Enlightened Conflict

those who tied the knots are responsible for untying

September 17th, 2017

knot getting shit done business solve question

 

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“Those who tied the knots are responsible for untying [them].”

 

—–

Chinese Foreign Ministry

 

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So.

 

We talk a shitload about “business problem solvers” or “disruptors” or any number of ‘problem/solution’ type things in the business world.

 

 

knot variants solve problems businessWell … maybe we should talk more about the knots.

 

Knots?

 

Well.

 

I have eased my way into a number of new responsibility positions throughout my career and one of the first things you start doing when you settle in is scan for the knots that are inherently strewn throughout the business.

 

Sometimes these are nicely tied knots someone has developed and set in place to hold together a process or system or principle to insure it holds something important together.

 

Sometimes these are nasty tangled threads created by someone who didn’t know their ass from their toes, or by the system itself <think of a lawn hose by the end of the summer> or sometimes they are representative of well-intended actions by a variety of people over time <trying to improve or fix something>.

 

And while those are all “sometimes”  … all times, all businesses, have knots.

 

That said.

I can also say that untying knots is not for the faint of heart. To do so well is to be part safe cracker, part surgeon and part Navy Seal.

 

Ah.

 

But not everyone views knots the same – in how they occurred and what needs to be done to untie.

 

I would suggest how you view a knot depends on whether you believe in cause & effect <a linear action model> or in a more ambiguous “a cause can create multiple effects’ model.

linear cause and effect thinking behavior knot

 

 

Let me explain a little.

 

When I started n the business world we spent a shitload of time discussing cause & effect, stimulus & response and … well … a lot of behavior based on a linear ‘if this, then that’ type model.

 

Not so much today.

 

In today’s world almost all situations <internal process as well as consumer/buyer behavior> are ‘knotty.’

knot untie business confusing responsibility

 

I often show a picture of an atom in attitudes & behavior discussion but I like the knot metaphor also.

 

Uhm.

 

Yes.

 

This type of thinking, unfortunately, increases the likelihood of ambiguity.

 

Ambiguity is not one of those things the business world tends to happily embrace.

 

To be clear.

 

There is a lot to be said for teaching young business people cause & effect basics.

I liked growing up & learning the business world encased in a cocoon of certainty type thinking. Linear type thinking gave me some clarity and it certainly permitted some fairly easy conclusions and recommendations.

 

Unfortunately I also found, over time with experience, this increases the likelihood of … well … a shitload of bad things – wasted energy, misguided efforts and monies being funneled into activity generating less-than-desired outcomes.

 

But.

It had been linear logic and, therefore, provided some certainty to base the recommended recommendations on.

 

Ah.

 

Certainty.

 

Certainty is something we all crave in business. But we may crave it for a slightly less obvious reason then you may think.

 

Linear permits us to more easily get the one thing almost everyone wants – a way to get out.

Yeah.

 

It’s not really about solutions or answers … simplistically … it is awareness that there could be a way out.

 

Just think about it a little.

 

Most of us when faced with some situation, issue or problem just want a way out of that situation, issue or problem.

 

And, yet, we spend gobs of time talking solutions and most likely invest far too much time & energy extrapolating out “what of scenarios” in seeking what happens when we untie the knot and move forward. It’s quite possible we should be investing more energy, instead, on looking at a knot and simply seeking the best way out of the knot.

 

And that is where linear thinking kicks nonlinear thinking’s ass.

 

With ambiguity the way out is not only less clear but, at times, it can seem like a crapshoot –what is behind door #1, versus door #2 … a well as door #3?

And who the fuck wants that in any business decision maker situation?

 

Which leads me back to knots.

 

As you move up in management, and Life I imagine, you either get better at linear to navigate ambiguity thinking experience business knotseeing the knot and seeing how to untie a knot … or you remain a linear cause & effect decision maker.

 

I would suggest the world can use both; however, the world <business or otherwise> cannot exist solely with cause & effect decision makers. In addition .. each group and drive the other one frickin’ crazy.

 

But … suffice it to say … we need knot un-tiers.

 

Being an un-tier actually consists of two aspects … one attitude and one expertise.

 

Attitude: personal responsibility.

 

You own the knot.

This is a metaphor … a metaphor for a problem and owning the problem.

We all inherit problems. And the most successful of us look at them as knots, not ‘some simple fix <do this/get that>. The most successful of us don’t sit around bitching about the knots, whether they were there already or created by someone else, but go about assuming responsibility for any and all knots and go about untying as many of them as we can.

But here is the thing about this responsibility. We own the knot. We do so because we know that once we are in a position to get shit done … all that matters is getting shit done. And you know you have the responsibility to do what needs to be done to get shit done.

It does no good to say “not my knot.” You have a job … they are all now your knots.

 

I would note that untying knots is kind of a “go big or go home” type venture. I say that because in business once you begin untying … well … you have to keep going. Knots, good and bad, exist for a reason … so eliminating, or rearranging, a knot will have consequences — stopping is not an option.

