I came across this quotation the other day, and it struck a chord:
“One must be aware that there is nothing so difficult,
more doubtful in its result,
and more dangerous to do
than to introduce a new state of things.
The innovator has bitter enemies
among all those who benefit from the old system,
while he only has half-hearted defenders
among those who expect to benefit from the new system.
This half-heartedness has its roots in man’s lack of faith,
because he does not really believe in the new state
until he has experienced it.”
The question is, how do you help folk to experience and have faith the new state at the early stages of a change? How do you get to that tipping-point where there is enough energy to get lift-off with the new system? Remember, Machiavelli never saw a computer, so it was not computer systems he was talking about! It was much more about States and states!
Last Sunday, I took my friend Sam to visit my bees. He has been trying to keep bees for three years – but to no avail. The last swarm that I gave him on his birthday two years died off the first winter he had them.
And so it was, I was completely charmed that, on Tuesday morning, he rang me to say that a swarm had gathered on the window of his office – exactly above the desk he works at! We set about to catch them later that day – and yesterday we installed the swarm in one of his new hives not so many miles from here. I’m sure the bees will stay with him now.
This evening, I came across a beautiful piece by Tolstoy about the ultimate purpose of the honeybee – which I thought I would share with you.
It has been a magical and charmed week and the honeybees have truly touched my friend, Sam and me with this amazing encounter. Long may the honeybees swarm into people’s lives as they did for me so many years ago.
“As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet at the same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, so each individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve a general purpose incomprehensible to man.
A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people.
A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers.
A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey.
Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race.
A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence.
Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee.
But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern.
The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.
All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life. And so it is with the purpose of historic characters and nations.”
Extracted rom Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace: Chapter IV
I had to introduce a workshop last week with a bunch of folk who were trying to take on the “big guys”. I opened the workshop with a story which, for me, gives great hope to the small guys who are toiling away to take on the big guys.
Some say the big guys have gotten the world into the mess that it is currently in. So here’s a story to cheer those up who are ploughing their furrow as a “small guy”!
There is an old Celtic legend, a story of two lumberjacks.
Both men were skilled woodsmen although the first, called Angus, was much bigger, welding a powerful axe. He was so strong that he didn’t have to be as accurate for he still produced due to his sheer size. He was known far and wide for his ability to produce great quantities of raw material. Many hired him just because he was bigger. After all, his customers reasoned, everyone knows that bigger is always better!
In spite of his size, the fame of the second woodsman’s (who was called Hamish) was spreading for his skill was in his accuracy. There was very little waste in his efforts so his customers ended up with a better product for their money. Soon the word spread that Hamish’s work was even better than his larger competitor, Angus.
Upon hearing this, Angus became concerned. He wondered, “How could this be? I am so much bigger that I MUST be better!” He proposed that the two compete with a full day of chopping trees to see who was more productive. The winner would be declared ”The Greatest Lumberjack in all the land.” Hamish agreed and the date for the bout was set.
The townsfolk began talking. They placed their bets. Angus was the favorite to win with a 20 to 1 advantage. After all, bigger is better! The evening before the bout, both men sharpened their blades. Hamish strategized to win the bout. He knew he would never win because of his size. He needed a competitive advantage. Each man went to bed confident that he would be declared the winner.
Morning broke with the entire town showing up to cheer on the lumberjacks. The competition started with a the judge’s shout, “GO!” Angus, strong and broad, leaped into action. He chopped vigorously and continuously, without stopping, knowing that every tree he felled brought him closer to his coveted title.
Hamish, wasting no time, jumped into action as well, attacking his trees with every intention of winning the distinguished title. But unlike his larger competitor, he stopped every forty five minutes to rest and sharpen his blade.
This worried the onlooking townspeople greatly. They murmured among themselves. Surely, he could never win if he didn’t work longer and harder than his competitor. His friends pleaded with him to increase his speed, to work harder – but to no avail. This pattern continued throughout the day when both men heard the judge yell “TIME!”, signaling the end of the match.
