Enlightened Conflict

elitism versus experience

December 20th, 2016




“Success is a lousy teacher.

It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”


Bill Gates


“We’re all working together; that’s the secret.”


Sam Walton



Original commenter:

It isn’t scientists’ role to package facts and theory for the general public, let alone the most willfully ignorant.



Response commenter:

Surely scientists have some responsibility to make their findings understandable to the public?

Otherwise how do their findings get incorporated into policy?







With so much discussion going on about “the working class” it may become easy this-is-the-part-you-find-out-who-you-are-contrarianto ignore the implicit backlash against ‘intellectualism’ or ‘the out-of-touch elite.’


I do not believe there is an anti-intellectualism crisis.


I do not believe we have reached an era where any influencers who are smart, or intellectual, are dismissed as the reigning voices of truth & expertise.



I do know that elites, or so-called elites, are despised and the opinions of experts are disregarded in favor of emotions or gut feelings, i.e., feelings are as important, if not more important, than facts.


And I do know that Michael Gove said “people have had enough of experts.”



Not only is that a bullshit quote … it is a scary thought.


I could walk into a crowded blue collar bar and after some discussion I could be construed as ‘thinker not doer’ … despite the fact I have over 30 years of doing practical experience.

And therein lies the issue.


Depending on how you articulate your experience you can sound intellectually elitist <too smart for your own good> or you can sound pragmatically hard working. And within those two bookends is a fairly wide spectrum.


There has become a blurring of … well … everything actually … but in this case … true experience & expertise and ‘elitism.’


This is creating a horrible thing in society and our culture. If you have gobs of experience you are labeled as out of touch with the everyday schmuck.


If you are an everyday schmuck you are immediately labeled as anti-intellectual and, far too often, less educated.


This is a horrible situation for everyone <because no one wins>.


Simplistically … education and experience are two different things. I can certainly intellectual-elite-asimov-false-notion-ignorance but it shouldn’t diminish experience wisdom <and vice versa>.


And that is where the whole communication and communicating aspect comes into play.

For if neither side can clearly communicate their value then … well … everyone assumes the worst.


It would be far too easy for me to suggest that if someone has the experience, and the wisdom that comes with it, they should be able to articulate it and communicate it in a way that anyone would not feel condescended to or diminished or simply out-of-touch with either hard working or ‘thinker’.


But experience doesn’t necessarily translate into effective communication.


And it gets even more challenging when both sides have a pair of perception filtered glasses on as they view the opposite they are seeking to communicate with.


My prime example is easy … climate change.


The simple fact is that climate activists cannot sell their story effectively – they fall back on … well … facts and numbers. This is deemed as ‘arrogance’ because they get frustrated you don’t see the truth in the numbers and you are deemed ‘ignorant’ as you get frustrated because you aren’t a scientist and don’t want to extrapolate numbers … you just want a simple truthful story.


Even non-science people  recognize that cherry-picked statistics and trends & projections are not the same as long-term accurate predictions and effects. But if the case is so strong it must be possible to bring it forth in a compelling way combined with compelling measures to address it.


That said.


intellectual-behave-as-intelligenceThe most egregious act with regard to elitism versus experience actually takes place when people smart enough to know … undermine other people smart enough to know … within the leadership we seek to take our cues from <or let’s label them what the everyday schmuck would call ‘the ruling intellectual elite’>.


They sacrifice acceptance of the value of their ‘competitor’ for undermining the value. And in doing so they undermine everyone’s value. Some would suggest this is ‘not seeing the forest for the trees.’


I would suggest this is actually a doom loop. If every day people have no one to trust with regard to their experience they become anxious. And, then, in this state of anxiety, many of those same people no longer trust the experts <let alone anyone attempting to lead by thought leadership>.


If you cannot trust experience it all falls apart. Because then gaining experience just doesn’t matter <or specific experience doesn’t matter>.


In addition … it seems to foster an environment in which individual thinking is discouraged, the value of scientific/researched fact is diminished and, contrary to belief, the power shifts to some authority figure who leads through opinion rather than fact <and people follow off of ‘feelings’ rather than truth>.


That said … all things being equal, it means this issue comes down to its most basic level <which actually creates a real divide in ‘us versus them’>.



Here is where the biggest gap in skills & experience exists.


Survival skills.


test think smarterSurvival in corporate America is significantly different than survival in … well … survival.


If all of urban/suburban America lost their microwaves and fast food restaurants … well … they would be screwed.



Most people know how to light a fire <with a match>, wash underwear and make soup but that basic skill set is not even close to the survival skills of the majority of the world let alone rural America.


Therefore … experience is measured in two different ways … basic survival versus ‘elitist’ survival. And neither side values the other’s skills equally … or maybe worse … they devalue the other’s skill set.


It’s a dangerous state of affairs.



We are shortchanging our ability to shape events by having each side believe they are the only ones capable of shaping the events.



We are shortchanging the people who are much more confident in the assessments of what to do and when to do it.



We are shortchanging the people who understand that in any situation and in any choice there are winners and losers and just because you may have lost smart and stupid peopledoesn’t make you a loser.


And, of course, we shortchange the people who don’t have the experience to lead by undervaluing the experience that they do have … and what they have to offer in terms of thinking & ideas.


We don’t know what we don’t know.


And in those words of wisdom resides our biggest challenge with regard to this crisis of elitism versus experience … we need to figure out how to better articulate expertism and experience … because if we do not … the inexperienced will seek to take on the responsibilities of the experienced … and we will be doomed to fail.




“The pen may indeed be mightier than the sword, but the wordsmith would do well to welcome the blacksmith back into the fold, so that artisan craftsmanship the world over may fend off the ravages of industrialised homogeneity and bland monoculture.”


