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Pursue Elegance: Navigating Ambiguity with Grace

If we’ve learned anything in the past year it’s that we live in a complex and uncertain world. No matter how hard we try, we can’t always predict what’s going to come next. We can, however, choose to tackle tough — and all, for that matter — situations with grace. We can add good design, process and beauty to our work.

Box of Crayons creates live, virtual and digital programs for clients who are working with us to unleash the power of curiosity in their organizations. Our mission is to unleash curiosity, and it’s imperative for us to make the learning journey with clients as precise and elegant as possible. Outcomes are important, but we want to navigate the entire process with simplicity and style to ensure an impactful experience.

Did you guess what value we’re focusing on next?

PURSUE ELEGANCE

Aim for precision and simplicity. Navigate ambiguity with grace. Good design matters.
Process even over outcomes. 

It comes as no surprise that our VP of Operations lives out this value. In the story below, Kimiko Mainprize shares how “Pursue Elegance” is at the core of everything she does, personally and professionally.

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I’m the kind of person who creates structure in chaotic situations. Bring on the change. Bring on the mayhem. I can handle it … mostly because I’ll build a simple and elegant way forward. It’s my MO for everything I do. 

I’m also a pretty structured person. I centre everything in my life around a routine so that I can face each day with as much grace and poise as I can muster. In my opinion, this is the core of what it means to pursue elegance, and I love how we gloss it here at Box of Crayons: Get clear, be precise and navigate “messy” middles. It values the process of finding a way through something even over the end result or outcome. 

I pursue elegance in almost every part of my day.

Starting with the way I begin: Enjoy a cup of tea, read something new, move my body (usually yoga) then get dressed and ready for the day. This process centres me so that I can show up with space for others, which is a big part of the role I play in both my professional and personal life. 

When I think about this value, I break it down into two parts: 

  1. Caring about the experiences of others is the ultimate goal in everything I do.
  2. Things should be clear, simple and ultimately lead to as positive or as painless an experience as possible for the person it’s intended for. 

Good questions I keep in mind to Pursue Elegance:

  • What do we know to be true?
  • What feels messy or unclear?
  • How can we work together so we clearly understand what we are each responsible for? 
  • What is the simplest way to achieve our goal? 

I’m often most interested and curious about how we get somewhere, rather than the end itself. It’s about acknowledging and managing frustrations within and during the journey, rather than grinning and bearing it to the final destination. And while I aim to pursue elegance in all elements of my life, I also think about this value as it applies to others.

Recently, I was at a doctor’s appointment and saw a notice on the wall. I scanned it quickly, as it wasn’t there the last time I was in the office. I took a picture so I could read it in detail when I got back to my car and left with a friendly goodbye to the staff. No one said a word about the notice.

When I finally sat down to look at the picture, I realized it was about a fee change for the service I was receiving. I thought about how this could affect me. The notice also looked like it applied to everyone receiving a certain type of service, and that concerned me more. Fee changes, as big as this one and with as short of notice, could affect people’s abilities to pay rent. It could impact their ability to afford the service in the first place. 

I had so many questions: 

  • Did they notify people before they started their service that there was a significant change to what they had to pay? 
  • Did it apply to those who were already midway through their treatment plan? 
  • How did they notify people? Call them? Email them? Or was it simply just this notice, with size 10 font on a wall, that I saw only because I’m a detail-oriented human being? 

Where was the phone call? Where was the courtesy? I was really worked up. Truly, not because of how this would impact me. I could weather it. I was determined to proceed. But what angered me was how inconsiderate it was for those who couldn’t roll with this sort of abrupt change. It was also not very accessible: What about those who had vision impairment? Come on! 

When they called me later that day to schedule my next appointment, I was quick to ask about who the fee change would impact. They told me they often run out of funding at this time of year, but I wasn’t affected. What I was still curious about was if and how they were notifying the people who were affected. 

This was an inelegant process.

While the fee change is problematic in and of itself, it’s also about how they tell people about it. Processes that care for the client (or patient, employee, end user) truly matter. We need the courtesy and space of knowing how something will impact us, especially something as sensitive and significant as a major fee change for a health service. While this change didn’t end up impacting me, it took me asking about it to know for sure, and I’m sure others were just as confused as I was.

Something that recurs on an annual basis provides a great opportunity to revisit processes and pursue more elegant solutions.

The takeaway from this experience — and one I think about in my work and relationships — is this: By thinking through the “how” of something and centering it on the impact it could eventually have, we can give people more clarity and respect. This is what pursuing elegance is all about. Process even over outcomes. Navigating ambiguity with grace. And aiming for precision and simplicity in everything we do. We all deserve the courtesy of a straightforward process, after all. (Coming from an ops person, are you surprised?)

Kimiko Mainprize
VP of Operations & Chief of Staff

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We love how Kimiko’s reflection puts the human at the centre.

An elegant process is thoughtfully designed and clear from start to finish on the impact it seeks to have, who it will impact and how. And there’s beauty in that. 

Pursuing elegance as a value enables us to do great work — the work that has meaning, the work that has impact — with precision and clarity. Through elegance we can find better solutions, and increase the productivity and performance of our teams. It’s a standard that we strive for in everything we do at Box of Crayons. 

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