 

 

Expertise: ability to navigate the interweaving that binds a knot.

 

Untangling is part vision and part deft touch.

Anyone who has ever untied an ‘impossible knot’ knows that you cannot simply tug & pull … you have to ease one aspect and pull another and maybe even push in other place. Deft. And as you do so you have the vision ability to see the unseen parts and get a sense of where one ‘weave’ has appeared and where it has come from, what it crosses and if it is actually entangled with another weave.

 

———

 

knot theory getting shit done do business

—–

 

I would suggest that this is partially an ability to navigate some ambiguity.

 

Ah.

 

That last ‘navigate ambiguity’ leads me to one last thing.

 

Cause & effect thinkers can be a cleverly dangerous group of business thinkers to work with.

Using the business knot as the example … the most dangerous thing a linear thinker can do is offer everyone the false linear cause & effect conclusion.

 

Huh?false linear cause effect knot business decision

 

Think of this knot as like shoelaces. The knot is there with the aglets <the small sheath, often made of plastic or metal, used on each end of a shoelace>. The linear thinker, incapable of untying the knot suggests the knots doesn’t matter because if I have the left aglet, and the right aglet, they suggest “I can clearly see the ultimate cause & effect”.

 

That is wrong. And dangerous for making a business decision.

 

Not to put this too harshly but that logic is like saying “I love all jelly filled donuts” not knowing some are filled with shit.

 

All that said.

 

I will say that once you have tied a knot you do assume some responsibility for it – keeping it, explain it or even untying it. I mention this because a lot of us leave positions, jobs & companies and far too often leave a knot behind with no explanation.

Maybe we are embarrassed to highlight a knot or maybe we just start thinking “not my worry anymore.”

Well.

It doesn’t really matter what you think … you own the knot and you have a responsibility to talk about any and all knots with anyone who may someday want to untie it.

the oversimplification crisis

September 11th, 2017

 

occam economy choice simplify

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We miss out on the value of the message itself as a vehicle for driving virality.”

 

Jonah Berger

 

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“Say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

Bruce McTague

<author of “the shortest business book ever written”>

 

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So.

 

 

oversimplification wrongThis is about how we have a simplification crisis.

 

 

Ok.

This is about how we have an oversimplification crisis.

 

This crisis is making us … well … stupid.

 

 

Ok.

This crisis is making us stupider.

 

 

Look.

 

What I mean is that in a world in which we know that everything is complex, and more often than not, more complex than our own pea like brains can handle, we unerringly swerve toward simplistic headline conclusions and oversimplifications and absurd bullet point conclusions.

 

This surface skating intellectualism just makes us stupider.

 

Now.oversimplify assumption risk life business

 

We may convince ourselves we do this simply as a mental survival technique but I would argue, and I do, that it actually is the opposite of a survival technique … it is destructive behavior. It is destructive in that it destroys the overall thinking of what is actually a population quite capable of being intelligent, if not intellectual.

Yeah.

It makes us stupider.

 

I thought about this the other day because I have conversations with some incredibly smart and talented people who know a shitload more about more things than I could ever imagine and this topic came up. I note the smartness of these people to highlight how unusual it is that I can say something that actually can make a group of these people stop, be silent and then go “hmmmmmmmmmm.”

It is a rare thing.

 

And, yet, it happened the other day.

 

After some extensive conversation on North Korea, global trade challenges, Trump <of course> & foreign policy we opened the discussion to “what is the biggest challenge facing us …”

 

My thought drew some <thoughtful> silence.

 

I said “oversimplification.”

 

To me … oversimplification misleads and creates bad decisions and, worse, creates bad thinking <which leads to bad opinions, attitudes and thoughts>.

 

And I offered a couple reasons why I believe this is happening <I did this because if you can identify the issues you can find solutions>:

 

 

We have convinced ourselves we do not have time for complex

 

 

big fat waste of my time business show for itGoing back to the ‘destructive behavior’ thought I shared earlier …  oversimplification is anything but efficient. It actually demands more time in a variety of ways. The two simplest ways it does so is <1> the time we over invest attempting to isolate the simplest version of what is anything but simple and <2> the amount of time & energy we have to invest explain everything beyond the simplistic tripe initially offered, to thwart misguided behavior & reactions to the oversimplified offering & to redefine the oversimplification into bifurcated parts of the oversimplified whole.

 

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that we all have shorter, and shortened, attention spans.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that people best retain “one thing.”

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves in our perceived “never enough time” world we have to topline everything <to fit everything in>.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that in a blizzard of nonstop things constantly vying for our attention the only way to capture someone’s attention is in some pithy soundbite.

 

Basically we have convinced ourselves that hollowing out an idea and a thought actually benefits not only the idea and the thought … but us!

 

This is fucking nuts. Absolutely crazy.

