Enlightened Conflict

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017




“As with events, so it is with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water.”



Ralph Waldo Emerson




“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

If the whole of history is in one man, it is all explained from individual experience.”



Ralph Waldo Emerson




“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”



Bruce McTague






life explained tat awkward moment birth deathWe LOVE using the past to try and explain shit. Past people, past events, past words and past … well … everything.

When we are faced with something new, or someone new, we immediately start sifting through the scrap heap of the past to start creating some semblance of a jig saw puzzle to explain what we are facing.


There are a number of problems with doing this.


The biggest is that scraps are scraps. Oh. And the scraps used to reside in a completely different context <which is impossible to recreate>.


And, yet, we continue to try.

The problem is that in doing so we elect to not judge the present on the merits of the present. We decline to judge a person as they are, the circumstances as they are and the decisions on the merits of what it is. We do this with everyone and everything … how money is spent, decisions we need to make, new people we have met and even leaders. We do it all partially well intended <we want to make sure we make a fair assessment of hat we are seeing & hearing> and partially because simply examining something and stating “this is good” or “this is bad” <or acceptable or unacceptable> seems … well … flimsy.


Comparisons tend to make things look more solid.  And, yet, we tend to absolutely suck at creating the proper comparisons.


And, that happens for a variety of reasons – also some well-intended and some not so well intended.


I will start with the well intended.


As Emerson once wrote: “our being is descending into us from know not whence.” And we struggle with that truth. It makes us uncomfortable … uhm … no … REALLY uncomfortable.

If we don’t know where things descend from then we begin to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find comparisons to do so. this all comes at the expense of judging what is, the beings and such, on the merits of what exists. And this is where the shit hits the fan. We either dip into our own memories or a slew of people start telling us what memories to take a look at <the latter is part of the not so well intended>.




Here is an unfortunate fact … our memories, which is how we tend to judge and create mental comparisons, are constructive and reconstructive




“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device.

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true.

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people. “


Elizabeth Loftus




“You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.”



(via 1112pm)




We desperately want to define things through comparison and continuously ask the universe for signs to show us what we want.


We desperately do so because in the absence of some comparison we would then have to judge what is on the merits of what exists — the good, the bad and the indifferent .


That doesn’t mean a shitload of people around you aren’t gonna try and affect how you will build your comparisons and encourage you to compare in some fairly creative <sometimes absurd> ways.


What do I mean?


I go back to the psychologist Ebbinghaus who studied memory construction <his published essay Über das Gedächtness in 1885> where he realized that memory and recall of continuous passages of prose or verse would be affected differentially by people’s experiences and prior knowledge.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.


Mario Vargas Llosa



What that actually means is that the memory you tap into to create the my-worst-enemy-is-my-memory-projectcomparisons you seek are slightly mangled by yourself <in how you remember it> and can be manipulated by devious not so well intended people around you.


The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:


  • Memories are distributed; not unitary


  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling


  • memories can be revised over time


  • Reconstruction is filling in “missing details” on the basis of logic, assumptions, what “must have been the case”


  • More common reasons for forgetting: Lack appropriate retrieval cue = something you attach to a memory, can use to recover it>


  • Reliable retrieval cues are key to access <and multiple retrieval cues are best>


  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones



If only we could pull out our brain and use only our own eyes.

But, not surprisingly, this is the exact same issue new ideas, “white space” theories, fresh thinking, true <not made up> disruptive people & things face.


All tat said. I will point out that something doesn’t have to be truly new to face false comparison challenges … it can simply be a new person in an existing role or a common problem or question just in a different time.


Suffice it to say anything new, or any change, is being asked to be defined by the past. And there will never be a lack of people stepping up and suggesting they can define something through a variety of comparisons <many of which you spend more time trying to fend off than is worth the time>.

explain with rational mind

This is a mistake. This is a fundamental error we make. It assumes what is can somehow be extrapolated by something by what was <the past>. In reality, as I have noted numerous times, I cannot exactly extrapolate the past because I cannot exactly replicate the past … which means <in harsh terms> there is nothing there and nothing from nothing is … uhm … nothing.


Most comparisons end up meaning nothing <although they look like something>.


This means most comparisons we create are just plain and simple false comparisons.


Without trying to be flippant with regard to what I believe is a fairly standard operating procedure for people … we need to stop. Stop false comparisons.

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.


Comparisons normalize that which should not be normalized … just as comparisons can de-normalize that which should be normalized.

False comparisons wielded by the devious can construct almost any “normal” you could desire <even if it is hollow & not really normal>.




In today’s world there does seem like there is a lot of crazy shit happening. And in our desire to veer away from the “crazy shit” feeling we seek some comparisons to normalize the situation <thereby calming the ‘crazy shit feeling>.


Just a couple of notes of warning on that.


