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.

liminal spaces

September 12th, 2017

transition liminal space change idea experience

 

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fearlessly-fiona:

 

“I’m an adult” I whisper as I try not to panic while I’m filling in all those forms that I don’t understand.

 

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“Liminal” means “relating to a transitional stage” or “occupying a position at both sides of a boundary.”

 

 

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Ok.

 

First.

 

liminal space hallway metroLiminal spaces are real spaces.

 

Liminal spaces are throughways from one space to the next. Places like rest stops, stairwells, trains, parking lots, waiting rooms, airports feel weird when you’re in them because their existence is not about themselves, but the things before and after them. They have no definitive place outside of their relationship to the spaces you are coming from and going to. Reality feels altered here because we’re not really supposed to be in them for a long time for think about them as their own entities, and when we do they seem odd and out of place.

 

 

Second.

 

 

I plan on discussing liminal spaces as intangible mental spaces.

 

 

Liminal Space inbetween threshold

If you feel that you are anxiously floating in the inbetween perhaps you are in The Liminal Space. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, which means, “threshold.”

“… it is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else.

 

 

Okay.

 

Mentally … this in-between is a space in which we have lost context … and … oops … our brains love context <and hate lack of context>. This ‘hate’ translates into discomfort, maybe some anxiety and absolutely an innate mental desire to get the hell out of that space and into some space where we can reengage some context.

 

Rationally we know these spaces are … well … irrational and we can mentally stifle the anxiety … for a while. Because no matter how good we are at stifling it there will always be an underlying sense of uneasiness. In business you either figure out how to manage the anxiety or you are never gonna make it in the business world.

 

Why? Because a career is riddled with these moments and spaces.

 

All that said.

 

I think we, as people, enter liminal spaces in our heads all the time. I don’t mean every minute I just mean on a fairly consistent basis we lose some context and enter into some wretched mental in-between space where … well … we feel uncomfortable. We feel uncomfortable because we are mentally in some transition space from which we cannot envision what will be there <outside this wretched space> when we actually find the exit we can leave the space by.

 

Yeah.

 

transitional liminal path grow poetential change

Unfortunately, while we seek an exit to get out of the liminal space … we also feel uncomfortable because <insert a ‘shit’ here mentally> the next step may actually place us into a tangible “unknown” place.

 

Not only does that suck but … well … we do not like it.

 

It is a weird combination of tangible and intangible … and  shitload of unknown.

 

It feels tangible as in you walk in some blank-ish vanilla type room and actually exit by some door which appear at some point. That part we may not like but we can semi-understand.

 

And, yet, at the same time this space is truly 100% intangible <lacking context> which creates a sense of instability and warped perception space. I imagine a lot of people flail about a bit in this space trying to transitional leap risk think challenge businessnot only find context or something tangible to hold onto but also a frickin’ door to get out of this wretched liminal space.

 

All the while we flail about in a space naturally encourages some confusion and a lot of “things seem off” feelings.

 

Worse?

 

It not only feels wrong but feels like something is going to go wrong. You cannot really put your finger on it <although most of us try desperately to try to put a finger on something> and it increases anxiety.

 

Sometimes that anxiety is high and sometimes it is just a bothersome niggling in the head … but anxiety it is <and it is uncomfortable>.

 

The anxiety occurs because reality is not really being altered but it appears slightly warped. It is kind of like looking through an imperfect piece of glass – where things can look a little fuzzy or odd. Its kind of like time has warped a little and you are coming and going at the exact same time where in the blur of the transition your brain is suggesting “this is not good … this is not normal” and you desperately want to move n … but cannot find that frickin’ exit.

 

All that sounds horrible.

 

Oh.

 

And it sounds particularly horrible if we are talking about the business world.

 

The fact is that business people are more often than not judged on how well, and how quickly, they can navigate the mental liminal space.  We in business don’t really talk about it much but a lot of the shit we do is transitioning from the known to some version of known/unknown. That’s kind of what managers and leaders do. And it is certainly a main component of shifting from a young less-responsible employee to an older more experienced responsible employee/manager.

 

Along the way the stepping stones are actually lily pads with differing expanses & depths of water in between. You either navigate the transitions or drown in the liminal space.

 

Oh.

 

And, yet, liminal spaces are also throughways to places of the imagination – kind of the construction sites of “what will be.”

 

We like that kind of shit.

