Letting Fires Burn

Author: Bryan Ritchie

Fire Article Ritchie

In entrepreneurial and innovative environments you sometimes have to just let fires burn. We frequently get so caught up in all of the metaphorical fires that need to be put out that we don't spend any time really being strategic and driving the enterprise forward. 

This can be likened unto forest fires. I was interested to learn that fire is a natural part of the growth of forests. In fact, many of the seeds that must germinate for new forest growth only open in the heat of direct flame. Simply put, without fire, forests die.

That said, too much fire is also bad. If we let fires get out of control and "crown" (in the description of out of control forest fires), then we lose the whole enterprise in the process. The trick is to let fires burn long enough to open the seeds, but not so long as to burn the place to the ground.

This can be applied to our work. Sometimes it's good to just let the fire burn so as to see who rises to put it out. Or to give people a chance to learn a new technique or skill that can be used to fix the problem. Only when it's clear that the fire can be put out by no one else should the leader step in.

Now don't misunderstand. If it's your main job to put said fire out, do so now. 

But if you are the leader and the fire will be productive, let it burn a bit. It might result in interesting innovation and skill development.