<a> Finding comparisons, if done well, you can actually be convinced there really isn’t crazy shit happening even though there is truly some crazy shit easter crazy kidshappening.


As a corollary to <a>,


<b> if there is truly some crazy shit happening there will be no shortage of people ponying up false comparisons trying to convince you that there is no crazy shit happening <and some of them will be quite effective>.


The only reason I point out the warning is that there really is some crazy shit happening and we need to stop finding comparisons to make today, and some people, look a little less crazy than it really is.


There you go.


I will end where I began … “Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things <and people>.”

We should invest the energy judging what is, people, ideas and things, based on their present merits not some false comparisons from the past.


angry strategizing

August 11th, 2016

if you are not angry you are not paying attention




“It’s time we stop worrying, and get angry you know?

But not angry and pick up a gun, but angry and open our minds.”




Tupac Shakur




This is hardly worth fighting for

But it’s the little petty shit that I can’t ignore

When my fist hits your face and your face hits the floor


It’ll be a long time coming

But you got the message now

‘Cause I was never going

You’re the one that’s going down


One of us is going down

I’m not running,

It’s a little different now

‘Cause one of us is going

One of us is going down



Sick Puppies

<You’re Going Down>





The Olympics is reminding us of a topic which is not discussed often enough in business … angry competition. I call it angry strategizing.

angry strategy yell think business





The Olympics has reminded me about competing angry.


While the Olympics are supposed to be about the love of competition and a better world through sports competition … it is actually about determining the best in the world. And that, my friends, is not about love it is about the rage of competition.

And while I will surely give a nod to respect shown to other great competitors and the aftermath camaraderie that can only be had among the best in the world who have competed the hardest and recognize greatness around them at the Olympics, and how they do so even in loss, I must point out that the Olympic best carry a certain rage into their competitiveness.


It may not be the traditional version of anger but it is most certainly a version of anger.


And it drives them to compete with the intent to beat the shit out of whomever they are competing against and be the best they can be so they can actually be the best.


I say all that because I don’t believe enough business people strategize with some anger. Anger that … well … there are some stupid ideas out there …


some stupid opinions


some stupid attitudes


competitors say and do stupid things


and certainly there is a stupid acceptance of mediocrity.


I know that I have sat in a meeting room with some business partners and looked around at the competition and what they were doing and saying and … angry sign window republicanwell … got angry.


And got angry enough t want and do something about it.



Being angry in business. and, no, I am not talking about being some anger management candidate but I mean planning angry … developing a strategy thinking with some anger about the status quo … maybe even having some anger toward conventional thinking and certainly some anger against whomever you are competing <but you can still respect the ones who deserve the respect while doing so> is effective and leads to effective business strategy to create real distinction in the marketplace.


To be clear.


Anger, to me, is much more useful than disdain.


Disdain breeds some arrogance and certainly diminishes the capabilities of the competition as you think about competing against them. In your scoffing at them it suggests that it is … is … well … just not worth even thinking about.


Anger, on the other hand, suggests you are facing what is straight on … in its face … and taking it head on. Anger guides you not toward some flimsy white space but directly into the fray …  directly toward the space you want in a market <whether it is already occupied or not> and take it.


Or, as Admiral Nelson once said, “you can do no wrong by putting yourself as close to the enemy as possible.”



And you know what?


In business strategy that is smart.


So that is why I call this the angry business strategy.


Certainly … there is only one real way to win … and that is without cheating.

Anger almost forces you to not only recognize that there is no virtue to be found in taking a shortcut <although shortcuts never really exist anyway> … but that there is no long cut or shortcut but rather simply getting up and going … and competing to win.


I am sure someone will point out that it may simply be you look around and get aggravated by what you see and decide to do something about it.


But I think if you have the team, and you have the product or service and you actually have the means to make your mark in the business world … then … well … it is okay if you look around at the competition and the competitive business world and get a little pissed … not just aggravated.


You get a little angry …

This is stupid … there is a better way.


This is crazy … I have a better product.


This is nuts … I can’t believe people believe that shit.


Your anger puts an edge on what you decide to say and do.


Far too often we sit around and have pot after pot of strong coffee and have intellectual discussions on how to smartly effectively compete. We worry through some fairly random details, talk about being the best and then go ahead and be anything but the best.


So … you know what?


If you are better and have a better offering and are truly worth a shit and want people to know you are worth a shit … well then … there is no real intellectual challenge.


You get on with getting on.


You just get competitively angry and stand in the middle of the field and say “here I am, and I am not going down.”


strategy think anger angry business ideas filterI am not suggesting being stupid about competing.


Nor am I suggesting bludgeoning the industry and competitors with some dull edged hammer.


But I am suggesting the anger puts some attitude into your strategy and tactics.


