Enlightened Conflict

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

 

 

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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

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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.

believing in something is powerful enough

July 7th, 2017

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educate

 

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“We are tossed about by external causes in many ways, and like waves driven by contrary winds, we waver and are unconscious of the issue and our fate.’

 

We think we are most ourselves when we are most passionate, whereas it is then we are most passive, caught in some ancestral torrent of impulse or feeling, and swept on to a precipitate reaction which meets only part of the situation because without thought only part of a situation can be perceived.”

 

Will Durant

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“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

 

—-

Golda Meir

 

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So.

 

good bad idea battle for path businessIt would be an understatement to say that the number of ways a leader can lead are so numerous it would most likely take a book to explain them all <and people have certainly tried>. Trying to simplistically suggest “this is the way to lead” is … well … simplistic tripe.

 

It would be an understatement to say that the number of ways a leader can articulate an idea for people to rally around and follow are so numerous it would most likely take a book to explain them all <and people have certainly tried>. Trying to simplistically suggest “this is the way to share ideas in a meaningful way” is … well … simplistic tripe.

 

That said.

 

Today I will talk about leaders and ideas and articulating ideas … let’s call it “the business idea” leadership challenge.

 

For those of us who have had the fortune, or misfortune, of walking the halls of management in business we have all crossed paths with all the scary tactics and rhetoric associated with leaders who cannot articulate an idea if they actually tried <and most do try>.

 

These are the leaders who do not really have the ability to articulate an idea well enough for the idea to gain traction and be implemented.

 

it exists truth example life ideas business

……………….. the idea ………………….

I sometimes believe what makes a good leader is the ability to articulate an idea so that <a> people can grasp it, <b> people can envision it as “something” tangible enough to want to hold it and <c> people can attach some emotional connection to it <ranging from ‘I believe’ to ‘passion’>. But many leaders just struggle with idea articulation and use a variety of tricks to present an idea in a way that encourages people to … well … believe in the idea.

 

To be clear.

This is more a discussion of the psychology of managing employees … let’s call it “believing management” more so than motivating employees.

 

This is more about unlocking employees – unlocking potential. I mention potential because that is what ideas do … they are like a powerful chip inserted into people which energizes, focuses and drives individuals <and inevitably the organization itself>.

 

And because of all of what I just said there are a variety of ways to create some energy behind ‘believing’ in an idea.

 

Us versus them.

War analogies wherein those who don’t believe in our idea are ‘enemies.’

The narrative behind the idea always seems to have a “good versus evil” aspect.

 

 

Two thoughts on that.

 

  1. Selective tactical ‘good versus evil’ leadership is appropriate. Sometimes you need to give an organization some “oomph” <a technical organizational behavior term> and this is an easy way to create some energy around the idea.

 

 

  1. Being reliant on “us versus them” narrative is lazy leadership. Yes. Counterpoints always provide some contrast which permits some clarity, however, an idea should be able to stand on a blank page in a blinding spotlight and create enough ‘belief’ in that idea that people will want to fill the blank white space simply because they want to … they choose to … not because they ‘have to.’

 

 

people crowd ideas together friends waitbutwhyBad leaders misunderstand leading with an idea.

 

They always feel like they have to have an enemy which the idea has to slay. Or they feel like they have to divide so that their idea looks bigger.

They have it wrong. And dangerously wrong.

 

Good ideas power up on their own. Good ideas have a size to stand up to … well … any size idea out there.

 

Good ideas encourage people to go out and evangelize not destroy or kill or attack. The belief in the idea, in and of itself, is enough to make people go out … sometimes attack bad ideas, more often defend the idea and all the time presents the idea as some desirable thing that anyone in their right mind should want.

 

I have always believed that if you have a good idea, and you have people who believe in that good idea, you shouldn’t worry about competition or naysayers & doubters but rather focus all your energy on … well … showcasing the energy of the idea.

 

Now.

To be sure.

 

If you talk with enough people who have managed groups & companies and you will notice that at some point someone will bring up “I have to be a psychologist.”

 

To be clear.

 

Do business managers have to be psychologists to be effective? No. not really.

But playing the psychologist role on occasion certainly doesn’t hurt.

 

I am chuckling. I am fairly sure what I am discussing has some high falutin’ organizational behavior ‘management principles’ published and formal white papers with long esoteric discussions on employee personality types and some personality testing voodoo and lots of ‘how to energize organizations’ crap.

 

Anyway.

 

Most good managers clearly understand that different people are motivated by different things and that different things can inhibit the potential of each employee.

 

Suffice it to say, in my mind, once you move past trying to motivate a specific individual one-on-one it really all comes down to one basic management principle: the idea.

intangibe idea yet to be future business

 

 

Simplistically every leader’s objective is always to free your employee to be their best and do their best. But sometimes this means stripping something away … and sometimes this means adding something … and it always means giving them something to believe in <not just do or ‘fight’>.

 

More often than not while you are leading your organization you invest gobs of energy focused on the pragmatic ‘here is what you need to do’ underpinnings crap which keeps everybody focused on the shit that keeps the doors open in the business every day.

 

But, at some point, you have to energize the attitude.