Angus stood, winded and exhausted, yet also proud by his pile of trees knowing he had given his best having chopped almost continuously since the start of the match. Surely, he was the winner!
Hamish also stood by his pile of trees – though, unlike his competitor, he was still fresh, ready to continue if necessary. He also stood confident in knowing that he had also given of his best and that his tactics would pay off.
When all the trees were counted, it was announced that Hamish had, indeed, felled more trees than Angus and he was granted title of “The Greatest Lumberjack in all the Land!”. He happily shook the judge’s hand and gripped his newly won axe made of the finest steel in the land. Angus (and most of the townspeople) stood in stunned silence at the announcement – for he was far greater reputation, was far stronger and had a much heavier axe!
But Hamish was not that surprised by the result. For he knew that, in order to win against his larger competitor, his instrument had to be continually sharpened. His axe was smaller and therefore each swing must be more accurate in order to produce the better product. By stopping the sharpen his instrument, he had proven, once and for all, that he was the better man for the job. He also knew that, with regular rests, he would be able to endure his technique far longer.
The ability to seek and identify structures, patterns and designs below the apparent surface of experience is the secret to success in communication, relationships, accelerated learning, languages, and many other things besides.
Someone asked me the other day why I chose to call myself a designer, rather than a consultant and I told them the story of the Tinsmith. The story originally came from an order of the Sufi’s called the Naqshbandi Order. Naqushbandi quite literally means “designer”.
“Once upon a time in a city far far away in a time long gone, a tinsmith was falsely accused of a crime he had not committed. Being poor and without any powerful friends to influence the judge, he was imprisoned.
He was given a wish before being sent to the cells and he asked that he be allowed to receive a rug which should be woven by his wife. In due course, the rug was made and delivered to the prison. Upon receiving the rug, the tinsmith prostrated himself upon the rug, day after day, to say his prayers.
After some time, he said to his jailers: “I am poor and without hope and you are wretchedly paid. But I am a tinsmith. Bring me some tin and tools to work with and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market – and we will both benefit.”
The guards agreed to this and presently they and the tinsmith were both making a profit from which they bought food and comforts for themselves.
Then, one day, when the guards awoke to find that the cell door was open and the tinsmith was gone. Some spoke of magic or perhaps a miracle because no prison in this kingdom had ever been escaped from.
Many years later, a convicted thief confessed to the crime that the tinsmith had been accused of. As a result, the tinsmith was pardoned and two weeks later the tinsmith and his family reappeared in the city. The governor of the province heard of the tinsmith’s return and summoned him to his palace.
The governor asked the tinsmith what magic he had used to make such an impossible escape.
The tinsmith replied “My wife is a weaver. She designs rugs, mats and carpets. She weaves patterns into the wefts and warps of her fabric.”
“By design, she found the man who had made the locks of the cell door and got it from him, by design.”
“She wove the design into the rug at the spot where my head touched in prayer five times a day. I am a metal-worker and this design looked to me like the inside of a lock. But I lacked the materials to make a key, so I made a business proposition to the guards, by design. I then used the materials that the guards provided me to make many small artifacts, including a key that would unlock the cell door.”
So, by design, I escaped.”
“We are all born with a brain”, said the tinsmith. “When we begin to understand the patterns and structures of our thinking, we can start to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of our limitations.”
Story adapted from the book: Sufis: The People of the Path: The Royal Way by Osho – Chapter 5 – Design within Design
Susie, my wife, booked us to go and see a film on Sunday evening – “The best exotic Marigold Hotel”. A very funny film and well worth watching! You can’t leave the film and not remember the line that one of the leading characters, Sonny, keeps saying throughout the film:
“Everything will be all right in the end; if it’s not alright then it’s not the end.”
Apparently this is a quote of the Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino: “No fim tudo dá certo, e se não deu certo é porque ainda não chegou ao fim” – but I am not sure if he really was the originator or not. Doesn’t matter. It is a great quote. Actually, Susie has often quoted the first bit at me and it is strange, but somehow, everything always does work out in the end….