Alex Morritt


75000 dollars (and the haves and have nots)

October 17th, 2015

rich people paying rich people

“…. the very rich are different from you and me.”

F Scott Fitzgerald


“… it is not easy for men to rise whose qualities are thwarted by poverty.”


<55 AD-127 AD>


“… the doctrine of enlightened “self-interest rightly understood” was a part of America’s DNA from its founding.”

Reflections on Alexis de Tocqueville








This is kind of about the haves and have-nots … but mostly it is a reflection upon how the wealthy have little, or no, link to the reality of what everyday schmucks like me <non wealthy> think or feel.



That said.


The fact that an NBA star spent $75,000 for a ‘5 day get away’ made me sit back and shake my head saying to myself “… and wealthy people wonder why no god nooooothe everyday schmuck like me gets aggravated over the whole wealthy & inequality discussion?”



Set aside any herb Viagra drug discussion or the fact the getaway was at a brothel <both legal> because what a person wants to do in their personal time is their choice <whether I agree with it or not> … this is about $75,000 spent on one long weekend.



I have earned some very nice annual salaries in my past but this is the kind of money I cannot grasp even thinking about past salaries I had.


The most I maybe spent was 10% of this amount on a week long trip to Europe … and I didn’t part with that money casually.



Think about the fact that $75,000 out of pocket is a family of 4 who earns maybe $120,000 annually <taking out taxes & social security & deductions to get back to the $75,000 real cash on hand annually>.



Think about the fact that $75,000 out of pocket maybe allows one of my best friends to partially help pay for his 3 kid’s college degrees.



I think about $75,000 out of pocket to me <and pretty much any of my friends & acquaintances> … well … I cannot fathom how my life would be lived differently if I had it. Suffice it to say … it would be easier and I wouldn’t be plunking it down for one weekend of ‘getting away.’



And, coincidentally with regard to this $75k, according to a study <conducted by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton> on Americans and how they evaluate their happiness, a salary of $75,000 a year is the magic number after which people’s day-to-day happiness no longer improves. According to their numbers, you won’t be any happier on a day-to-day basis if you’re making $75,000 or $750,000—though you’ll likely feel like you’ve got a better life overall.

My point?

With all due respect to someone who almost died … this jerk spent $75,000 on a 5 day getaway.

To circle back to Alexis de Tocqueville … self interest rightly understood this is not.






I do not begrudge people earning money.


I do not begrudge wealth.


I do not begrudge vacations and ‘needing to get away.’



On the other side of this discussion …  nor do I believe an ‘entitled mentality’ benefits any culture … let alone benefits the self-esteem & self-actualization of individuals. Working for something and getting it, or being fairly rewarded, creates better people psychologically.



But what I do know is that a culture with a healthy fairly distributed structure of wealth dream big and pass alongdistribution <low to high> creates a healthy economy and mindset. Research has shown again and again a natural distribution of wealth encourages people to work hard and achieve fair compensation for their efforts <and permits people to dream and also establish what they want in their minds as well as find some level of what they feel comfortable with>.



But I also know that research consistently shows that when wealth inequality reaches absurd scale it is detrimental to attitudes & behaviors <which inhibit economic growth and foster bad attitudes>.




$75,000 on one weekend.



I do want to bitch about the really rich today and wealth inequality.



But I’m not going to bludgeon people with statistics because I am fairly sure most of us have the gist of the issue.



I will point out two key wealth inequality thoughts:




– The growing gap between the poor and rich is a global phenomenon. According to Oxfam, the richest 1% have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014 and are on track to own more than the other 99% by 2016.




– In US, over the last three decades, the wealth owned by the top 0.1% households increased from 7% to 22% even as the wealth of the bottom 90% of households declined.




And I will also point out that even though I earned a good salary in the past <nowhere near some of these high numbers> I struggle to believe I can put myself into the shoes, let alone the minds, of the super wealthy. Shit. I am fairly sure 99.9% of us cannot.



I said that as a preface to me saying that I recognize that wealth or not … they have their issues & problems too.



I was reminded of this when I saw that some NYC therapist discussed the problems he discusses with his super rich clientele:




“If you are part of the 1%, you still have problems and they are legitimate to you. Even when you say: ‘I don’t have to struggle for money’, there are other parts of your life.

Money is not the only thing that defines you. Your problems are legitimate.”

Clay Cockrell therapist to the 1%




Here is the thing.



choosing shit


Although the 1% of the 1% have problems … they still have choices because of their wealth.



The 99.9% have no such choice … they just have to get on with getting on with it.



This makes me suggest that it’s not really the wealth that bothers me … it’s the way that money is spent.





And also maybe the fact that systems, and a world, originally conceived to serve everyone and give everyone a fair chance … can be ‘bought into’, redesigned and develop its own set of rules to favor not only the needs of the wealthy … and, maybe the worst, is being reconstructed for the protection of wealth and the wealthy.




My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.

In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

Warren Buffett





Simplistically … more wealth begets more wealth.



In it’s most sneaky way it does it in a way I call the double down of being wealthy.



What I mean is that the more money you have the more additional free shit you get <and, worse, wealthy people feel they are entitled to these things … uhm … yeah … I called it ‘entitlement’>.



Poor people … shit … everyday people … would be shocked if they knew all the perks rich people get simply for being rich.



Forget the tax breaks and loopholes a wealthy person has access to maintain their wealth.




Rich people often get paid to wear jewelry.



They get paid to lose weight.



They’re given free laptops and TVs.



They get ‘comped’ rooms or upgrades that eliminate expenses.



