The best sand castle I ever built was constructed on top of someone else’s; a deep moat that surrounded a small hill. I flattened the hill and constructed courtyards and towers, planted a sand garden and even added shell windows. It would never have been my best sand castle if someone hadn’t built such a fantastic foundation.
I feel that my role as a public servant is the same. I do not need to dig new holes or create new supporting structures, instead I need to borrow and build on what is already out there. And there is much to borrow from and build on; you just have to look for it. This isn’t just about “best practices,” it is about learning from others and sharing ideas, insights and experiences, and then asking if there is something worth adapting, experimenting with or creating on. Leaving the original hill and moat and declaring it a castle would not have measured up!
Borrowing and building on the incredible ideas of others has enabled me to be creative. Some of my best projects have been built on something I have heard from others, exercises I have participated in and conversations. People have thrown out ideas, some of them a little off the wall, and together we have adapted and adopted them into something new and appropriate to the place and time.
As public servants, we should look at ideas and opportunities and instead of importing them wholesale, we should explore how they fit our operation or if they should be adapted. Sometimes you can’t build, and that is OK, and sometimes you have to try a few iterations before you get it right.
I don’t want to take the sand castle analogy too far, but it does offer one more insight – sandcastles are transitory. When I came back the next day, my castle had been reclaimed by the sea, leaving a moat and small hill. Something for someone else to build on.
Thanks for my friends at FEMA for sharing with me your ideas and building with me.