Anyway, it got me thinking back to the Thursday Thoughts theme two weeks ago about optimism – and the Optimist’s Creed.
And so it was that last night I got to Chapter 24 in Daniel Kahneman’s Book “Thinking, fast and slow” (which I started to review last week) only to find that this chapter – entitled “The Engine of Capitalism” is all about optimism too! Or perhaps, more accurately, over-optimism. Coincidence or what?
Kahneman summarises in a section entitled “COMPETITION NEGLECT“:
“It is tempting to explain entrepreneurial optimism by wishful thinking, but emotion is only part of the story. Cognitive biases play an important role, notably the System 1 WYSIATI (What you see is all there is):
We focus on our goal, anchor on our plan, and neglect relevant base rates, exposing ourselves to the planning fallacy.
We focus on what we want to do and can do, neglecting the plans and skills of others
Both in explaining the past and in predicting the future, we focus on the causal role of skill and neglect the role of luck. we are therefore prone to an illusion of control.
We focus on what we know and neglect what we do not know, which makes us overly confident in our beliefs.
What was more extraordinary is that as I was reading this, a good friend and follower of this stream, David Brunnen wrote to me and sent me this link: http://www.innovationpolicy.org/my-new-book-title-eh-the-future-will-be-okay with the comment: “Worth a read I think – partly because of his realistic assessment of US R&D funding and partly because Rob gets close to the tendency that has long-plagued the ICT world – eternal optimism and hype.”
Even more coincidence. Anyone else thinking about optimism, over-optimism and the way we think about the future? Please join in the flow by commenting below!
Have you ever been in a situation where you say something that you regret later? For example, I was with a close friend the other day trying to “help” her work through some problems. The suggestions that I made to her were taken the wrong way and the conversation broke down. Purely because I put too many of my own thoughts into the flow.
It made me think: I wondered whether there was a way we could communicate without putting our own ideas, suggestions and bias forward? In my research, I came across a whole system of communication that originates in psychotherapy that allows you to do just that!
The originator of the approach was a guy called David Grove (whom I never met) – who died far too young four years ago in January 2008. The ideas behind the system have various names – but one of the best-known terms is that of “Clean Language” – popularised in an excellent book published shortly after Grove’s death called “Clean Language” by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees.
Rooted in the idea that we all live with our own very personal, subjective metaphors, the technique allows the person being questioned to explore those metaphors without any judgement or bias from the interviewer or therapist.
The basics of using Clean Language are simple:
Keep your opinions and advice to yourself
Ask Clean Language Questions to explore a person’s metaphors (or everyday statements)
Listen to the answers and then ask more Clean Language questions about what they have said
If the person being asked the Clean Language questions is seeking to change, then the change can happen naturally as part of the process. It is not a technique to force change on anyone! I have found that there are equally useful ways in which to use the method: whether it is gathering information on a project, interviewing someone or asking children about their own worlds that they live in.
In the book there are twelve basic questions in Clean Language with a further 19 “specialised” questions. However, to get going, other articles refer to the five basic questions which are designed to help clients add detail and dimension to their perceptions:
1. “And is there anything else about [client’s words]?”
2. “And what kind of [client’s words] is that [client’s words]?”
3. “And that’s [client’s words] like what?”
4. “And where is [client’s words]?”
5. “And whereabouts [client’s words]?”
There is a great video on the use of Clean Language in therapy – with some interesting results:
Another strand of this line of research was published in an earlier book “Metaphors in Mind: Transforming through Symbolic Modelling” by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins in 2000. There is a short two-part article by Lawley on some of these ideas as they apply to organisations which can be found here: Metaphors of Organisation – an angle to this whole work that I find fascinating. There is also a quote from Gareth Morgan at the start of the article which sums-up some of the ideas:
“All theories of organisation and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that persuade us to see, understand, and imagine situations in partial ways. Metaphors create insight. But they also distort. They have strengths. But they also have limitations. In creating ways of seeing, they create ways of not seeing. Hence there can be no single theory or metaphor that gives an all-purpose point of view. There can be no ‘correct theory’ for structuring everything we do.”