They get expense report reimbursements.

bullshit no way



The most ludicrous is when the celebrity wealthy get gift bags just for attending big award shows, bags filled with “goodies” worth $20,000 — which is more than a full-time minimum wage worker earns in a year.




Inequality has an even uglier side.



It’s pretty obvious to state that having more money affords you more food, more clothes, more housing, and more “stuff.”



But the richest families actually spend less on food, clothes, housing, and cars than the poorest families as a share of their income. The real difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich spend a larger share of their much larger income on insurance, education, and, when you analyze the housing component, mortgages—all of which are directly related to building wealth and preserving wealth.




The richest 10% spend much less of their income on food.


The richest 10% spend much more of their income on insurance <and relatively more than all but the very poorest on education>.



This means that when you have money you actually spend less on the stuff that ensures you survive and more on the stuff that ensures that you <and your children, possessions, and wealth> survive and thrive.



Poverty … shit … even income-stressed … means no future … only a Life lived in the present tense.



While we, who have money, can suggest those with less money should work harder, be smarter and look to the future … reality dictates that the anxiety of having no money all the time forces poorer families to keep focused on immediate needs & concerns.



Bottom line?



The poor spend relatively more on what will keep them alive.



The wealthy spend more on what will keep them rich.



This leads me to address the “big” issue.



Or what some people call “redistribution” <which I do not>.


It is admittedly a tricky discussion.


It can quickly devolve into a socialist type discussion. But it is not.



It is as simple, and complex, as fairness. And I mean fairness not in wealth distribution but rather social mobility.



Since 1980 America has been experiencing a significant increase in income inequality. In 1980 the top 5% represented 16.5% of total national income and the bottom 40percent represented 14.4percent. By 2008 the 16.5 was 21.5 and the 14.4 dropped to 12%.


Suffice it to say the distribution worsens when you look at wealth rather than income.



Attach that to the fact that the United States ranks worst among major economies in social <upward> mobility. Yup. America now lags behind many European countries in the rate of upward mobility <so much for the “land of opportunity” concept>.



Basically the lower end of the middle class truly is getting, and had gotten, royally screwed.


Those with just a high-school degree or less have seen their relative earnings sink.


odds 1 richAnd over the past decade those who attended college but did not earn a degree have also seen their earnings sink.


Incomes at the top, meanwhile, rose significantly during the whole period.
The result was a dramatic divergence in fortunes.



Please note … this is about capitalism … and it isn’t.



Increasing income inequality is certainly a reflection of a broader transformation in how capitalism is transforming itself in the 21st century.



While capitalism has certainly offered tremendous benefits – it has helped increased standard of living as well as lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper, and new, goods and services to everyone – it has also hollowed out the incomes and wealth of the American lower-to-mid middle class.


All the while the rich at the very top got richer.



Here is my main factoid.



The inequality can mainly be reflected in the fact that only 40% of American neighborhoods now have an average income within 20% of the national median … compared with 60% in the 1970s.



There are consequences on society <beyond just making people angry>.


Now … one could start asking me what is creating this deep lack of social mobility.





Think of something called ‘opportunity hoarding.’



Some guy named Matthew O’Brien wrote about “opportunity hoarding,” the idea that rich people are talented at doing all the right things you need to stay rich and make sure your kids get rich, too. Rich couples live in richer districts, read more to their kids, send them to better schools, hook them up with better internships, slide them into better entry-level jobs (or, better yet, into the family business), and finally pass down their insured and well invested wealth. Even education, the great American equalizer, makes for a poor equalizer. And it’s not only because wealthy teenagers are more likely to go to school. Young people born to rich families who don’t go to college are 2.5 times more likely to end up in the richest quartile than young people born to poor families who do go college.




But the real point with opportunity hoarding is that the wealthy, looking at the widening gap between the haves & the have nots, are more inclined to do whatever it takes to protect themselves from falling INTO that gap.


They hoard their opportunities as well as their wealth, therefore, others cannot shift into the space because it is blocked out.






The reality is that the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be reinvested back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, economy hey lookand reinvested into our infrastructure <which makes the economy efficient>, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy.



Aw shit.



I didn’t want to rant about inequality … I wanted to rant about the absurd view the wealthy seem to have with regard to the world.



The super-rich have some absurdly distorted ideas about the world. They are, on more than average, to believe their achievements are the product of their superior brains and hard work.






When you end up talking about inequality and haves and have nots it becomes a convoluted passionate discussion.



The divide between the haves and the have-nots is nothing new in America, but in recent decades that gap has been getting wider as the middle class shrinks and the very richest Americans keep getting richer.





Inequality and ‘economic growth’ are inextricably tied … but maybe in the wrong way.



We’ve all been effectively told, and sold, that endless growth is essential to maintain and improve our quality of life.

This is not only absurd it also couldn’t be further from the truth.



We seem to forget that after World War 2 worldwide competition was relatively nonexistent therefore US companies could afford to pay average workers – with average skills – above-average wages, complete with pensions.



In addition the GI Bill got “single-family home ownership” started for the everyday working people. Before WWII single-family home ownership was not something the average common person strived for let alone even thought was possible.



These two factors created the largest middle class ever created. Affordable, one-family homes were built everywhere and millions of people all of a sudden had “good jobs” and were able to afford these houses being built.
Average people working on assembly lines, doing fairly simple work, were making house buying money.





And then the natural evolution of ‘if I have this I should be working toward this’ attitude kicked in <psychologically called ‘hedonistic adaptation’>.



Not only did we get used to owning a home we got used to a higher standard of living and we got used to ‘moving up the economic ladder.’



We were NOT used to finding comfort and staying at that comfort level.


