Knowing When to Do Nothing

Sometimes a good part of leadership is knowing when to do nothing.

Knowing When to Do Nothing
A good part of leadership is knowing when to do nothing. When to curb the insatiable urge to decide and act; when to savor contemplation; when to be instructed, and guided by providence.
— Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Visa

Knowing when to do nothing

Sometimes the most fascinating and unexpected ideas and synchronicities occur when we stop and do nothing.

That was the case for me in 2020 when the pandemic shut down much of the world.

I began questioning the value of my work at Forward Thinking Workplaces. Was I asking the right questions? Were the questions big enough? Should I continue asking these questions?

I didn't have any immediate answers, so I just stopped because I didn't know what else to do. My work seemed so inconsequential in the face of the challenges we faced.

This experience taught me a great lesson in leadership.

A good part of leadership is knowing when to do nothing. When to curb the insatiable urge to decide and act; when to savor contemplation; when to be instructed, and guided by providence.

It was during this timeout period that I got the tragic news. Dr. Marilyn Jacobson, the author of Turning the Pyramid Upside Down, had passed away. She was a leader who greatly influenced me and my work.

I recalled the synchronicity that occurred in the days and weeks before and after I interviewed her. Then unexpected events brought us together for a face-to-face meeting at a conference in Chicago in 2013.

This small, frail older woman's energy and presence immediately struck me when I met her. Her ideas and writing inspired me to look at work and leadership differently, helping me reorient myself and my work.

The news of Marilyn's death prompted me to reread her book and dive deeply into her ideas and writing.

Interestingly, I discovered that her words and ideas resonated uncannily with this new world suddenly thrust upon us. When I shared the presentation below with one of the editors at the Cutter Amplify journal, she said it gave her chills.

13 Intriguing Insights from Turning the Pyramid Upside Down

The space beyond boundaries journey begins

Inspired by what I learned from revisiting Dr. Jacobson's work, I reviewed the work of other leaders who had influenced me. People like Joseph Jaworskski, David Bohm, Eckhart Tolle, and Dee Hock, among others.

Along the way, I created new visual designs to help me focus on and communicate essential ideas I was discovering for the first time or seeing in a new way.

Over the past ten years, I have progressively transitioned from focusing on what's out there to what's inside. Primarily influenced by the interviews I had done for 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success and Forward Thinking Workplaces.

When I asked leaders for their best ideas and asked new questions they had never been asked before, they responded with surprising answers. They responded with answers from inside, not toolsets, software, and best practices.

Focusing on visual designs helps make the invisible, visible, and immeasurable, tangible.

Working with mental images activates a different mode of consciousness which is holistic and intuitive. — Henri Bortoft, The Wholeness of Nature

These new designs, of course, became known as Space Beyond Boundaries and are featured in every article published here on

Readers encouraged me to do more. I was still determining if I could or what else to write about or say, but somehow the ideas, designs, and words keep coming.

Fortunately, over the past 13+ years, I have meticulously captured many insights from the books I have read and the interviews I have conducted, which provides a rich base to draw upon.

However, even when I have yet to decide what to write about, new ideas and insights come together at just the right time to allow me to publish a new article every week for the past two and one-half years.

There's no doubt in my mind that SpaceB and this newsletter came about only because I stopped. At the time, I didn't realize it was an act of leadership. Now I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

What else is possible in the space beyond boundaries?

— Bill

P. S. Finding new ways to look inside and see the world in new ways are great ways to transcend your boundaries. Check out our new Space Beyond Boundaries Miro board and Space Beyond Boundaries Card Deck featured on the Products page. Discover new ways to engage with your team or organization to build collaboration, innovation, and leadership.