Managing Creativity with Harriet Tubman

I just read the most cool article in Mental_Floss magazine.  Check out the magazine sometime…interesting facts that are stimulating and out of the ordinary. The article was about Harriet Tubman, the famous lady who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War.  She redefined leveraging creativity to achieve her goals.  It is fascinating and written by Erik Sass.


There was a bounty on Harriet for the equivalent of $1 million as she led 19 journeys freeing more than 300 slaves. This wasn’t easy as you can imagine.  The obstacles to achieve our goals for the most part pale in comparison.  She followed several approaches that are reflective of successful people today.

*  Know your terrain and where you are heading
Slave owners often kept their slaves close so they wouldn’t know their surroundings and wouldn’t know how to escape. Tubman would manage the navigation and at times on the fly leveraging dense forests, and swamps. Sometimes she would need to split the group up and provide to the group simple easy to follow advise for a meeting point.

* Know your clients and manage them effectively
The slaves were often brought to freedom as a family unit. Kids could give away their presence by crying so to address this, she always carried paragoric, an opium varient.

* Make sure everyone knew who’s in charge
Runaway slaves faced draconian punishments if they were caught so sometimes, they would change their minds and wish to return to servitude. But going back would have exposed her Underground Railroad network. So she gave them a choice facing the barrel of a gun. Die a slave or be free!!!

* Work the News Cycle, control your messaging.
Slave owners would alert bounty hunters with substantial rewards to capture runaway slaves. So Harriet would initiate her rescues on a Saturday giving her a 48 hour head start before the ads circulate in the Monday paper.

Since Harriet was engaged in activities with life/death implications, clearly some of her actions would be viewed as over the top in what most of us face in our day to day lives. But, she addressed problems through solution approaches you can use.

Action of the Day
Imagine you were rescuing your career and running yourself through the Underground Railroad. How would you prepare for this herculean task?  Pretend Harriet is right beside you ready to coach you. What would she tell you?  Are you ready to take the lead?

Quote of the Day
“Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.”  Stephen Sondheim:  Award-winning American composer & lyricist

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