Renaissance Thinking: The Process of Achieving “Best Possible”

SOURCE: Kay Sever | July 30, 2020

For the past two months we have explored the topic of Renaissance Thinking… what it means to your business success and your ability to optimize the performance of your assets and your people. The concept of Renaissance Thinking was born in the Renaissance period, a time in history when artists, architects and builders reached for what had never been achieved or what was believed to be impossible. They produced some of the greatest artwork and structures in human history and 500 years later we still marvel at those creations.

Today we only see the end result of their work. We cannot go back in time to watch them courageously challenge the status quo with new designs and processes for building, painting and sculpting. We cannot watch them solve problems like finding qualified labor or sourcing/transporting new materials. We cannot overhear their conversations with potential investors about funding their work. There is much we cannot know, but we do know this… they overcame many barriers to create a “best possible” result.

Why is this important for us to think about in the year 2020? The answer is that the search for “best possible” (i.e., optimization) has common elements that span decades, lifetimes and centuries. Some of these elements from the Renaissance can be used to better understand the concept of optimization in an organization. They can also be used by management teams to sustain “best possible” performance far into the future. This month we are going to examine some of those common elements at a high level.

Renaissance Thinking required artists, architects and builders to approach an idea or project with a “limitless” perspective. However, this perspective alone was not enough to bring their ideas into reality. Doing what has always been done is easy; trying something new comes with a lot of potential barriers to success. For Renaissance Thinkers, some barriers were physical (labor and materials); other barriers were virtual (i.e., unseen, psychological, human-introduced). Renaissance Thinkers knew how to recognize and overcome both types of barriers, which contributed to their “limitless” perspectives!

Physical Barriers

Many of the structures built during the Renaissance Period were both massive and extremely ornate. New materials had to be sourced, maybe from long distances by ship. Innovative designs and building methods created new engineering challenges for structural support and construction sequence. Labor forces had to be a mix of skilled engineers, experienced builders and talented artists that specialized in carving, metalwork, mosaics, etc. Since some structures took centuries to build, a Renaissance builder often did not live long enough to see the completion of his work. This means that generations of engineers, builders and artists worked on the same project. The grand plan had to be “handed-down” from generation to generation, a challenge seldom encountered in the 21st century.       

In today’s corporate world, new equipment and systems are often viewed as the primary physical barrier to “best possible” performance. After considering the advice of vendors and consultants, millions of dollars are invested in equipment and systems designed to achieve optimization by maximizing capacity, elevating bottlenecks and increasing productivity. Once the new equipment and systems are installed, executives often believe they have achieved optimization and that it will be sustained by the equipment. Here’s the problem with that line of thinking: Virtual barriers to optimization must also be addressed or the gains from this investment will forever be compromised.       

Virtual Barriers

Renaissance Thinkers had new ideas that drew criticism and ridicule from naysayers, doubters, peers and leading experts of that time. Renaissance Thinkers knew that they could not cling to old practices to make others happy and still achieve their goals! They had to make “a decision” to abandon old practices that would hold them back. They had to ignore criticisms that would lessen their passion for their vision. They had to be willing to lose friends and allies to focus on their innovative ideas and beliefs about what was possible to achieve and change.

Like Renaissance thinkers, business leaders have a desire/vision for excellence. Executive teams set company goals for “being the best they can be”. These goals are reflected in their vision or mission statements with words like “we are the best” or “we will work to be the best”, etc. In fact, optimization is the act of becoming the “best possible”.

When companies decide to move forward with optimization, it takes more than new equipment to meet that goal. When the senior leadership team shifts the goal from “meeting budget” to “being the best we can be”, a subset of management tools, processes and practices becomes obsolete! Why? Because managing to meet budget is NOT THE SAME as managing to optimize performance! If that subset of management tools, processes and practices is not modified/upgraded to support management’s needs in meeting this new goal, virtual barriers will be created within the organization. These barriers will steal profit, shift the focus away from a “best possible” goal, confuse decision-making and interfere with problem solving… making it harder, not easier, to achieve optimization.    

Like Renaissance Thinkers, management teams must make “a decision” to abandon or modify traditional tools, processes and practices that will prevent them from achieving optimization. CEOs, executive teams and management teams must be aware that making this decision is part of the process and is critical to sustaining optimization gains long term.     

Thought for the month: “A Vision” and “A Decision” are two critical steps in the Optimization Process.


Kay Sever is an Optimization Management Expert. She will help your management team optimize performance for your assets and your people. She has developed a LIVESTREAM management training system for Optimization Management called MiningOpportunity – NO TRAVEL REQUIRED. MiningOpportunity modules lead executives and management teams through the process of removing barriers within the management system that prevent optimization, hide operating potential, divide your people and hinder change. Kay specializes in reducing losses that are not recorded in your financial system. Unique insights from Kay’s 3-year study of management’s barriers to change and optimization are included in the content. See for her contact information and several training options for your team, including the NEW “Spend a Day with Kay” option.

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Kay Sever
Kay Sever Author
P.O. Box 337 Gilbert, AZ USA 85299-0337

Kay has worked side by side with corporate and production sites in a management/leadership/consulting role for 35+ years. She helps management teams improve performance, profit, culture and change, but does it in a way that connects people and the corporate culture to their hidden potential. Kay helps companies move “beyond improvement” to a state of “sustained optimization”. With her guidance and the MiningOpportunity system, management teams can measure the losses caused by weaknesses in their current culture, shift to a Loss Reduction Culture to reduce the losses, and “manage” the gains from the new culture as a second income stream.