To open up our thinking, Morgan seeks to do three things:
(1) To show that many conventional ideas about organisation and management are based on a small number of taken-for-granted images and metaphors.
(2) To explore a number of alternative metaphors to create new ways of thinking about organisation.
(3) To show how metaphor can be used to analyse and diagnose problems and to improve the management and design of organisations.
I wish I had known this a month ago before the encounter I described at the beginning of this thought. The outcome would have been very different, I’m sure. I’m also very interested to know if you use any of these ideas in the work that you do. Please comment below if you have any thoughts or observations. In the meantime, try using clean language in your everyday work and play – it is a really useful tool – even if you are not a fully-trained psychotherapist! It is so clean it can’t hurt anyone – and can actually be quite fun realising how much of our own “stuff” we put into normal conversation.
You are probably past the point of setting New Year’s resolutions and have forgotten the one you set last year. Yet when you look back a year and look forward a year, it is surprising how little changes and how much stays the same.
Sure, 2011 was turbulent for many. In Europe, we seemed to leave the year with an uneasy sense of unknowingness about what lies ahead in 2012 for the Eurozone. And we are told that the world is now so connected that we don’t need New York to sneeze before the rest of the world catches a cold. The sneeze could come from Berlin or Beijing or anywhere else for that matter.
Yet there is nothing like a conscience and a critical review to remind you of what you committed to and what you forecast might happen…. And writing a blog is somehow a very public way of saying that I commit to something at the start of a New Year.
So it was that I was surprised to find that I went public this time last year to reduce my bodyweight. Apparently this is the most common New Year’s resolution that people make. I did actually manage to lose a stone between January and April last year – only to put on 9 pounds between April and Christmas!
So often, (in weight loss AND in business performance), the gains are difficult enough to achieve – but even harder to sustain. It is not that my body needs to be as heavy as it is. It is more about habit – and changing the habits that have been laid down over a lifetime. It didn’t take much for me to revert to my old habits as the summer came and the bees started to make honey!
Reading the press over the New Year, it was interesting to see that the UK population has become more and more obese – and some say over 35% is now obese. As has the banking system and, perhaps many of the service organisations that try to service our needs – or so the current UK government thinks.
So the question for me is how to we can reduce weight and sustain a healthy lifestyle in a world that seems to becoming more obese.
My diet last year where I managed to lose a stone in weight was not really a diet. I never felt hungry the whole time I was on the regime. I simply reduced the number of calories I ate.
In a similar way, the two puppies that we took on in September are a good weight – because they get fed the correct amount of food each day. It is interesting, also, that we have never been as healthy as our parents and grandparents were the 1940s when the country had food rationing.
It is not so much, then, about reducing weight. It is more about eating the correct amount you need to achieve and maintain a natural bodyweight.
So, for this year, as well as reducing weight (another stone would do), I resolve to try to sustain the weight loss. I would also like to do the reverse for my business – increase the revenues and sustain the flow! Funny that in March last year I earned the most in a month when my weight reduced the most!
Maybe one idea works with the other. Who knows? Maybe the Lean Folk know. Makes you think, anyway!
As a keen watcher of the RSAnimate series, I was surprised I had not posted on the most popular animation yet – Dank Pink’s brilliant exposure of what really motivates us. With nearly 7 million views, it is an insightful analysis of what really motivates – and the answer is not obvious. The story takes us on a journey to uncover what really does give us the motivation to do more than just get us out of bed every day and go to work.
Before you watch it (even if you have seen it before), write down what you think really motivates you – and then compare it with Dan’s three motivators at the end of the video. Even it if you get all three correct, the exercise will certainly make you think!