Summer is a time of vacations and travel. We’ve done our share this summer, and as a result have spent a lot of time in the car. When on vacation, one starts to notice signs that we don’t necessarily see when we are engaged in everyday life. They say “Scenic Route”. The slow road. The chance to see something extraordinary. Extend the experience. That was our experience when exploring the wonderful little Province of Prince Edward Island this summer.
Last weekend was a slightly different experience.
While we were in beautiful British Columbia, a coastal and mountain paradise, we had 1,000 kilometers in front of us and one day to do it. We took the freeway. We could have chosen the scenic route up the Fraser Canyon. We’ve done it before and it is gorgeous. But it takes at least two hours longer and we didn’t have that to spare. We needed to accomplish our mission.
It’s great that we have this choice … the slow and rewarding vs. the fast and efficient. They both get us to where they are going and they do it in ways that both serve a purpose and reward us in different ways.
In my experience, we Westerners choose the freeway far more often than the scenic route. We get where we are going quickly. It saves time. Doesn’t it seem that time has become our most precious commodity. We have created busy lives. The world is a busy place. We are never sure what it will throw at us so we hoard time. And in the act of doing so, we willingly accept that we are likely missing something along the slow road … the scenic route.
Work mimics life. Or is it the other way around?
One of our favorite questions to ask each other at work is “how’s it going”? In Eastern Canada it is “how are you now?” In England it is “are you alright?” In Japan it is “ikaga desu ka?” They all likely elicit the same response, as if a badge of honor … “I’m really busy”. So we exchange news and pleasantries quickly and we find the path of least resistance to our next task/meeting, perhaps waving greetings along the way and proceed to hoard time for getting things done … the freeway.
Is there a scenic route available to us at work? And if there is, is it worth taking?
What would the scenic route be? Would it start with slowing our pace? Would our eyes seek other eyes in greeting, and when engaged would we stop to complete the connection? Would we engage with a question more personal than “how’s it going?” like ” how was your son’s birthday party?” And truly enjoy engaging in the story that follows? would we say “that was great work you did with XYZ Company … how did you figure out that approach?” Would we linger and build relationships, support this colleague, collaborate on something new, and energize each other.
It may look different for everyone, but the scenic route through my work day might look like that. How about yours? But I suspect many days I might be guilty of checking the meter … that meter that keeps track of time and tells me “there is too much to get done and you really shouldn’t be spending it here on the scenic route. I really think you should take the freeway.”
As with most things at work I think our decision often comes down to return on investment. Does my investment of capital, expense or time get paid back at a level sufficiently greater than the amount invested to support me spending that resource?
How would we measure that in this sense? How would the scenic route pay off like it does on vacation?
Perhaps the value would come from trusting personal relationships that can be truly called on in times of challenge or struggle.
Perhaps these more relaxed conversations will generate ideas that bring us either intrinsic or tangible reward.
Perhaps that time to “slow down and smell the coffee” re-energizes us for the next event or even the rest of the day.
Perhaps the reward doesn’t accumulate directly, but the conversation inspires the other party to do something truly great.
I find this fascinating. I value both the freeway and the scenic route. I just don’t know if I’ve ever shone this light on the way I travel at work?
Do you have any thoughts or experiences to share?