When I was little, Halloween was a dream come true given what seemed like unlimited candy and creative dressing opportunities. Some years we had store-bought masks but usually our costumes were homemade.
Soon we learned from the older boys that soaping windows was part of the fun of Halloween. As I heard it explained by a neighbor boy, window soaping was the trick part of the trick-or-treat holiday. Prior to the night of candy gathering, Mom caught us in the bathroom liberating some new bars of soap. When we explained the process of window soaping, Mom was horrified. She would not have her boys vandalizing the windows of our neighbors.
"Everybody does it," we howled in protest. In response Mom invented a solution. We were still not allowed to soap the windows of our neighbors but we could have access to our large picture window in front. With the aid of a step ladder we reached the window top and in time it was covered with soap.
My brothers and I surveyed our completed masterpiece with pride. Eventually, when the daylight hours waned and trick-or-treating time approached, Mom brought out a bucket of water and rags for us all. It seemed the windows were in dire need of a cleaning. Mom had learned from Tom Sawyer and his picket fence endeavor how to frame a task to meet our needs and get the window cleaned. Everybody was happy.
The night proceeded and Joe led us on our candy acquisition efforts, which as usual were successful. Most families gave various types of miniature candy bars but some splurged with larger bars.
On our rounds we saw some windows of people who were not home covered with soap and were glad we had the opportunity earlier albeit on our own windows. Some of the older boys, wandered intermittently collecting candy and throwing shelled corn at cars. This night was filled with behaviors that were unacceptable any other day of the year.
Mom was always creative in meeting her children's needs and wants. Seldom did her solutions cost much money and often they met her needs at the same time although we were unaware of the added benefit.
According to Wikipedia the concept of equifinality was coined by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in conjunction with his General Systems Theory. He suggested that every problem had multiple sources and multiple potential solutions. Often times we think of problems in linear terms. We focus on seeking the contributor and identifying a solution to solve it. In reality, problems are more complex and require diverse solutions. The best leaders look at problems systematically to identify a set of contributors and sculpt solutions that uniquely address the issue.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.