We have come to accept moving up should be the one constant in our lives.


THIS is what we are always looking to go back to.


Just think about that for a second.


The average blue collar worker … the one with a high school diploma putting a nut on a bolt all day making enough to buy a house, two cars, yearly vacation, and dinner out every week … is that possible in today’s world? Is that even realistic?



We can talk about CEO pay, the 1%, and corporations all we want but maybe a part of it is that the good old days of average people living above-average lives are over.



I say that but I also want to remind everyone about some of these average everyday people.


poor and poverty

And we seem to forget as we look at the $75000 weekenders that the billion dollar profits that McDonald’s make are mostly created by the ‘burger flippers’ and NOT the shareholder. Yup. The real wealth creators are the ones who work long grinding hours <these are the people who are also living in the ‘present tense’ with regard to money>.



We sometimes seem to forget that even if everybody had a PhD we still need garbage men, plumbers and sewer workers. All of whom most certainly contribute more to society than say wall street speculators who make money off of making money <not making anything or doing anything>.



We seem to forget as we bitch & moan about subsidizing low-paid workers with food stamps and other ‘entitlement’ initiatives that our anger is directed at those who actually work 10 hours 6 days a week trying to make ends meet and sustain a family … rather than the companies and wall street groups that rake in billions of dollars.



We seem to forget about those things so well that we then decide to focus on people who do have wealth and go out of our way to protect it for them <because they earned it>.







I read somewhere that the True Measure of Any Society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.



And when I think about that I start thinking about the utterly despicable, self-absorbed actions of those who spend $75,000 on a long weekend.



I want a world of the future which will value real skills … and real morality.



In the end.



While there is certainly a higher moral road … the basic road business walks is ‘produce something and make money from it’ and that is the same basic road for a healthy society.



Wall Street makes wealth from wealth.



The everyday schmuck makes wealth from doing something.



That has to count for something … doesn’t it?



Only a sense of shared social sacrifice in the pursuit of ‘what makes this country great’ will generate the progress we need and desire.



When I see a headline that someone paid $75,000 for a long weekend <as I stare at my $136 electricity bill> I recognize today’s world is relentlessly driven and categorized by money. I know it shouldn’t be but I would have to be delusional to not recognize this.



We live n a world where if you do not earn and spend conspicuously you are failing.capitalism poor with money



We use material things as a substitute for feelings and hopes <why else would you go to a brothel for $75,000 or have a $25 million mansion for just you and your spouse>.



Our culture seemingly has a price tag for every dream.





I can feel compassion for the super-rich. They got problems too.



But if I got 99 problems I can guarantee you the 1 thing that would help resolve most of them would be $75,000 <and most of hte 99.9% would be raising their hand saying ‘hallelujah’ right with me> .




So please forgive me if I feel slightly less than compassionate when I see wealthy people spending $75,000 for one weekend of fun to ‘get away.’



“Self interest rightly understood.” $75,000 for a long weekend <at a brothel>.


Someone somewhere has lost sight of what is reality.

construction, deconstruction & reconstruction (part 1 future business thinking)

October 7th, 2015
change speed market

Hugh McLeod




“The only certain thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have seen furthest into it.”


Eric Hobsbawm


“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it.

Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you’ve got, and fix it along the way. “


Paul Arden


“Chance favors the connected mind.”

Steven Johnson



beginning to change


Let me state the obvious.

The business world is changing.


How we think, what we think, the business models to implement the new thinking and all the while … the arduous back & forth conflict between the way it was done versus the way it will be.



Overall … one of the biggest challenges the business world is facing is that the entire approach to thinking about how to conduct business is changing which ultimately means the biggest challenge is not the new model itself … it is the fact that the current leadership management thinks one way and emerging management generation thinks another.


This creates issues not only in how the generations interact in the workplace but also impacts the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, in actually training the emerging management employees to be successful.






I call the change … ‘construction thinking’ to ‘deconstruction thinking’ <or “reconstruction thinking”>.



Here is where we are today.



– The existing business world view



The traditional business world <and existing management way of thinking> is based on a construction thinking model.



Think of this as Lego blocks.


business deconstruction

You were given <taught> all the Lego building blocks one by one and taught <trained> the different ways to use them and build something solid from the ground up. Doesn’t really take into consideration what TopModels suggest are the black boxes of thinking <see later in ‘Deconstruction Thinking’> … or the Lego blocks you need to insert based on faith <or intuition> … which invariably we always use <but don’t – can’t – train for>.





Business thinking is always about balancing real knowledge, faith knowledge and intuition.



But in traditional thinking we tend to make the formula weighted toward real knowledge … and construct solutions aiming toward a cause an effect <stimulus response> relationship.
Business training still seems to continue to serve up this linear cause-and-effect thinking as if, by doing so, we’ll understand the person, predict behavior and results … and be able to make sense of everything we do.



An unfortunate truth?



Causing effect is not linear.



Never was … never will be.


directional unidirectional link deconstruction

And this is true even more so in today’s more fragmented stimulus world.



What you share as an initial stimulus is so often re-purposed in ways you cannot even envision it inevitably creates multiple effects … sometimes derivatives of the desired effect and more often an unenvisioned effect.



The reality is that the future success of a strategy is so hard to predict. This also means that … well … Big Ideas <in general> is useless <and not worth the effort to try and construct>. In today’s consumer business world it simply pays to do more things, try more things and … well … simply give yourself more chances that at least one idea takes off now … and you have other ideas which could take off ‘then.’




I’ve been saying for a long time the big idea is crap … in 2010: http://brucemctague.com/the-myth-of-the-big-idea-big-ideas-are-crap >



Suffice it to say big ideas will largely be replaced by ideas many of which will take on a life of their own. Or maybe the business seeks an initial idea that sparks interaction and thought and action/behavior and a business adapts to the resulting behavior.