It puts a sharper edge into your sense of competitive purpose.


And here is what I know.


If it isn’t blind anger but rather competitive anger … you won’t tiptoe into your messaging and go to market strategy. You will stride in with some swagger, some confidence and clearly some strong purposeful messaging.


I think … no … I know more businesses would do better to attack their business meeting angry business strategystrategy with some anger.


Get a little pissed about perceptions, attitudes and mediocrity.


Get pissed that people are accepting less than the best and less than real truth.


Get pissed at yourself if you are in a position where you don’t believe enough in yourself and your offering to be able to get pissed.




I do believe more businesses should strategize with some anger.

As Tupac said … not angry and pick up a gun, but angry and open our minds.

our strategy: try things and follow what works

May 2nd, 2016

dilbert on nimble strategy business adapt


“Sustained success is largely a matter of focusing regularly on the right things and making a lot of uncelebrated little improvements every day.”


Theodore Levitt




People don’t want quarter-inch drills.

They want quarter inch holes.”


Theodore Levitt




“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”


Michael Porter







As I was picking my way through an old Economist <May 2015> magazine on a wow excited astonish noplane flight I came across an article where The Boston Consulting Group <a smart business consulting firm most known for its “stars, cash cows, dogs & question mark” business matrix> had published something suggesting that a single overarching business strategy, in today’s business world, is a recipe for failure.




That made me sit up a little. That is something I have believed … well … ever since I was experienced enough to understand what I was learning in the business strategy world.


That is also something, my belief, which sometimes made my business career slightly miserable. Because this thought is not the norm, nor the most acceptable, in the typical management office in business <then & now>.


Let’s be clear.

This whole business strategy discussion is important … really important.  Strategy makes or breaks a business. In fact … strategy is more important than great leadership and perseverance and hard work and even luck <although all those things are quite helpful>.


Strategy is always challenging. More often than not you have some business vision and hunker down with some strategy to attain it.


It is during the hunkering down period that some challenges start raising their heads.


There will always be characteristics of a good solid strategy that imbue an organization with confidence that it is a guide towards what is needed to succeed. And, yet, there are some other characteristics of this elusive, but probably well thought out strategy, which do not necessarily burst with confidence but rather they represent the greyish areas of the strategy. These are actually the parts of the strategy which are built to adapt and morph into something solid when the time & place occurs.


That said.


All that grayish stuff does not imbue confidence.


Inevitably most companies pursue a variety of diverse thoughts and will end up expect actual wow ughchoosing maybe not a completely new strategy but certainly pursue somewhat different paths.


Those ‘different paths’ is actually all about trying things, following the good ones and eliminating the bad ones. well … that can sure sound a lot like chaos.


It surely could be … if it were not closely attached to self-interest <and not survival>. Trying strategies on like a new suit for a formal occasion is about reforming and adapting skipping nimbly from one strategy to another to assume your place in the context of the situation.


And it can also take on some characteristics f chaos if you do not shed some things, strategies included, as you adapt.


As I noted in something I wrote in June 2014 that as an organization naturally grows in fits & starts it will certainly … uhm … no … absolutely … gather up some bad characteristics. Well. Ok. Maybe some characteristics which are like barnacles on the ship.


They slow you down.


Eliminating those barnacles is hard. And the hard truth in is they must go if the business wants to be successful.


Old less than effective strategies are included I this barnacle discussion.


They must go as the organization adapts if you accept the multi strategy thinking.


The whole adapting and adding and discarding discussion is easy when talking about tactics. Businesses do it all the time and pat themselves on the back for ‘being nimble and adapting to the market needs.’


They ignore the fact that tactics are simply window dressing and that these changes are simply a new paint job on a slowly sinking ship.


While it may sound too simplistic to suggest businesses would be better off thinking of strategies as easy to change as tactics … it may actually be some sound advice. Well. Sound advice for non-amateurs. Advice like that taken in hand by someone who didn’t really understand strategy and vision would most likely be a disaster.





In my heart of hearts I have always balked at one overarching unchanging business strategy. It made no sense to me <okay … it made sense I just didn’t think it was particularly effective in an ever changing business environment>. I just never was smart enough to articulate why what I believed made more sense.


While I loved that part of business, strategic positioning businesses in the marketplace, I often found myself being forced to apply square peg strategy solutions into what I saw as businesses’ ever evolving round, trapezoid, hexagonal, triangular and, yes, sometimes, square strategy opportunity holes. I often felt like I was being asked to place a stripped screw into a nail hole.


I wanted a tighter fit.


I always wanted to switch and blend and, as we often suggest a business is unique & distinct, I always felt a business deserved a distinct strategy and not one we simply pulled off the shelf.