 

That’s ‘future’ and ‘hope of something better’ type stuff.change every step liminal transitional grow imagine

 

That thought helps us out a little.

 

It helps because this isn’t the kind of stuff that gives any tangible context but it does give us some fortitude to get through this space.

 

Anyway.

 

I admit.

 

I love the whole concept of a liminal space and I do believe if more people not only learned to manage the anxiety & angst of a liminal space AND embraced the fact it was a valuable transitional space … well … we would be much more efficient & effective in business and in Life in gaining the more valuable “what could be’s” — which are what we all live for anyway.

 

 

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.>:

 

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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

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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.

 

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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

 

least expensive thing in life

May 17th, 2017

decent person ROI life humanity

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“It costs $0.00 to be a decent person.”

 

words to live by

 

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So.

 

When I saw this quote I started jotting thoughts down immediately.

 

Here was the most interesting note:  least expensive or most expensive?

 

Huh?

 

It costs you nothing to be a decent person but it can still be an expensive decision. This may sound incredibly cynical but deciding to be decent is not a zero sum decision … it is a Life value equation.

 

I decide to do this <be decent> or do not do this <not be decent> and ‘this’ is the repercussion of that decision <the value or lost opportunity/gain>.

 

Yeah.

By being decent in the business world you can be viewed as ‘too nice’ and get mangled by some cutthroat asshat.

By being decent in Life you can be viewed as naive and get taken advantage of by those willing to ‘do what it takes.’

 

 

decent person is hard understand

 

Therefore, oddly and unfortunately, decency can ultimately be assessed in ROI terms by many of us in our lives.

 

Boy … that sounds pretty fucked up when I say it out loud.

 

 

Ok.

 

So someone may argue with the ROI thing but maybe think of it this way …

 

You walk by 4 homeless people but give the 5th one you see $20. Does the $20 balance out the fact you ignored the other 4? You were decent but selectively so.

 

Don’t like that?

So set aside the money.

 

You walk by 4 homeless veterans … never acknowledging them or looking at them … the 5th homeless vet you stop for a second and look them in the eye and say “thank you for your service.” Does the one you give some dignity to zero out the 4 you completely disregarded?

 

Unfortunately, decency is an ROI assessment. And more excruciatingly … it is an assessment made moment by moment as well as cumulatively.

 

What I mean by that is decency is mutually exclusive not inclusive … and decent moments are independent of other moments <when you may not have been so, or as, decent> … not interdependent <warning: I most likely mangled the meanings of both mutually exclusive and independent>.

 

 

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Mutually exclusive events cannot happen at the same time. For example: when tossing a coin, the result can either be heads or tails but cannot be both. Events are independent if the occurrence of one event does not influence (and is not influenced by) the occurrence of the other(s).

—-

 

You do not accumulate ‘decency points’ in Life or in business.

 

Not being decent cannot be equaled out by being extraordinarily decent in another moment.

 

Yeah.

That doesn’t sound particularly fair does it?

 

But you have to think that way or you start thinking about decency in a conscious decision making balance sheet sort of way. “well, I am not going to be particularly decent in this situation because to do so I may not benefit as much as I believe I deserve” and then a couple days later you consciously say to yourself “I was kind of a dickwad the other day so maybe if I am particularly decent now that will make up for it.”

 

I absolutely hated myself for scribbling any thought down that suggested there was a cost to being a decent person. Fucking hated even having the thought.

 

But no matter how much I hated it … it surely does seem like it is a Life truth.

 

To me there is only one way to resolve this ‘self dilemma’ and it is an ‘either/or’ thought.decent person rude and nice

 

You accept the fact you are gonna be a decent human being all the time and accept that the chips will fall as they may throughout Life … and they  may not all fall your way <and you can spend your last days on earth feeling pretty good about yourself from a character standpoint by realizing a Big life can often be found in a shitload of small victories>.

 

Or.

 

You accept the fact that situational decisions are situational decisions and you are a decent person at heart therefore you seek to view life, in the end, as “I was more often decent than I wasn’t” <and a Big life meant you bucked the odds of a world constantly trying to encourage non-decency and you won more often than you lost>.

 

I cannot choose the path for you.

 

But I will state that simply recognizing that this is the dilemma we face in Life … and that this is basically your choice … you have accepted that being a decent person is an ROI analysis.

 

A decent person and ROI. Sigh. What a sad thought.

Enlightened Conflict