And that is where “idea” comes in. This isn’t really a vision … this is the idea of who and what the company is and the ‘belief’ which is kind of the unseen glue which makes “one, out of many.”

 

This idea is a heuristic management tool because while leading people certainly can contain some aspects of ‘enthusiasm management’ one of the most basic leader self-survival techniques you learn <or you will die> is how to manage without too much investment of self. Therefore I have always viewed “the idea” strategy think anger angry business ideas filteras the compass AND engine for the true potential of the organization.

 

Yeah.

 

As a manager you always hunker down on the pragmatic aspects of what needs to be done first.

 

Always.

 

It is kind of your heuristic trick to assess any attitudinal challenges to getting the frickin’ pragmatic aspect done.

 

But you always keep an eye, and an ear, open during the pragmatic ‘whether the shit will actually get done … and done as well as it can be done’ for the employee’s, and organization’s, idea ‘belief factor.’

 

And while Belief can come in all shapes & sizes & behaviors one thing remains constant … make the idea tangible and anyone can see it <rather than have it be some nebulous thing they have to define in their own heads>.

 

And it can get even tricky.

 

Tricky because the same employee who was bursting with blind belief one day will be the same employee sitting in front of you the next day discussing a completely different project or task … semi-frozen in ‘belief doubt’ or ‘belief confusion.’

 

Look.

 

The fundamentals of effective management are pretty much the same everywhere.

 

But, ‘idea belief management’ can, unfortunately, sometimes take a fine subtle touch … and most of us everyday leader schmucks aren’t always subtle.

Therefore, we tend to lean on “us versus them” and “we are at war” to create some sense of “we must defend this idea” rather than instilling the idea, of the idea itself, as thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowhaving value even in times of ‘non-war.’

 

Ok.

 

I imagine I wrote this not to offer any “how to” guide to anyone. I wrote it because I just saw someone aggressively and darkly outline a world in which the business idea was under attack and attempted to drive belief in the idea through ‘threat’ rather than ‘inner belief.’

 

And as I watched I thought “this person has no idea how to articulate an idea in a way that the idea itself exudes energy in and of itself.”

 

As I watched I thought “this person doesn’t understand that ideas don’t need enemies to be meaningful and powerful … believing in something is power in and of itself.”

 

Look.

 

I have different expectations for different levels of leaders and I certainly understand that when presenting or communicating things you gotta deal with what is in front of you and get shit done and get the best out of your employees. And sometimes you do whatever it takes in the context of the situation.

 

But.

And this is a big but.

 

A business cannot always be at war in order to justify, and formalize, the idea it idea think explode expandbelieves in. The idea, in and of itself, should be good enough … and articulated well enough … to be powerful enough for people to just believe in it.

 

I am not suggesting this is easy … but that is what separates a good leader from a crappy leader …the ability to make the most of an idea by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

 

I imagine my real point is we should all be wary of the leader who can only articulate an idea through an ‘us versus them narrative’ or a divisive tone.

Why?

 

Because they are either lazy or they don’t know their shit.

 

staying above even when stepping down

June 25th, 2017

 

inspire people dont give up

 

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“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

 

—-

J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

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“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

—-

William Shakespeare

 

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Ok.

 

lead togther step down dominant

This is about business and business leadership.

 

Leading is a big job. It carries big responsibilities and big burdens. You have to be big enough in some way <skills, charisma, character, smarts, etc.> to stay above the organization and employees. And I say “above” because part of leading is being able to see above the heads of everyone so that you can lead and align and step in when & where appropriate.

 

Above is not dominance per se just that you maintain a dominant position from which you can most effectively & efficiently lead.

 

Now.

 

Here is what any good leader knows … you don’t have to be big to … well … be big.

Heck. You don’t even have to act ‘big.’

 

In addition.

 

A good leader can leave the comfort of the ‘throne’, i.e. the trappings of the ‘bigness’ –the natural ‘dominance’ that comes with a title — and still remain above even when stepping down from all those things.trump dominant Genuine people fake people

 

However.

 

Not everyone is a good leader. And not every leader is particularly good at navigating the natural doubts <am I doing the right thing, am I doing the best thing, am I doing the thing I should be doing, etc.> that come along with being a leader. By the way … any good leader has some doubts on occasion … it keeps them grounded.

 

Regardless.

 

What that means is there will inevitably be business people who fear looking small. And they protect their illusions of ‘bigness’, or being bigly, mainly in several ways:

 

  • They diminish everyone they can in the attempt to make others as small as they can so that they look bigger no matter the comparison

 

  • They find a ‘safe space’ in which they place their metaphorical throne and make everyone come to them <this is kind of like the boss who purposefully has their desk built slightly higher and the chairs facing the desk slightly lower to insure they maintain a physical dominant position>

 

  • They avoid, as much as possible, one-on-one interactions with anyone their own size <unless they can control the environment>.

 

  • They ground themselves in platitudes under the guise of “flexibility & adaptability” so they can avoid having to defend anything specific with anyone who could diminish their bigness

 

 

Well.

 

Why I decided to write about this is … uhm … day in and day out Donald J Trump offers us in the business world reminders of ineffective leadership style and the characteristics of insecure leadership.