 

Unfortunately, and truthfully, some things are just too complex to communicate in a sound bite or in 3 seconds or less.

 

No matter how brief and simple you want to make it … well … it is neither brief nor simple. It is complex and sometimes the opposite of brief.

 

It isn’t just about telling a story.

 

Nor is it just about finding influencers to broker the story.

 

Nor is it just about practical value.

 

Nor is it just about emotion.

 

Unfortunately it is a combination of those things. Yeah. Effective communication is … uhm … complex.

 

 

We have convinced ourselves that simple & simplicity is reflective of common sense.

 

 

time to do it right do it overI admit.

 

I have never been shy about calling bullshit on the simplistic tripe being spewed under the guise of ‘expert advice’ or ‘common sense.’

 

That said.

I will suggest no topic has  been tortured more by common sense than simplicity.

 

 

Common sense suggests the simplest thing is the best.

 

Common sense suggests it is easier for a person to remember one thing and one word.

 

Common sense suggests in a complex world we humans crave simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests in a busy world we only have time for simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests a lot of nonsensical bullshit.

 

I will not argue that making something as simple as it can be is good but … well … simplistically … oversimplification is misleading and ultimately creates bad less-than-informed decision making AND thinking.

 

We have used this common sense simplicity bullshit for one simple reason — it serves us well in challenging the most established legitimate rule of Life & things. And that rule is “the world is complex.”

 

We embrace simplistic solution after simplistic solution, all labeled as ‘common sense ideas’, which are often counter to what an expert would suggest <which is often deemed “too complex”>…  only to find 90% of the time common sense was not only just simply wrong but also made us stupider.

 

I have written about simplicity and the complexity of finding the simplest way to communicate the complex many times and as I do so today I would remind everyone of what Jonah Berger offered us for a nifty sound bite compilation of sound bites to create a sound bite philosophy:

 

Here are his STEPPS for making anything go viral:

 

–          Social Currency: We share things that make us look good (even if that means pictures of our cat).

 

–          Triggers: Easily memorable information means its top of mind and tip of the tongue.

 

–          Emotion: When we care, we share.

 

–          Public: Built to show, built to grow.

 

–          Practical Value: News people can use.

 

–          Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

 

And while this is about “making things go viral” it is actually about finding the simplest way to communicate complex shit in a way that it is actually retained in a cognitive way.

 

I would also note that this dos not reflect “one simple thing”, sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mindit does reflect the complexity of reality and the mind and it reflects how to … well … help make us less stupider.

 

Ah.

Cognitive way.

As in “we actually understand what it is we heard, saw or read.”

 

That is an important thing to ponder because over simplification cheats cognitive value as well as the value of whatever it is you have to offer people. Simplicity may be “memorable” but it doesn’t really lodge itself in anyone’s mind & memory in any meaningful way.

 

In fact.

 

The less depth you offer in your oversimplification the more you are at the mercy of the mind that decides to remember you. What I mean by that is if you don’t provide the depth the mind will create some perceptions around whatever it lodges in the pea like brain.

 

Uhm.

 

This means the pea like brain lodges only what is actually the brain’s perceptions of what to remember and not what you <a> know to be true, <b> think it may be important for that mind to know or <c> want the brain to store away in its mind.

 

faulty reasoning oversimplification overlookI imagine what I am talking about is some wacky version of awareness versus engagement but that shit is bullshit too.

 

It’s all bullshit because we should be turning away from simplification and engagement and connection and simply focus on “say what you need to say to persuade someone to think or do what you want them to think or do.”

 

All the other bullshit just confuses things.

 

If I tell someone that ‘being noticed ‘ is the most important thing, than some asshat is gonna come up with some zany oversimplified shit that gets noticed but doesn’t effectively communicate one thing <let alone all the things you may have deemed truly important in the beginning>.

 

I admit … I balk at a lot of the bullshit offered online about simplification <and the importance thereof> because … well … it is an oversimplification which diminishes the importance of ‘communicating depth’ and increases the importance of ‘being noticed.’

I do not like that equation.

 

Effective communication is not a binary choice.

 

Effective communication, as with almost everything, is a complex challenge in communicating a complex thing well – because if you can communicate a couple things well it actually increases the perceived value <which then inevitably creates a stronger “memory stamp” … with value attached!>.

 

Which brings me back to our oversimplification crisis.

 

I could clearly argue that in today’s fragmented messaging world where information multiplies at light speed and a day still remains 24 hours that we humans are constantly honing our “incoming thoughts” filtering mechanisms.

 

I could also argue that our filtering system, as it exists today, sucks.

 

We have dumbed down our communication and thinking behavior to such a hollowed out status the majority of time we skate along the superficial irrelevant surface of reality.

 

If we are lucky, the ice doesn’t crack.

 

But the truth is that oversimplification only offers the thinnest of ice to skate on and inevitably we fall thru the ice … over and over and over again.

