Stretching is being resourceful — doing more with what you have. It’s a learnable skill that applies in good times as well as bad times to help us reach our goals. People think of resourcefulness as something done out of need when facing shortages or to resolve problems, but that’s just one aspect of it. Stretching means we don’t start from feeling like what we have isn’t enough. Instead, we embrace what we already have and then creatively put those resources to work, such as time, money, relationships, and materials.

Stretching helps us accomplish our goals with maximum effectiveness and efficiency, which is of paramount importance in these uncertain times. Our gut reaction to most challenges, especially when there isn’t clarity about the best solution, is that we’ll increase the odds of success if we amass lots of resources. Research shows that not only is this false but it also leaves us feeling less capable and accomplished. The key to achieving goals is to be engaged, creative and active with what’s already in hand – to stretch.

Organizations should foster a culture that promotes asking ‘what can I do with what I have?’ and rejects the paralysis and distraction that comes from ‘what must I have to act’ such as a bigger budget or larger team. Organizations that stretch challenge employees about how to do the most with what they have by purposefully imposing constraints, ripping up plans and learning from spontaneous action, combining unexpected resources, using expectations to boost the value of resources, and putting to work the untapped contributions of all employees.

Appreciate that you already have everything you need to succeed in business and life. Stop worrying about what you don’t have and start engaging what you do have in more useful ways.

I’ve been fascinated by this topic my entire career. I spent time working in Silicon Valley during the dotcom boom around the turn of the century. There were so many smart people and innovative companies floundering because they measured success in terms of the amount of venture capital raised or number of employees hired. When resources stopped flowing, they couldn’t adapt.

I returned to graduate school to pursue a PhD at the University of Michigan to examine why some people and organizations succeed with so little, while others flounder with so much. After over a decade of research in my capacity as a professor at Rice University, I realized it was time to make these ideas more accessible to businesses and individuals so they too could benefit from stretching.

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