And the number one business dunce stupid brand marketingcharacteristic of insecure leadership is the inability to step down and still stay above.

 

Insecure leaders are extremely hesitant, if not completely resistant, to leaving their ‘dominant position.’

 

Let me explain ‘dominant position’ because it can sound bad <and it is mainly meant to express a position of authority>.

 

A CEO or a president is clearly in a dominant position by title and by responsibility and, in most cases, by some larger skill that got them to where they are. A true ‘dominant position’ <let’s call it “authority”> combines all aspects.

 

Therefore the person in the dominant position combines substance & style. And this is where insecurity steps in … because if a leader has any true doubts with regard to their ‘dominant position’ – mostly doubts on their substance — they start exhibiting some insecure characteristics.

They will dial up their style aspects to cloak any substance deficiencies and become excruciatingly careful with regard to how they interact with other people.

 

But the one I thought about today was “stepping down.’

 

Let me explain.

 

I heard Donald J say the other day “they should call us to participate.” In other words … they need to come to me <thereby establishing some aspect of subservience and feeds the sense of ‘dominant position.’

 

shift up or down

This was not a one-off comment.

He does this … every … frickin’ … day.

 

Trump never “goes to people” nor does he unite by inserting himself into any opposing groups <people who may not agree with him> opening himself up to say “let me be part of what you want.” I cannot envision him ever going to opposition and suggesting he wanted to work with them <they have to come to him>.

His whole leadership style is driven by an insecurity of ‘dominant position’ and he fears stepping down from his position because he fears it will expose the fact he isn’t really above anyone other than in title.

 

In other words … he fears looking small <or ‘not bigly’>.

 

And therein lies the larger lesson.

 

Good leaders don’t become smaller when they step down or go to people rather than make people go to them. They know there are no ‘little people’ but rather only big responsibilities of which everyone has.

 

Little people are little wherever they go … even if they just sit in the corner office.

Unfortunately for us a little leader knows this … and doesn’t know this.

What I mean by that is they can sense their littleness therefore they go out of their way to stay within whatever cocoon of ‘bigness trappings’ to encourage the belief they have that they are actually big. And, yet, they don’t know this rump dominant Do you think clouds look down on people and thinkbecause they tend to have an oversized view of themselves <every should come to me attitude>.

 

They see themselves through a fairly warped view of self-relevance … “everyone else becomes more relevant by being around me therefore they become bigger in my bigness.” And that partially outlines their main fear.

Loss of relevance.

Anyone who becomes more relevant than them is a danger. Loss of power, the illusion of or real, is the danger.

 

What that all means is that an insecure leader more often than not lives in a “you need to come to me, call me or ask me” mentality.

 

  • Foreign dignitaries come to visit him <and he does not visit them>.
  • Democrats should call me instead of being obstructionists.
  • People need to visit him at the White House <or Mar a Lago>.
  • He never works with people or offers to meet them.

 

He treats everyone as if they should be subservient to him and if they do not meet that desire he is dismissive or even attacks them as ‘obstructionist.’

 

leadership go your way

 

Let me be clear.

 

No sane business leader <in this generation> has this attitude.

You cannot.

You cannot because you know many of the people working for you are actually smarter than you and a shitload more just may know something you do not know.

You cannot because oftentimes your peers, who actually report to you, may actually be better than you at some things.

You cannot because you know that good people never want to feel subservient but rather want to feel being a key part of overall success.

 

Most of those who lead have learned these things not by attempting to learn to be ‘above’ but rather by learning how to lead. And you learn that mostly by getting into ‘the game’ and realizing you can play anywhere at any time. I know that I took an advertising job as a young newly promoted VP in NYC not out of any desire to be the best but because I was curious. I was curious to see if I could “play in the NYC advertising game.” I didn’t need to be the best nor did I desire to dominate … I just wanted to see if I could play.

I can tell you that once you become comfortable with knowing you can play at the biggest level and the lowest level you have a fighting chance to become a leader.

 

Look.

 

We all have numerous character flaws and it is a sad truth the majority of us can’t see them. This is even more difficult in a leadership position because you do naturally become more self-aware of any of the things you are good at and yet also not good at … but you also lean heavily on the things you ‘perceive’ got you where you are today.

 

I say that because insecure leaders are relatively hollow on the self-awareness.

Looking at Trump it is easy to see that he grew up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. He lived in a bubble in which young, mentally lazy, rich, amoral white men routinely got away with whatever they wanted. These same characteristics are exhibited in his insecure leadership style.

 

Here is what I know.

trump ominant look down on other people

Big leaders are big leaders.

 

And they are big because wherever they go they retain their bigness. That means they need not ‘stay above’ to be big … they can step down … sit in town halls answering questions from real people as well as sit down with people who didn’t vote for you as well as sit down with peers and discuss ideas … and walk away just as big as they entered the room.

 

Small leaders cannot do those things, therefore, they do not.

 

I have now given you a way to judge big leaders from small leaders. Judge away. Every leader should be judged … and judged harshly … because … well … they are leaders and that is their burden.

Enlightened Conflict