 

Uhm.

 

And in the business world falling through the ice is bad. It is, metaphorically, making a bad decision based on shallow thinking and paying for it.

 

Yeah.

I did say the biggest issue we face is oversimplification.

I said that because if I can solve this, if I can have smarter people communicating complex things more smartly and I can have more everyday schmucks understanding that simple solutions are more often like trying to place a square peg in a round hole … well … I think it unravels a shitload of other problems we face in today’s world.

 

I imagine I am arguing that if more people are less stupid and more aware of the reality of things the more effective & efficient we will be in addressing the difficulties reality tends to place in front of us.

 

period end-of-story_design

 

In the end I will go back to where i began … “say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

There are no rules nor boundaries in this statement.

 

You use as many words, or as few, as you need to say … to say something meaningful in an interesting way with the intent for it to be understood … and, ultimately, persuade someone to think something.

 

Period.

the randomness of thinking & thoughts

August 31st, 2017

context make things better young

 

Well.

 

Be prepared. I almost always open with a quote but today I open with a sentence … a 198 word sentence written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr <father of US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.>:

 

—————————

 

 

Many times, when I have got upon the cars, expecting to be magnetized into an hour or two of blissful reverie, my thoughts shaken up by the vibrations into all sorts of new and pleasing patterns, arranging themselves in curves and nodal points, like the grains of sand in Chladni’s famous experiment,—fresh ideas coming up to the surface, as the kernels do when a measure of corn is jolted in a farmer’s wagon,—all this without volition, the mechanical impulse alone keeping the thoughts in motion, as the mere act of carrying certain watches in the pocket keeps them wound up,—many times, I say, just as my brain was beginning to creep and hum with this delicious locomotive intoxication, some dear detestable friend, cordial, intelligent, social, radiant, has come up and sat down by me and opened a conversation which has broken my day-dream, unharnessed the flying horses that were whirling along my fancies and hitched on the old weary omnibus-team of every-day associations, fatigued my hearing and attention, exhausted my voice, and milked the breasts of my thought dry during the hour when they should have been filling themselves full of fresh juices.

 

——————————–

 

 

So.

 

vision-intentions-attitude-bigger-betterWhen I read this sentence <read it several times in fact> I thought of “filling up” and “emptying out.”

 

Huh?

 

Oliver Sr. was no dumb shit. His brain was filled with more “kernels of knowledge sand” than most of us will ever be filled with. And, yet, he outlines how the knowledge works best when emptied of structured thinking and any specific destination but rather when “without volition” new thoughts are unharnessed by old learning rearranged.

 

Couple lessons in that:

 

  • New thinking is almost always simply a new way of looking at something everybody already knows.

 

  • In an age of instant gratification, smartphone access to any answer you would ever want and a belief that the fastest answer is the best answer it is good to remember that thinking is like baking. You have ingredients and you need to properly bake them to arrive at something special.

 

 

This isn’t to suggest that there is no hurry but rather you use the allotted time in the best possible way.

 

I worry more about the latter than I do the former in today’s world.

 

I worry about it because thinking is more often like what someone referred to Emerson’s writing as “a chaos full of shooting-stars, a jumble of creative forces.”

 

That is thinking.

 

Thinking doesn’t pretend to follow rules, enact some methodology or even use dream window of opportunity imaginethe words it is ‘supposed to use.’

 

—–

unharnessed the flying horses that were whirling along

 

my thoughts shaken up by the vibrations into all sorts of new and pleasing patterns, arranging themselves in curves and nodal points, like the grains of sand

 

fresh ideas coming up to the surface, as the kernels do when a measure of corn is jolted in a farmer’s wagon

—-

 

And more often than not, in an attempt to be more efficient in a time constrained world, we try and micro-structure our thinking.

 

It seems like as the world became more enlightened by mass media, structured education systems and “college for all” we have become … well … more sensible in our thinking.

 

Which brings me back to my opening sentence.

 

It breaks all the rules of not only how to write but how to think.

 

And, yet, it captures the essence of thinking … it certainly captures the magic of thinking … and, unfortunately to the thinking methodology Nazis, it certainly captures the practicality of freedom in thinking.

 

thinking lazy capacityOur world today is strewn with catchy incorrect memes, rewritten history, faulty logic and misleading statistics all offered to us out of context.

 

The internet, while offering us a boundless offering of truth & facts, has only encouraged sloppy, lazy thinking.

 

It should be enlightening us but, far too often; it actually encourages some fairly absurd unenlightened thinking.

 

Thinking, and I mean real thinking, can cure this unenlightened cancer. The cancer is not social media or this absurd love of brevity … it is us and our thinking.

 

In thoughtful moments I tend to believe people know this. They know social media and smartphones and the internet is not the problem … it is us. Yeah. All those things make us susceptible to these wacky conspiracy theories, false statistics and alternative facts but they do not live unless we breathe life into them.

