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

—————————————

 

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.

what horrifies me most is

July 11th, 2017

 

completely useless me

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“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.”

 

Sylvia Plath

 

======================

 

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.

Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

 

David Mitchell

 

=================

 

 

Being useless.

 

legacy great shit noticeWhew.

 

Can you think of anything worse than feeling like you are, or have been, useless?

 

Well.

 

Of course.

What is worse is actually being a useless fuck.

 

Regardless.

 

 

99% of us think we are smart <or smart enough>.

 

99% of us have felt a sense of promise.

 

99% of us want our Life to amount to something.

 

So what happens if that 99% actually thinks they may … uhm … be useless?

While I imagine depression or becoming extremely depressed would be the first thing most people would think about … ‘horrified’ may actually be the more appropriate sense.

 

Maybe it is a general sense of meaninglessness?

 

Ah shit … I don’t know.

 

But just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought. And I am not a wildly ambitious person and I think it would be pretty fucking depressing to think that way.

 

This came to mind after I had a discussion with one of the kindest, nicest, most generous … and smart … people I know.

 

falling down the rabbit hole

After scanning Facebook updates and thinking a little bit about Life and ‘what do I have to show for it all’ their mind, quite expectedly from my point of view, started going down the ‘fucking useless Life’ rabbit hole.

 

<note: I did remind them that Facebook is not typically where you advertise your losses, disappointments and failures but rather is a place where one goes to conflate their wins, supposed happiness and successes>

 

But the conversation did remind me that assessing usefulness is not an easy task.

 

Yeah. yeah. yeah.

 

We talk about integrity, doing things the right way, honesty and kindness as well as the infamous “a flower doesn’t judge itself next to the flower beside it … it just grows” but reality continuously punches us in the face with ‘proof, proof, proof.’

 

Where is the proof for your Life and usefulness?

 

And this gets even more difficult when you look around and see people who obviously are not doing things the right way, who have a dubious relationship with integrity, truth is something they store in some closet to pull out for special occasions and, yet, they have a lot of useful stuff to showcase proof that competition compare yourself to themin some way they have been useful.

 

Usefulness can occur in a variety of ways.

 

And 99% of us know that but it sure don’t make it any easier to actually not be horrified when looking around and assessing one’s own usefulness.

 

It doesn’t make it any easier when we realize we may actually be no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Because I tend to believe 99% of us know that but felt we would be smarter enough, have enough promise and do things the right way just enough to be a little more than just one drop in a limitless ocean.

 

All that said.

 

Feeling useless, or feeling like what you have to offer is being wasted, or even feeling that doing it the right way and having integrity hasn’t got you shit compared to others assholes who have no real desire to do things the right way or do not really care much about integrity <unless they feel a need to check that box> … well … sucks.

 

I feel like I should offer some optimistic and hopeful and positive thought now … but I don’t really have one to offer at the moment.

Why?

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I may end up useless despite not being the dullest knife in the drawer, despite that fact I most likely still have some promise and despite the fact I imagine I would really like to contribute to Life in some positive morally driven thoughtful way.

 

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I could pass over into an indifferent age in which I would be viewed as useless.horrify this is bad

 

Because what horrifies me is that I do not have any advice or can even offer some semblance of an answer today.

 

Because what horrifies me is that I had no answer for the person who teetered on the edge of feeling useless … and, well, that kind of made me feel a little useless too.

 

And THAT horrifies me to no have an answer for someone else … because what happens if it is me at some point?

 

Here is what I know.

Just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought.

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

====================

 

“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

 

============================

 

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.

 

Paddington goes home

June 29th, 2017

wondering i we could help you paddington

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“In London, everyone is different and that means that anyone can fit in.”

 

—–

Paddington Bear

 

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The great advantage of having a bear as a central character is that he can combine the innocence of a child with the sophistication of an adult. He gets involved in everyday situations. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn’t take kindly to the red tape bureaucracy of the sillier rules and regulations with which we humans surround ourselves.

As a bear he gets away with things. Paddington is humanised, but he couldn’t possibly be ‘human’. It just wouldn’t work.

 

Michael Bond <Paddington author>

 

==================

 

 

Well.

 

paddington collection booksMichael Bond, the Paddington Bear author, died yesterday.

 

First.

 

Michael … thank you for a fabulous contribution to millions of people’s lives.

My sister and I poured through your books as children.

 

 

I still have the original set of Paddington books our parents bought for us and in the first book, A Bear Called Paddington <where the marmalade-loving bear from Peru arrives in London>, you would find a neatly placed label where my sister’s name is written as the owner of the book.

 

Second.

 

To many in this generation Paddington is a charming movie. But it is within the books where children find some of the lessons which bear fruit in growing up and viewing Life.

 

In general … it is a story about fitting in and helping someone fit in … and the struggles that inherently come with this.

 

While Paddington is a refugee … or a likeable harmless immigrant without a home … what child hasn’t found themself looking in the mirror thinking they were different? How many children have found themselves in a new school or a new home or a new neighborhood facing the struggles of what you think you know and what other people think they know? Paddington, as a bear, permitted any child to step into his life and see what he sees.

 

He also taught us we can change not by changing but by seeing things about ourselves or about Life that we have overlooked.

 

He taught us to always polite and well-meaning <always addressing people as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Miss”> but through his simplistic well-meaning ways he is consistently faced with spectacular gaffe after spectacular gaffe within the traditional 1950’s middle class world.paddington paint smiles

 

He also taught us to view Life as if in a mirror to showcase some of the absurdities we place upon ourselves and … well … how we have a nasty habit of making the unimportant important and the truly important often gets overlooked.

 

For example.

When he makes his well-intended errors he finds that ‘very proper persons’ <adults and those in authority positions> tend to glare at him.

What does he do?

He responds with a penetrating, long hard stare of his own <thinking this is the proper response>.

 

Lastly.

 

One of my favorite parts is this:

 

Mary: We can’t just leave him here.

Henry: Of course we can, he’s not our responsibility.

 

Paddington is as much about the people around Paddington as it is about Paddington himself. Time after time in his simplistic slightly bumbling way he reminds people of … well … our general source of humanity.

 

Responsibility for others.

The importance of home.

Friends.

Intentions.

Perspective.

Not all mistakes are created equal.

 

Paddington bear book 1stThe list goes on and on.

 

Within a charming tale about a Peruvian bear in London a child gets glimpses of many things that adults seem to have forgotten.

 

Within this charming tale a child learns some of the little lessons parents forget to tell you when you are growing up.

 

Within this charming tale adults, like me, can pull a well-worn book off the shelf and be reminded that a good heart and good intentions can defeat the most established stuffy rules adulthood can often, quite absurdly, place upon all of us.

 

RIP Mr. Bond. Paddington finally found his home.

Enlightened Conflict