The business, and the idea, is ultimately defined by what happens next.


But it isn’t just ideas … while the world isn’t stagnant or linear … thinking is exactly the same.



It’s constantly evolving and alive and fragmented into beautifully imperfect shapes and sizes.



The problem with a static brand proposition and a static strategy – or anything static other than a vision or character statement – is that the business landscape, brands and their competition, are anything but static. Business, like people, are evolving entities that live and die by the success of their actions.



Basically, construction is based on predicting behavior before implementation.



– The new business landscape



Simplistically the old way is to methodically construct solutions and ideas and then commit.


retrain thought building deconstructThe new way is more about committing <smartly> and then deconstructing as information is received and adapting until it reaches a shape that could be sustainable.


Oddly … it is actually an older leader who embraced the new way.



<Napoleon>: “On s’engage, et puis – on voit.” <you commit yourself, and then – you see.>



The traditional business cycle has always been one of “study, act, study.”



Information precedes decisions … then the impact of decisions is assessed before the next decisions are made. Each step of the way information, or earning, is the gate through which decisions must pass.


That much has not changed.






How about … with the rise of digital technologies & the internet the cycle times between the ‘act’ and the ‘study’ has been compressed. The old starting point of “study” has become a luxury few marketers can indulge. The new digital cycle is one of “act and react.”

“Act” not “study” is now the point on which everything else pivots. It becomes ‘learning on the go.’



The new landscape is based on answers needed in real time. that also means getting into market is not based on ‘perfecting before going’ but rather … well … “good enough” is, well, good enough. Businesses learn on the go, testing alternatives by doing not by asking, in the marketplace. The core of how a business operates is now more on how consumers behave than on what they think.






This new landscape is only empowered by technology … it is the people, the compete connect smartemerging management generation, who are really driving the new business thinking model. This new generation of management has some specific features which benefit the new business landscape:




– Knowledge <or information about shit> is available to anyone with access to a computer



– There are an increasing amount of things which are ‘black boxes’ of inner workings <they work … but the majority of us have no clue how they work>which compress thinking & doing time



– Great decision making in today’s business world is more often defined by on how good you are at assessing what aspects should be accepted on ‘faith’ <the black box designated aspects> and what aspects need real knowledge & understanding



– It has never been possible to know everything … but in today’s world it is mind numbingly <and humbling so> obvious … and it has become more accepted to learn on the go



– Curiosity is not just a business characteristic but also a management tool <an openly curious leader embraces team dialogue & discussion – without relinquishing decision responsibilities>.




All these things tend to make me believe we are within a great transformation in business thinking.



Unfortunately, to the existing business world & existing senior management, this transformation is one led by the next generation thought-wise. A generation also characterized by:



– One more comfortable utilizing what is called ‘black box knowledge’ and driven by instinct <but willing to adapt from learnings if instinct proven wrong>.



– One where no part of a business, or department, is out of bounds.



– One where creativity in thinking and intuition are used to imagine the future.



– One where value is in information and not things.



– One where value is found in experiences <real knowledge not speculated knowledge>.



– One where value is found more in unfolding discovery and new opportunities rather than researched discovery.



– One where expectations are in the back seat and possibilities are in the front seat.



– One where every company is actually in the information business first and foremost.



– One where value has migrated from tangible to intangibles.

 deconstruction unlearn culture


The clashing of generational business thinking can almost be summed up by Douglas Adams:



Douglas Adams’ rules about technology:

1) Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2) Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3) Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.





And while I believe this is the new business thinking world model, the ‘deconstruction business world,’ it inherently contains an aspect which makes the younger generation thinking engine go.



Instincts & black boxes.



– Deconstruction thinking theory<the black boxes in business>


1940's faith

Which leads me deconstruction <or black box> thinking.



This is how I believe the next generation of business leaders … those who grew up in a more digital age <albeit it began with hand held computers> … will think and manage and make decisions.



We are increasingly surrounded by ‘black boxes.’ These are complex constructs that we do not understand even if they are explained to us. We cannot comprehend the inner processes of a ‘black box’, but none the less we integrate their inputs and outputs into our decision-making <just think of your computer as the everyday black box we trust>.





Black box thinking … I cannot take credit for it … TopModels refer to it as “why faith is replacing knowledge.”



“… our world is getting more complicated all the time. Black and white, good and bad, right and wrong have been replaced with complicated constructs that leave most people in the dark.

As the world around us becomes increasingly fast paced and complex, the amount we REALLY know – what we can really grasp and understands – decreases all the time. Today it is more or less taken for granted that we do not understand many of the things that surround us, such as mobile phones and ipads. And even if somebody tried to explain the DNA code to us, we would probably be out of our depth.

We are increasingly surrounded by ‘black boxes’ … complex constructs that we do not understand even if they are explained to us. We cannot comprehend the inner processes of a black box but nonetheless we integrate their inputs and outputs into our decision making.

The amount that we simply HAVE to believe, without understanding it, is increasing all the time. As a result we are tending to assign more importance to those who can explain something than to their actual explanation.”

The Decision book: 50 models for strategic thinking

<Krogerus & Tschappeler>





The new decision making world, one driven by technology and that ‘black box’ of knowledge computers offer in terms of knowledge, is ultimately a deconstructive thinking world. A world in which it is understood that a stimulus can create desired, and sometimes undesired, responses and success is often more based on reacting & adapting to an initial stimulus than perfecting the initial stimulus.



Going back to the Legos analogy … deconstruction identifies the tangible Legos as well as the intangible ‘black box’ Legos.