 

Look.

 

I do worry about thinking on occasion. Shit. I have even written about how I cried about thinking in today’s world.

 

I have a number of friends who send me memes and out of context quotes to make a point and ask me my view.

 

I probably send more time fact correct and making people aware of truth than I do sharing my own opinion. That worries me. in fact this is a direct quote from me:

nobody gives a family guy

======

 

But here is what really worries me.

 

If you, not a dumb guy by any stretch of the imagination, can truly believe even 75% of what you shared with me then what does the everyday schmuck believe?

 

That is what worries me.

 

=========

 

Thinking does take time and some space and … well … even some work <even if that work is to find empty space and not working>.

 

And, even then, the problem is that you can search the internet far and wide without finding a clear repudiation of some falsely stated, good sounding piece of untrue crap.

 

In fact.

 

If you do spend some time researching something you will more likely find a massive gap between public belief and expert knowledge.

 

There is often such a delusional gap between reality and “belief” it often seems absurd … and absurdly difficult to bridge the gap.

 

We need more thinking today than ever before. And, sadly, we need more thinking on simpler things than ever before.

 

Oliver Sr. was thinking on big things and big thoughts. And we need people like that.

 

What worries me is that in today’s world we need more people doing more thinking on the kernels of corn, the grains of sand and the horses themselves.

 

 

unicorn and ally

I worry about that because if we don’t have more people doing that kind of thinking all we will end up doing is rearranging unfortunately misguided untrue kernels of corn, fake grains of sand and unicorns not horses.

 

I imagine my real point today is that effective thinking is dependent upon tow things:

 

  • insuring we have lots of “true grains” of sand in our heads <not alternative facts or falsehoods>

 

  • insuring we have some time to properly jostle the kernels of corn <or grains of sand if you don’t want me to mix my metaphors> to rearrange them in new configurations

 

I don’t believe the world, society or any business wants us rearranging lies, fake and unicorns in order to form a better union.

be-better-exponentially

 

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

————————–

 

Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

————————-

 

 

Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

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I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

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“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

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All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

the unexpected move

June 27th, 2017

bad idea beauty life business

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“The unexpected, always the unexpected.


If they expect you to move right, move left.


The first law of survival in this jungle that you’ll inhabit.
The unexpected move. “

 

—-

The Avengers

 

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“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

 

Terry Pratchett

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Well.

 

Far too often in business we talk about making an “unexpected move” to gain an advantage as “zig when they zag.”

 

So … lets’ take a minute and talking about the whole “zigging when they zag” bullshit.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

On a football field zigging when they zag can be effective … but in business it is bullshit.

 

Look.

 

I am all for running with a temporary advantage when given the opportunity <and, yes, about 97.385% of advantages are temporary — I made up the 97.385% number>.

But that is not ‘zigging’.

 

I am all for hunkering down on a specific distinctness when it appears the rest of the category is bumbling around in an array of meaningless claims.

But that is not zigging.

 

I am all for leaping through a window of opportunity when the window cracks open.

But that is not zigging.

 

Suffice it to say … zigging, in general, is a stupid strategy.

 

Let me explain why.

 

Most industries once they have a fair number of competitors is more like a 7 zig zag highway unexpected businesslane superhighway where everyone is driving in the same direction within the same guard rails.

 

Not everyone will like thinking that but the truth is that most businesses have smart people who see the same information and do all the necessary research with people who are likely, and not likely, to buy whatever it is they are selling and therefore strategies are in the same realm and everyone is pretty much competing in the same arena.

 

This means a couple of things.

 

Everyone is speeding toward the same destination.

If something is obvious to you, it is most likely obvious to them.

 

What all of this means is you have to move but most moves have to be done artfully.

 

So maybe despite the fact I balk at the whole ‘zig when they zig’ and ‘unexpected’ anything in business gives me heartburn it is possible I could discuss the art of the unexpected move.

 

I call it “art” because unpredictability as normal behavior is bad. No one likes someone who is unpredictable 100% of the time and organizations <alignment, operations and ‘day to day doing’> tend to respond poorly to unpredictability.

 

unexpected changeIn my highway metaphor unpredictability most likely means either <a> a crash or <b> slowing down and you get passed or <c> you are now on a completely different road than all the other competitors speeding toward sales, & customers.

 

As for predictable?

Yikes. Boring. Lack of creativity. Bad <in a different way> … let’s just call predictable “lack of any art.”

 

In my highway metaphor this most likely means you are cruising in one of the right lanes, the slower lanes, and people are passing you all the frickin’ time.

 

This suggests making a move in your industry take more art and artfulness to navigate the path you desire or take advantage of the opportunity that may open.

 

This also suggests, in the business world, you sit up and pay attention just with a little more focus when someone pulls out the “maybe we should zig when they zag” tritism. You do so mostly because anyone who says that who is not on a football field most likely has their head up their ass <but want to say something catchy in a meeting to be noticed>.

