Sometimes the best way to expand your reach is to let go

- Lucinda Garthwaite & Daniel Sewell, CMP Founders and Lead Partners 

We often find ourselves asking colleagues, clients, and  certainly ourselves,  “Do you want to be right, or do you want to see more of the change your mission envisions?”  

Of course it’s possible to have both, to be correct and to effect the change you hope to see.  Still, very often the deeply human impulse to hang on to an idea, belief, or way of doing things – to be “right” – hinders the possibility of real change and increased impact.

Otto Scharmer, the author of Theory U: Leading From The Future As It Emerges writes about an open mind, open heart and open will. For Scharmer and his colleagues, an open will reflects an ability to let go of familiar ways of doing things, being willing and able to try out new ideas quickly, and learn from that happens next.

That, Scharmer argues, creates the possibility of a future that’s hard to imagine otherwise.

Scharmer isn’t alone in his thinking.  In fact many successful systems change-makers agree. In his breakout systems thinking book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge says that seeing what‘s possible requires a relentless look at what we believe to be so. Alan Briskin, Sheryl Erickson, Tom Callanan and John Ott suggest, in The Power Of Collective Wisdom And The Trap Of Collective Folly,  that suspending certainty is one of the best ways to assure wise decisions.   

Suspending certainty.  An open will.  Challenging our own ideas about how things are.  This is the fundamental stuff, it turns out, of systems change.  Not so much head-down, determined, certain leadership, but curiosity and uncertainty.  Humility.  Generosity of spirit.

Sometimes the best way to do more is to let go of being right, in favor of the bigger “rightness “ of your organization’s mission --  the possibility of change that your programs, products or curriculum can create in the world.

It’s a tough thing to learn to do, though, this business of letting go.  And it’s a necessary ingredient in any consideration of increasing the impact of your mission.  Sometimes, letting go is the strategy that matters most.


Letting go can sometimes mean trying new things fast, or prototyping in the service of increasing the impact of mission driven organizations.  We look forward to exploring that idea in future posts.