Frankly, one overarching strategy in today’s fast moving & amazing competitive diverse business environment is a formula for eventual obsoletion. The marketplace naturally cycles and it seems slightly outdated thinking to believe if your organization doesn’t cycle it can ride out the marketplace cycle successfully.


And obsoletion can happen even if the business is well run, running well and providing a high level of service and satisfaction. Because as I noted in one of my ‘creative destruction’ articles there is always some scrappy entrepreneurial business out there thinking about how to rewrite the rules of doing business in that category and industry.


strategy aim adapt stephen boye


I am not suggesting you have to create your own strategy <although I am a fan of a hybrid strategy> but you can certainly select one of the commonly accepted strategies from a menu and switch back & forth as the situation dictates.


This means you can use accepted strategy platforms but by constantly adapting the strategy a business can avoid the undesirable situation of:



<a>deciding to having to leap into the unknown and stop leading and instead emulating the businesses infringing upon an industry they used to know so well … or,


<b> simply exist as an ever limiting cash cow, or a business solely relying on operations, in other words … destined to becoming a marginal player in a new world.



By the way.

This is not about disruption <which has become an overused and ill-used word> but rather managing a business to take advantage of a diverse range of opportunities which inevitably arise in any industry and category.



This may sound slightly chaotic and certainly difficult to manage and keep everything, and everyone, in line.


I do not believe it is chaotic but I do know 100% for sure, it is difficult to do.

But as someone smarter than I has said in the past … “nothing worth doing is easy.”


But it is worth doing.

I have always felt, sometimes balking at what I was being taught, that strategic change is almost a must for long term survival. I say ‘almost’ because if you are big enough, strong enough and savvy enough … like a huge nose tackle in football … you can bull your way through almost anything in your way <for awhile .. until your legs get tired or you get triple teamed>.



Leaders, businesses who do lead, may suggest that this strategy shifting thing is not for them..crazy ivan business strategy adapt


But part of leading is recognizing not only that someone is chasing you but that they may be getting a little close to you … and you should pull a ‘crazy Ivan.’


I always called this shaking the etch a sketch.

This is not disruption per se … this is more like simply changing the context, the game and the rules. Make the others adapt.





The how. How to do this.


strategy think adapt braid focus businessThe article in The Economist whined a little bit about how the authors of the Boston Consulting Group didn’t share ‘ways to implement so that managers didn’t go crazy or astray.’


Most likely because they didn’t have to.

Most good businesses do not stray from their core competence and skill. Functionally what they do well. And they combine this with an attitudinal/character compass.


Note I say “good businesses.’

Because I will also note, as I have in the past, for some reason defining these two things is oddly more difficult than one would think. And agreement even if you define it? Yikes. Even tougher.


In the end.


I would suggest pursuing an inconsistent consistent strategy shift is very much like simply pursing self-interest <not survival interest>.


The distinction I make here is that survival suggests ‘do anything to survive’ and this more often than not can lead you down some paths that permit you to survive short term but long term can put you in some untenable position.


Self interest suggests more ego-ism centered therefore naturally imbibes aspects of self-vision, character and embodiment of who and what you are.


This self interest permits you to navigate the natural tension in business of maintaining a stable business model that produces consistent results and the embracing of some reinvention. I say this because a healthy self, a person, navigates this same tension in Life therefore if you view business as … well … not just a business seeking to survive & thrive but rather a personal self-interest modality you can embrace both the rewarding stability and the rewarding reinvention.


I will note many of the high falutin’ books on strategy avoid this topic.

Their core premise is staying the course to maximize return and simplify overarching decision making.

And, I admit, the path I am recommending is a rockier road <but far more interesting>.



Some aspects of strategy, such as pricing the value proposition, portfolio mix, messaging, etc. can be revised relatively quickly and some of these things can change as often as you want. but other elements, such as infrastructure capabilities or existing customer profiles cannot be adapted as quickly.




Maybe about a dozen years ago or so in my attempt to address this I developed inner truth brand position - Copya philosophy based on staking out a business compass based on something I called “the inner truth.”  <see image to the right>.


I believed if a business could understand and embrace their inner truth than day to day business could have some flexibility & autonomy. In some cases I would even suggest strategy could adapt … as long as they stayed true to their inner truth.


The concept of strategic agility and flexibility is extremely appealing. It is challenging but has a tendency to combine what almost every business desires — the nimbleness of the start-up/entrepreneurial years and the solid consistency knowledge gained from experience offers.


What I do know … and feel slightly vindicated that the Boston consulting group has finally jumped on the ‘adaptable strategy train’ … is that the combination of a solid consistent vision core being enabled by an adapting semi-autonomous strategic construct around it creates a higher likelihood of success in the marketplace.


Our strategy.


Be smart. Be thoughtful. Try things. Follow those that work. Adapt. Never lose sight of the core no matter what you explore.

Enlightened Conflict