 

I say that, again, because most time in a business industry companies are going in a direction for a reason … that is where the sales are. So ‘zigging’ when everyone else ‘zags’ more than likely means they are heading toward sales and you are not <but you can always say you zigged when they zagged>.

 

Ok.

 

Now.

 

If you want to tie ‘unexpected move’ to survival … well … that is a different story.

 

Survival does have a nasty habit of forcing some unexpected maneuvering. Ok. Maybe out of desperation the predictable in us decides that maybe being ‘unexpected’ may actually be called for.

 

I would suggest that if you find yourself in desperate times rarely is anything artful in that moment.

But I would suggest that in a desperate survival mode I can offer tow lists you should write up on some big board in some big conference room and make sure you discuss.

 

There are basically 4 basic responses to a threat <or opportunity I imagine>:

 

 

  • Fight

 

  • Flee

 

  • Deceive

 

  • Submit

 

 

Any move you choose to make will be derived from one of these four spaces.

Choose wisely.how we survive makes who we are

 

Once you have chosen <wisely> effectiveness in a survival fight basically comes down to 4 things <in the order of importance>:

 

 

  • aggression and willingness to hurt your competition

 

  • willingness to get hurt yourself

 

  • skill and knowledge

 

  • strength and power

 

 

Some may haggle with my order but the top two will dictate your success regardless of how you stack the last two.

And of the last two is would suggest most of the time knowing what to do is more important than brute strength.

Choose wisely <but always choose the first two or you will get crushed>.

 

I offer these two lists because when anyone suggests zigging when someone zags I bring these out.

Shit.

I bring these two lists out almost any time a business wants to talk about effectively competing in an industry.

 

Why?

 

Because nothing really matters if you do not figure out these two lists.

 

Why?

 

Temporary as long asGoing back to what I said earlier … advantages are temporary   and the other guys/gals you are competing against are as smart as you are.

You don’t zig just for the sake of zigging <that is wasted organizational energy> and if you do have to take an unexpected move it is most typically a response to something in the situation.

 

While we like to talk about zigging and zagging the reality comes back to the highway. You have to move forward and keep moving forward <or get run over>.

The only zigging anyone should ever talk about is either moving into another lane to pass someone or another lane to let someone pass you or change lanes to avoid a crash.

 

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“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

 

—-

William S. Burroughs

 

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Unexpected moves just to do something unexpected is … well … stupid.

It is in the same category as change for change sake.

It is in the same category as zigging when they zag.

 

Now.

 

Unexpected moves made in the search for something incredible waiting to be known <some desired destination>? Well … yeah … that isn’t stupid.

 

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“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

—-

Carl Sagan

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.......... zig zag mistake ................

……………. zig zag mistake …………….

Unexpected moves made to survive on the competition highway? That isn’t stupid.

 

Unexpected moves made to veer through a window of opportunity that arises? That isn’t stupid.

 

But zig when they zag? C’mon. That’s just stupid.

 

It is stupid because more likely than not it just means you will have not left the comeptition behind but rather just left the competition.

legacies, never being seen & pondering 2100 posts

June 24th, 2017

blog writing

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just-shower-thoughts:

 

    One of my greatest fears is that someone has written my favorite song, but they’re not famous enough for me to hear it.

 

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“As I make a final right-hand turn onto our street, my GPS informs me that I’ve ‘reached my destination.’

 

‘My destination,’ I laugh aloud to myself.

 

My GPS doesn’t know squat.”

 

Colleen Hoover

 

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“I’m so scared of dying without ever being really seen. Can you understand? “

David Foster Wallace

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“I did something and it was never seen.”

 

Someone’s grave stone

 

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Ok.

 

 

This is written as I ponder my legacy, legacies in general, and my 2100st post.

 

writing-typing-legacy-blog-thoughts7 years 7 months 4 days.

91 months 4 days.

396 weeks 1 day.

2773 days.

2100 posts.

A little over 5 posts a week for over 7 years.

2,100,000+ words <a conservative estimate>.

 

My words and thoughts over the 2100 posts have remained consistent … on November 18th 2009 I wrote my first Enlightened Conflict post and 6 days later I offered my second post and wrote this:

 

… it is in my DNA to be “constantly preoccupied with possibilities of new combinations.” Now. That can make me a pain in the ass to work with. One time a mentor, and a manager I loved working for, once said to me, “sometimes you are a pain in the ass, but I am glad you are my pain in the ass.”

 

And if you visit my LinkedIn site you will see a past client says:

......... Me .............

……… Me ………….

 

If you don’t want to be “nudged” into new ideas and creative solutions – don’t ever call Bruce McTague. If, however, you want to look at things through a different telescope and find 3-dimensional ideas you’ve never considered, call Bruce now. Not tomorrow. He’ll make you uncomfortable, but I firmly believe that if the idea doesn’t make you uneasy, it’s not a big idea. Easy to work with, but always stretching your mind, Bruce is a true business Partner. You’ll grow working with Bruce.

