The Blog - Where Business Collides with Human Nature

MacGyver is now in the Oxford English Dictionary - Are you a MacGyver?

macgyver-innovator.jpgIs this your skill? MacGyver is now in the Oxford English Dictionary. Possibly you are hoping to recruit someone with MacGyver skills for your team.

Shorter loose definition: (verb)

Make or repair something in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever resources available.

Longer loose definition: (verb)

To assemble, or cause to be repaired or completed, an object, device, machine, or project from available items and resources. These items and resources usually seem common, ordinary and mundane. Where others would assume one needs a manufactured part or tool by design, a person with MacGyver skills use resources and tools in ways significantly different than their intended use.

Translation: (verb)

To handle a difficult situation through improvisation using only available materials (Which might appear to be an impossible activity). 

Where it all began.

macgyver.jpgIf you are not quite old enough to remember, MacGyver is a very popular TV series from 1985 to 1992 and has become a cult classic.  

The TV series follows the adventures of MacGyver, a laid-back, extremely resourceful secret agent, played by Richard Dean Anderson, who prefers non-violent conflict resolution wherever possible & refuses to carry or use a gun, but usually just uses his Swiss Army knife and his scientific resourcefulness. He is a problem solver for the fictional Phoenix Foundation in LA.

If you are a fan of MacGyver, you will love to know that the original producer Henry Winkler brought back the MacGyver series in a re-make

Beyond items, resources and tools – is people.

russell-wilson.jpgNo doubt you have worked with someone who might be under-appreciated and gets things done when others are unable to overcome barriers. These “linchpins” find ways to show appreciation, celebrate, support and find work-arounds with innovative ideas without a big budget. (This might be you?) 

Russell Wilson of the Seahawks seems to take what is impossible, take advantage of the moment and make it possible to which people ask “How did he do that?”

Those who serve our country risk themselves to scout, protect and fight in unfamiliar countries. Their ability to be aware of resources and use them to survive is a MacGyver skill.

“Moneyball” is a story about how the coach of the Oakland A’s took a team of players and leveraged what appeared to be un-special to a winning season. (I highly recommend the book and movie.)

Most often, these talented folks with MacGyver skills will not be in the limelight for all to see. Stay alert. 

Who are they going to call?

Those who have a knack for solving problems in unconventional ways are often recruited for business turn-rounds, product launches, team re-organization, start-ups and change management. The right person has the experience and skills to prevent disasters from happening when the risk seems high.

Any marketing team thrives when someone with MacGyver skill leads. Each campaign offers more leverage by applying ideas or resources that may seem mundane on their own. Expert guerrilla marketers use innovation and time vs big budgets to create success – they "MacGyver" marketing strategies vs following the crowd.

The difference between MacGyver and a Mickey Mouse solution

Entrepreneurs wear many hats and often will do their best to MacGyver problems but without experience and skills, can become a “Mickey Mouse” solution.  Taking the first steps with innovative MacGyver solutions is not necessarily the simplest, easiest, cheapest and fastest. To MacGyver a solution is to create success with items, resources and tools at hand whereas the mickey mouse job is about “cheap, easy, fast”.

What is a Mickey Mouse job?

"A job done incorrectly in an extremely poor manner using the simplest, easiest, cheapest and fastest way possible."

Its time to blaze new trails

Consider what happens when leadership declares: “We want you to get better results but with a lower budget.”  Or “Last year we did the project with five people, this year, let’s get it done with three.”

Often there are phrases used such as: Efficiency, productivity, yield, ROI, cost-effective, payoff, marginal profit, gross profit, investment vs cost, expenditure, deadline, turn-over, revenue growth rate, risk-management, etc. 

This will inspire many teams to “go back to the drawing board” to find solutions which appear to be impossible. They need an expert whose middle name is "MacGyver".

Which leads to…

This is when consultants might be called, training implemented, new tools acquired and/or new equipment purchased. Lean experts, efficiency experts, marketing gurus, enterprise software solutions are all considered part of the solution.

Many times, the time and cost of implementing training, integrating software or new equipment sets a team or company back financially for years. Such a decision may be sound over the long term but in the short term, the price can be high.

This is especially true for marketing strategies and planning.

Scenario #1 –

There is a ‘sudden’ realization a team that marketing realities have changed. While technology and culture realities have been evolving over many years, a team or company sees the light and ‘finally’ says “let’s catch up”.   Even the most brilliant at their trade can’t predict the future and get caught out of sync with the marketplace.

Scenario #2 - 

Those who live and breathe inbound marketing and guerrilla marketing thrive in these scenarios. They offer MacGyver solutions with innovation, personalization and offer to leverage by taking advantage of existing assets and opportunities. We are unable to predict the future when blazing new trails. That person who offers innovative MacGyver solutions empowers a team to do more without breaking the bank and move quickly.

"I hate MacGyver solutions"

“That will never work”

“You are going to do that? Really?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Everyone else tried it, why bother.”

“It might work but my team can’t change.”

“I don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who work here.”

“That’s impossible!”

“Too risky.”

“Has anyone else done this before? What were the results?”

“Do you have three years of data to show this will work?”

“That might make us look bad (or silly).”

“Let’s have a committee assess the pros and cons at the next quarterly meeting.”

“I won’t get the credit, so I don’t want to do it.”

“Yes. I tried something like that 10 years ago, and it didn’t work.”

It is a good thing to challenge the opportunities a MacGyver offers. Many plans require collaboration and cooperation as part of the solution which means innovation on its own is rarely enough.  The ability to teach, inspire and motivate are also essential.

The MacGyver skilled individual must have a thick skin to thrive in an ocean of rejection and resistance.  A talented person who has a history of creating success by unconventional means thrives under pressure but may not have the patience with those who live in the world of “can’t”.  

Topics: Innovation Definition Skills