– Were they used appropriately?


– The appropriate mix?


– The appropriate place?


– Could a real Lego have been put in place of a black box Lego and I would have been better?




And over time the black box thinking <the intangible and vague ‘knowing’> becomes more tangible as well as we gain more faith in certain black box thinking application.






Some people may call deconstruction thinking/solutioning <because they say the deconstruction term is too negative> is simply a more contextual approach to thinking <and learning>.



At its core they would be correct … a contextual approach recognizes that learning is a complex and multifaceted process that goes far beyond drill-oriented, stimulus and response methodologies.




According to contextual learning theory learning occurs best when people process new information or knowledge in such a way that it makes sense to them in their own frames of reference <their own inner worlds of memory, experience, and response>. This theory assumes that the mind naturally seeks meaning in context that is in relation to the person’s current environment and that it does so by searching for relationships that make sense and appear useful.



I may suggest this is adaptive thinking <a term I made up>.



Stanford calls it “adaptive strategy.”



Adaptive strategy. We create a roadmap of the terrain that lies before an organization and develop a set of navigational tools, realizing that there will be many different options for reaching the destination. If necessary, the destination itself may shift based on what we learn along the way.

Creating strategies that are truly adaptive requires that we give up on many long-held assumptions. As the complexity of our physical and social systems make the world more unpredictable, we have to abandon our focus on predictions and shift into rapid prototyping and experimentation so that we learn quickly about what actually works. With data now ubiquitous, we have to give up our claim to expertise in data collection and move into pattern recognition so that we know what data is worth our attention. We also know that simple directives from the top are frequently neither necessary nor helpful. We instead find ways to delegate authority, get information directly from the front lines, and make decisions based on a real-time understanding of what’s happening on the ground. Instead of the old approach of “making a plan and sticking to it,” which led to centralized strategic planning around fixed time horizons, we believe in “setting a direction and testing to it,” treating the whole organization as a team that is experimenting its way to success.



And that is what the new digitally driven generation of business people will inevitably do.


They will confidently use black boxes more faithfully as well as seek relationships that make sense and appear useful … and adapt.



They will be driven more by looking at solutions and not saying “why does this make sense?” logic understanding but rather ‘this doesn’t look right <or it looks right>’ logic understanding.



This will translate into an adapting mentality on everything. And, yes, I mean everything. Not just tactics and execution but strategy … and sometimes some things which in the past have been considered inviolate with regard to change <like the archaic 5-year plan>.






Black box thinking is not a new thing <but has ALWAYS made us feel uncomfortable>.



Albert Einstein received a Nobel Prize for recognizing that models and ‘logical’ systems are ultimately a matter of faith. And, yet, it is often difficult to let go of the tangible or ‘proof prior to acting’ model.



retrain deconstructIt is basic human nature to often believe so strongly in models that they take on the status of reality. But reality, in terms of business thinking and models, is … well … often not reality … and unimaginable can become reality.



Unimaginable is difficult in today’s business world because nowadays almost everything we do leaves behind some trace therefore companies can monitor how their business is running, where customers are, what they are doing and how they are doing it. And in knowing these things they know the nuances of what makes <or breaks> a business.
Practically speaking future decision makers will tend to work with prognosis tools rather than with predictive models. That doesn’t mean the formulas & models will all be thrown away … instead the formulas and models that try and predictively define iterative behavior are in ‘black boxes’ understood by only a few experts. Therefore, the typical decision maker needs to trust, or have faith, in the system without actually understanding it. Yet, even without understanding the black box <or boxes> understanding, or the ultimate proof, occurs in test and measure and watch behavior and assess attitudes and refine with real data <reactive actions>.



That, my friends, is black box thinking in a nutshell.



To be clear.


Models will not be discarded.


In an increasingly confusing and chaotic and black box world the models provide some order and assist in providing focus on what is important and to believe in what we see.


However … the ‘building models’ will be relegated to a lower priority <therefore we can invest less time and rigor> and instead we will more often assess by understanding what doesn’t look right rather than developing something with the intent of building it to look right.



I believe this is the new operating business thinking model.



I also believe, as stated initially, this will be a painful arduous transition



Companies with managers who manage and think like this <mostly the younger emerging managers> will look like frickin’ aliens to many of the existing companies with older ‘model first thinkers.’



I imagine my real point here is that there are companies with young employees who embrace black box thinking who can help those companies be better and do better … but those companies are still solidly stuck in old school logical ‘rationalize before its done’ attitude.



The future



Here’s the good news for black box companies … the business is coming to them.


Not today … but tomorrow.



And while we may try and make the transition move faster … we cannot. Most good companies will knock themselves out trying to deconstruct a black box into some logical explained system or thing. But a black box … is … well … a black box. It isn’t meant, and it really cannot, be explained in any way that an older manager who doesn’t trust or like black boxes can ever be explained.


Trying to do so defeats the real value of the black box.



This is like discussing business apples and oranges.



There is an entire tier of existing business leaders and managers that are baffled by black boxes.



Maybe worse?



They don’t trust black boxes.



Maybe even worse?
They don’t embrace deconstruction business thinking. Every bone in their body is driven toward constructing optimal solutions from day one.



Here is the interesting dilemma.



Older existing management would actually be quite capable … and most likely … quite good at deconstruction thinking.



It just makes them uncomfortable.



Uncomfortable in that it wasn’t the way they were taught & trained and therefore a younger generation shouldn’t make the ‘leap’ to deconstructive thinking without having learned the constructive principle.