 

2100 posts later and I am still a contrarian, still snarky, still writing about the possibility of new combinations and still a pain in the ass.

 

But with almost everything I write I try and offer pain in the ass type thinking … not fluff. On November 30th 2009 I wrote this: communicating meaningful information so people can make meaningful choices.

 

I am still not a nudger and I am absolutely unflinchingly focused on communicating meaningful information, thoughts & ideas so people can make meaningful choices and think meaningful thoughts.

 

Well.

 

All that said.

 

At 2100 you have a tendency to sit back and wonder what happens if I actually

did something in my Life and nobody notices it when I am gone?

 

And before you think this topic is bullshit or “that’s not something I worry/think about” take a second and think about this.

 

Why do so many people buy symbolic bricks with names on it on a wall somewhere?

Why do we put stars in the ground with people’s names on it?

Why do we have gravestones and epitaphs?

 

We do these things because we want people to remember at least something about us. It doesn’t have to be big … but … well … something for god’s sake.

 

All of that leads me to legacies.

 

Everyone leaves something behind … some footprint.

 

With me … my largest footprint <at the moment> would be everything I have written.

Which makes me slightly wonder what happens with my 2100+ pieces on Enlightened Conflict … does somebody stumble across them and publish some or do they fade way into the nothingness of ‘something done but never seen’?

 

Will someone own my words & thoughts when I am gone?

 

I wrote recently that I own my words and thoughts … therefore … in some way I assume they must have some value <at least to me> … maybe just pennies but of some value.build legacy create something mctague 2000

 

It would be nice to think some of these thoughts get passed around from person to person like pennies — everyone has some, they are often overlooked until needed to complete a transaction and are annoying when you realize you left some in a pocket when you do the laundry.

 

But most importantly I see these pennies being used to create a transaction. In my mind … in this case the transaction is thinking … and maybe a purchase against what I see as the true corruption of our age … ignorance.

 

 

 

Montaigne:

The corruption of the age is made up by the particular contribution of every individual man; some contribute treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, according to their power; the weaker sort contribute folly, vanity, and idleness; of these I am one. It seems as if it were the season for vain things, when the hurtful oppress us; in a time when doing ill is common, to do but what signifies nothing is a kind of commendation.

 

 

 

I admit that I believe these types of pennies are becoming more and more valuable.

 

I believe that because I worry that time is currently painting a portrait of disappearing thought in which all who see this portrait are corrupted by what they can no longer see … and walk away thinking ignorance is beautiful.

 

Yeah.

 

That corruption breeds a sense of everything changing … but in an invisible way. We only see the change in a low level slightly nagging unease & unhappiness. In a way our moral & character health deteriorates despite our relentless pursuit of feeling better through pills, supplements & absurd self improvement plans.

Mentally our focus shifts toward what is visible and away from the invisible <that which creates the unease> and we fixate on what we think we know rather than unlearning what we know.

 

We stop engaging with thought … and even engaging with the thoughtful people <the intellectuals — real & faux> because it is … well … easier.

 

The sad truth is that we are largely doing all of this corruption to ourselves. We do so because conflict is necessary to make the invisible visible … but conflict, and making the invisible visible, is hard & sometimes hurtful.

 

invisible grain of sandWhat does this have to do with a legacy?

I could argue that if your thinking is invisible in some way … possibly a big way … you run the risk of becoming so invisible that when you leave there remains no footprint to mark your steps in Life.

 

I imagine leaving Life as an invisible person has little appeal to anyone. Not that you desire to be the most visible person in the world just that you would prefer knowing that when you were gone who you were just became completely invisible.

 

Please note that I am not tying visible to any success but rather thinking <although I imagine it could be tied to ‘doing something that may truly matter’>.

 

And, while I am talking about the legacy I personally want to leave behind, I would imagine this thought bleeds into almost everyone’s Life. Yeah, in this case, I don’t think I am different than most people.

 

We all would prefer to not be corrupted by ignorance and we would prefer to want to ‘do something’ and, preferably, something dynamic beyond our own purposes.

 

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“[My ultimate goal is] to leave this world a better person, and for me to not be the only one who knows it.”

 

Gavin DeGraw

 

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Ah.

But the idea of being dynamic beyond your own purposes is fraught with peril.

 

It means … well … dreaming big. Okay. It means thinking big <and, yes, I do believe far too often we aim too small and too low>.

 

As for me and my thinking big?

 

I want to attack ignorance as if it is the enemy and, looking back, the majority i will talk about anythingof my 2100 posts have relentlessly unflinchingly, never nudging, attacked ignorance. I have done so using the idea of Enlightened Conflict as a North Star.

 

I believe conflict of thoughts is healthy and believe vocalizing the conflict is necessary for progress. I believe Conflict is natural and will always exist – between countries, religious beliefs, ideologies, the haves and the have nots, etc.

