Is it time to go Skunk - Coaches On Fire - Pam Sterling

“Going skunk” is a term often used in the corporate world when you bring together a group of individuals to create something completely new – completely outside the box – completely innovative… and do so quickly. Think of it as consciously creating a corporate quantum leap smile emoticon.

Going Skunk for Coaches

There are four principles of “going skunk” that I think we can all benefit from when it’s time to shake things up.

Shoot For The Moon

Going skunk is not about incremental gains or striving to achieve “reasonable goals” – it’s about moonshots, daring to achieve the impossible, tackling Herculean challenges. BIG goals, “high and hard goals” (the one’s that scare us), lead to the best outcomes because they create focused attention, greater excitement and enthusiasm, and increased persistence. Shooting for the moon is part and parcel to going skunk.

Extreme Isolation

This may be the most important key to ‘going skunk’. The idea is to isolate yourself from ordinary, common, usual, status quo ways of thinking, acting, believing, behaving. In corporations, the ‘skunkworks‘ team is often cordoned off to a completely different location In the early 1980s, Steve Jobs leased a building behind the Good Earth restaurant in Silicon Valley. He brought together twenty brilliant designers and created his own Skunkworks. The result—the world’s first Macintosh computer. Taking ourselves away for the weekend with no internet reception; or staying home and sending the kids to grandma’s and the dog to the neighbors and turning off the phone and the computer may be another way to create the kind of isolation that enables us to expand our thinking beyond the norm, challenge our own status quo, and give ourselves permission to think up crazy, wild, coo coo ideas… that may just work.

Rapid Iteration

Going skunk is NOT the time for perfection. Rather, it is a time to create and create quickly and get something out there so we can get the feedback on it. This requires taking risks and not being afraid to fail. The key is to fail early, fail often, and fail forward – learn from the failure, iterate and make it better. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman says, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” We can say the same of our programs and services, our workshops and webinars. We will learn WAY more by getting it out there, doing it imperfectly, and then modifying based on what we learn, than we will by trying to get it all right. It’s not that we set aside our commitment to excellence, but we set aside our need for perfection, and jump before we feel ready. Or as I like to say, build the jet while it’s in the air.

Intrinsic Rewards

The internal, emotional, spiritual rewards of ‘going skunk’ become themselves the motivating factors to keep going. The possibility of gaining Autonomy (our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives), Mastery (the desire to extend and expand our own abilities) and Purpose (the desire to fill our life with meaning) are motivators enough to make us work to our highest potential. And it is when we are able to live into and from our highest potential, that we have the opportunity to make the biggest dent in the Universe.

Your Turn

So what about you? Is it time to take a day, a weekend or a week and ‘go skunk’? What is it you would LOVE to create out of your ‘skunkworks’? What is the breakthrough you would love to engineer?


<3 Pam