What a bunch of bullhockey.


hugh 50 something same old thinking

Training needs to adapt to the thinking and thinking capabilities <some would call that technology> rather than adapt the new business thinking models to archaic training/thinking models <see my site for a number of articles on how older 50somethings should adapt their organizations and thinking to be effective in the future>.



The gap between construction and deconstruction is so far apart philosophically it is crazy to try and bridge it.


Of course business thinking is always about balancing real knowledge, black box knowledge and intuition. It has always. The ‘formula’ is simply different now.


We need to adapt training to accommodate the new formula.





The people.



– The emerging managers <next generation of managers>



Emerging managers in a company will go nuts <for a while>.



Emerging managers instinctually think about deconstruction thinking methodology and get excited and think … “let’s go … let’s do it” only to have their more methodical front loading leaders say “whoa … slow down … lets be sure we get it right from the beginning.”





I’m <and I imagine any good deconstruction thinking type company> not opposed to getting it right straight out of the box … having things as perfect and researched and nuanced as possible when you introduce it. But if you invest too much time trying to get it right the market has passed you by.


I’d rather be ‘close to being right’ in the beginning and adapt quickly as it enters the market.





That last sentence will send older leaders into convulsions.




meeting the construction versus deconstruction gap



Let me be clear about ‘black boxes.’



We still need people. For all the black boxes, the stealing of sound, sight, smell through data, and all the satellites and technological garners of intelligence gathering … it still boils down to humans in the end.



No matter how advanced the technology … it is people who have to make the final assessments. People who can give access to the minds and ‘future thinking’ of thinking could bethose who we are trying to gain insight into.



Black box intelligence still needs people.



Past experience, benchmarking, good to great skill management and construction thinking isn’t enough to be successful in the new business landscape.



Deconstruction thinking is a complex combination of effectively using quickly assembled solid building blocks and implementing only to deconstruct <and reassemble> on the move. The military would suggest it is adapting the battle as you engage.



I suggest that in order to weave your way through business issues, organizational issues, people issues and real knowledge issues takes a daunting combination of strength of character, curiosity, strength of self and real leadership <of which confidence … not arrogance is embraced>.



Deconstruction is not for the faint of heart. Nor is this type of thinking conducive, nor easily compatible, to the existing style of traditional management thinking.





It is the future model of business thinking and operating.

thinking ain’t easy

May 4th, 2015

think new angle solution

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


Carl Sagan



“Your mind is not a cage.

It’s a garden.

And it requires cultivating.”


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

think think think

“What did thinking ever do for me; to what great place did thinking ever bring me?

I think and think and think.

I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.”


extremely loud and incredibly close







While often we talk about Time as the new currency in people’s lives … I think we should more often discussing Thinking as the new form of Life currency.


test think smarter


Thinking as a value proposition.



In today’s complex business world it seems like we are increasingly dependent upon thinking work, creativity, and the ability to grasp and apply complex abstract multi-dimensional intellectual challenges.



To be clear … thinking work is different from the traditional jobs & work of even the last generation.



I am not suggesting past work generations didn’t think but in an output/creation economy a worker could measure their success in physical quantities – how much stuff was created, sold, shipped or built.




In an idea/thinking economy the measures of success are increasingly intangible <unless you deem profits & stock price as tangible>. In this type of less tangible value proposition all of a sudden ideas or ‘feelings’ create value.







The iPod was better than other MP3 players not because it had more, but because it had fewer buttons and features – the right buttons and features for music on the go.

A restaurant chain displaces a competitor because it feels more (or less) like home.

A shoe company thrives because it gives away half the pairs that you buy.
Even vacuum cleaners, cars, and backyard grills are made, marketed and sold in ways that were inconceivable in the past.



Producing these products and services, consequently, is less a function of the volume of resources that are put in and more a function of “thinking investment” & “creating perceptions <with value>.”



In the past more raw materials, better equipment, or people punching a time clock translated directly to more “output.”




Today, it’s often more about efficiency.

less is_more by lukeafirth-d6ccowa

Or minimizing to maximize.


Minimize what to put in and then maximize how creatively you craft the features.



This means that production in today’s business world is about economical/efficient input … and selling is about thoughtful ideation.



That means thinking is the foundation of today’s economy.




Thinking ain’t easy. In fact … there is an inherent frailty in the intangible of this thinking foundation.






A couple of frail aspects to this thinking world I am outlining.



There is a mental frailty when it comes to coming up an ‘idea’ <good ideas are tough to come up with and typically very personal> … and there is a positioning in the mind frailty because the value resides more in ‘thought’ than in anything real <kind of nebulous when in thought form> … and then there is a simple ‘space’ frailty in the thinking mind.



Good ideas are often quick to arise … and quick to die. Ideas , and consequently thinking, is scary.



While I am not particularly fond of the articulation of this creative execution the message is truer than true.


GE Ideas are Scary



ideas crazy light



Ideas are scary.



And this leads me to the last frailty I mentioned earlier … a frailty in the mind’s capabilities.



This frailty is reflected in sheer mind storage space available <or the lack thereof>.



It’s not that there is any decline in mental capabilities but rather the mind becomes overwhelmed with too much thinking. By the way … this is not information overload … that is a different issue … this is simply thinking too much.


Too much thinking when the mind would be at its best by … well … not thinking.



Too much thinking can kill inspiration <as all the reasons why it can’t be done arise>.


Too much thinking can kill a thought <as it gets overwhelmed by new thoughts>.



Too much thinking can kill an idea <shifting from good to mediocrity>.





“It is a fundamental paradox of human psychology that thinking can be bad for us.”

Ian Leslie




By following our own thoughts too closely we can lose our bearings as our inner chatter drowns out common sense and stifles our ‘good thinking’.