 

And I believe with my writing I have a unique opportunity to insure conflict of thinking can be managed to some extent by encouraging positive conflict or enabling conflict with rules.

 

I debate with people … I write about thinking … I defend our youth … I rant about the old way of thinking … and, lately, I have found a muse in Donald J Trump <in fact … my 2101st post is a Trump business lesson>.

Trump has offered me the opportunity to have a living breathing example of almost everything I detest in business leadership, business acumen and how a business shouldn’t be run.

 

I do not detest him as a person <I don’t know him> I just detest how he conducts himself as a leader and a business person. He has reminded me that passion can inspire thinking and writing and reminds me that business sometimes needs to stop nudging and be more demanding of what is right & good.

 

Regardless.

 

think imagine legacy young learn unlearnIn the end … all I want is some enlightened thinking and new ways of looking at things and often, as a contrarian, I will use someone or something as a foil to make a comparative.

 

This style and way of thinking has proven to be a good timeless way of approaching things because should you view a post in my first 100 you would find it is still relevant and will still contain thoughts you may find scattered in my last 100 posts.

 

Anyway.

 

One last thought on legacies — compromising.

 

I still worry about compromising.

 

I know I have some fear that compromising has left far too many people numb to life … or maybe just numb to their dreams. Or maybe more specifically numb to ‘doing something that matters’ and, certainly, numb to thinking and new thoughts.

 

I still worry about me compromising. And maybe I fear that numbness if I end up compromising.

 

I kind of think this is a legitimate fear.

 

I, as everyone else, certainly want to be happy. Live. And love. And be loved. Read. Travel. See things. Meet people. Meet more people. And learn. And unlearn. And learn some more. Nowhere in there do I see compromise … I only see doing shit. And, in my eyes, nor do I see any ‘nudging’ but rather unflinching doing.

 

Yes. Doing something unflinchingly.

 

Because doing something unflinchingly that can leave the world a better place?

 

Whew.

legacy learn imagine hope mctague

I gotta tell ya … if you even have a glimmer of hope of getting to do something big … something really big … something that matters in a big way … something that someone would recognize someday  as a legacy idea … well … I don’t know. It kind of seems like you have to go for it – uncomprisningly and unflinchingly.

 

I have to think that if am going to lose, I want to know I lost doing something and not losing because I compromised in some way.

 

That said.

 

I don’t want to be known for writing 2000 posts, or however many I end up writing, I would like to have a legacy suggesting I did something that mattered <and someone could point to what that something was>.

 

In the end.

 

2100 posts and counting.

I very rarely have duplicated a thought, I have never run out of new quotes to share and I have never had “writer’s block” or not had something to write and, yet, I have consistently pounded on stupid & senseless business acumen and the misguided tripe people are fed with regard to Life.

 

That sounds big … and, yet, small at the same time. I have to imagine whether someone has written as much as I or not … most people will find that they have done something that sounds big but may look small in the harsh light of reality.

The only way I know to build a meaningful legacy <making what may appear small big> is to do what I do … not nudge and be absolutely unflinchingly focused on communicating meaningful information, thoughts & ideas so people can make meaningful choices and think meaningful thoughts.

 

And, yet, sure … I still do wonder what will happen to everything I have written because … well … at the moment they are my legacy. I imagine I am not alone in thinking that “I did something and it was never seen” on my headstone isn’t really what anyone wants.

For now all I can do is insure that I do something meaningful in a ‘non-nudging way’ and hope it gets noticed.

2000 legacy posts write

 

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About the author:

Bruce McTague is probably considered a sometimes irascible pragmatic contrarian. At the same time he is most likely considered a naïve believer in the inherent good in people and believer in the value of Hope as an engine for real progress.

He has been called cynical and optimistic.

And because of all of that he believes Life, just as people, are a complex bundle of contradictions therefore simplicity is often that refuge of fools.

He believes there is no problem or conflict that cannot be solved if people are willing to face harsh truths and make the hard decisions. He also believes that the world would be a much better place if everyone would spend just a little more time unlearning what they have learned, think a little bit more and that we would all benefit if we became better at articulating our thoughts.    

Lastly, in the end, he believes that everyone everywhere deserves to have hope.

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“I don’t want to be remembered.

 Memories age and you might remember words I whispered in your car but you’ll forget how my voice made your name sound safe. You will faintly remember that there was once warmth in my touch but the skin on your chest where my hands made a home is cold now.

 

Time will steal all the sharp edges that made it seem real. Years will rob you blind and you’ll simply be living with my blurry ghost.

 

That’s worse than being forgotten, so confuse me with another girl in a coffee shop and change my name in future stories. Walk down memory lane and unlock the exit.

Ignore the ghost that packs up the memories and leaves and do me one last favor; shut the door behind me. “

 

write-from-the-start

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Enlightened Conflict