeling resourcefulness. Bezos spent his childhood summers at Pop’s ranch in “the middle of nowhere,” where he solved any problem that came his way. Not only would his grandpa fix broken machinery, but he also did his own veterinary work. He made needles by hand to suture his cattle. He’d heat up a piece of wire with a blowtorch, pound it flat, sharpen it and then drill a hole into it.

“He would take on major projects that he didn’t know how to do and then figure out how to do them,” Bezos recalled.

The value of that kind of experimental problem solving influenced Bezos’ approach to parenting. He let his children play with knives at age 4 and power tools at 7. Better to have a kid with nine fingers, he quipped, than a resource-less kid.

The work we do at Dardis Communications, at its essence, is training in resourcefulness. We teach businesspeople to make the most of what they’ve got by how they dress themselves, present themselves and express themselves. We teach them to think on their feet, to make the best impression by leveraging their smarts and experience.

Here are six ways to foster resourcefulness at work:

1. Be open minded. Consider a wide range of possibilities, thinking outside the box.

2. Ask the right questions. Is there another way to get what I want? Is my desired outcome really the best one? Who else has useful information? Is there one more thing I could attempt? What is something similar to what I need that could also work?

3. Tap into your network. There might be someone who can help solve your problem – in a different department, at a different location, in a different industry.

4. Gather information. Encourage a free flow of information throughout the building. Does your social media manager know what’s happening on the ground? Do your older employees scan your social media output? Sharing documents online has never been easier. Employees should also be trained to look up information effectively, using the advanced features on Google (an underutilized tool) and getting introduced to an archivist or librarian.

5. Brainstorm! When team members come to a meeting with a problem, make it clear they are expected to also bring a proposed solution. A meeting can be much more fruitful when they’ve been brainstorming before they gather.

6. Work on multiple plans. Have you seen the 1963 movie “The Great Escape?” It tells the story of Allied soldiers who tried to break out of a German prison camp in World War II. They knew the Nazis had a good chance of finding an escape tunnel they would dig, so they increased their odds of success by digging three. Resourceful people understand that a plan might not work out, so they develop multiple at a time.

Once you cultivate a resourceful workforce, there’s no telling how far your company can advance.

Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Communications, based in Coralville. For more information, visit www.dardiscommunications.com.