Most of us are actually really pretty good at naturally culling down what is important when we think. Unfortunately we also suck at stopping after we have culled.



What I do know for sure is that in a study of shopping behavior … the less information people were given about a brand the better choice they made.


Specifically <and this will matter to those marketers who like to give gobs of minutiae to people believing it will help them make a better choice> … when offered full ingredient details the consumer got confused by their options <unable to discern differences and importance> and actually ended up choosing a product they did not like <i.e., people were forcing themselves to select on a criteria that was not really ‘heart preference’ but rather “head <logical> preference.” And they were not happy in the end when they used.


Sometimes the mind gets overwhelmed if it has to think about too much.



This leads me to believing that the art of thinking needs to be nurtured and trained as well as possible to be successful in today’s world.


Everyone has a natural thinker within us.



I believe everyone has some innate ability to treat pieces of information as jigsaw puzzle pieces waiting to be put together and create something.


But within that innate ability there are some people who seem to slow down rapidly moving pieces mentally so they can see everything … and there are other people who only see blurs or pieces of the pieces.


But everyone, yes everyone, has some ability to sift through the jumbled pot of information and, like a Williams Sonoma colander, trap the essentials and quickly let the inessential run off.



Simplistically … thinking has always been about bringing stuff in and letting stuff out.


“… we are cups, constantly and quietly

being filled. the trick is knowing how

to tip ourselves over and let the

beautiful stuff out.”

Ray Bradbury




Even all that said … today’s world does demand a different type of thinker.




The Thinker

Historically we contemplated in retreat, silence, solitude, and within our own mind. We solved problems in isolation, deep thought, and through introverted reflection.

==next generation of thinkers

The Contemporary Thinker

In an age of twittering, blogging, social networking, and sophisticated work-place networks, global science networks, and mass-participation and collaboration, information is exchanged in a nonstop connected world.




Today’s thinking and problem solving has to live in a world where we are inter-connected, globally accessible and the exchange of information is fluid.


this actually means we have the ability to bring problems closer to solutions and ideas faster to challenge the status quo.







Part of the challenge for the next generation of thinkers is how to let stuff out before they simply get overwhelmed with the amount that they bring in. This also means building a stronger ability to immerse in knowledge … and then step out of immersion to think.



<uhm – and I am scratching my chin>



The stepping in and out is … well … difficult.

Even for those who are good at it.




In today’s digital/networked society where the world, cultures and people share their experiences via a variety of web based social platforms … information travels, it is fluid, and experiences are shared … meaning that ideas swirl around for thinkers to grab out of the ether <as long as they are paying attention>.




“If you don’t think, then you shouldn’t talk.”

March Hare, Alice in Wonderland


“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

Robert Frost



Thinking is complex <so trying to tell someone ‘how to think’ seems kind of silly>. But thinking encompasses being creative, thoughtful, and solutions oriented <for thinking without a conclusion isn’t really thinking>. And this thinking is being done in a world where problems are extremely complex, target expectations, markets and industry variables are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like small computers within enormous networks that are constantly reconfiguring.







Let me tell you one last aspect which makes thinking even more difficult <and scary>.

Let’s just say most of us every day schmucks, & businesses, are notorious for being future blind.






Well.letters to myself note to future self



I am sure there are a variety of reasons but I would suggest two main reasons … it is difficult to envision something that doesn’t really exist today … and we think about insights, the things that inspire true thinking, as the outcome … not the enabler for outcome.




On that last thought … I saw a great article from someone at Claro about insights.



Many years of innovation work have shown me that insights are not enough. In fact, they are fairly worthless on their own. Insights have little intrinsic value without being transformed into frameworks and narratives that can drive strategic action.

<https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141006023207-4433999-the-false-promise-of-actionable-insight?trk=object-title >

The best part is when you realize the value is not in the insight itself but what can be done with it.

A good insight can inspire unique frameworks, narratives, and actions appropriate for very different challenges and opportunities.






I included that insight thought because I sometimes believe that thinking is hard because we love outcomes so much.


And often insight is simply the enabler of an eventual outcome <therefore thinking only indirectly has an outcome>.


And insights are not all created equal … therefore not all outcomes are created equal.



<yikes … there is a nasty Life formula>







All I really know is that today’s world runs on thinking <not making shit>.


And that thinking is not a particularly valued ‘product’ in today’s world.



We synthesize new ideas constantly.


We tend to learn rapidly.




Don’t shake your head and disagree. Most people learn a lot of new stuff really fast.



Uh oh.


thinking rubix


While we learn, and think, and apply what we just learned … you make mistakes.





Mistakes are tough to handle. We know we need to make them but get crucified in real life <and in business> and by society in making them.



This association makes thinking a disease in some people’s minds.



Think too much and bad shit happens.


Think too much and you get terminally ill.




“Thinking has become a disease.”


Eckhart Tolle


“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority.

The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority.

The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”

A. A. Milne








Thinking can be a disease to some … and improve health in others.


Suffice it to say the mind is an amazing instrument when used correctly and a very destructive weapon when used incorrectly.



Being smart isn’t good enough … while the mind thrives when dealing with problems … it also loves true thinking … thinking driven by you <not a problem>.



This type of thinking is difficult and, frankly, most people don’t like doing it.




the day I cried about thinking:









I opened with three quotes and three thoughts.


1.   Something incredible awaits those who think <even though you won’t know what it is until it is there>.

2.    Minds need to be cultivated <you need to feed thinking>.

 ideas stretched

3.    Thinking isn’t easy <you can think your way out of happiness as well as good ideas>.





Time ain’t currency … the value lies within how you use the time. Thinking increases not only the value of time, economies … and Life.

Enlightened Conflict