Enlightened Conflict

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

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“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day.”

—-

Clotilde Hesme

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“There is a construct in computer programming called ‘the infinite loop’ which enables a computer to do what no other physical machine can do – to operate in perpetuity without tiring.

 

In the same way it doesn’t know exhaustion, it doesn’t know when it’s wrong and it can keep doing the wrong thing over and over without tiring.”

 

—–

John Maeda

 

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So.

 

ideas within organizationLeading an organization is not like running a race … well … at least it is not like running a sprint.

 

Okay.

I am being stupid.

 

It’s not like running a race.

Nothing like it.

 

It is more like managing the health of a body in which you do want some exercise and you do want some healthy eating and you do want to insure proper amount of sleep.

Suggesting you want to run a business like you are in some marathon is silly and misguided.

 

It is just as misguided to think about an organization like a machine with gears and moving parts and keeping it well-oiled and full of gas and shit like that.

 

I say all of that to talk about organizational exhaustion.

 

If you stay away from silly metaphors about what an organization is, or is not, simplistically you are trying to insure your organization is putting forth a proper amount of effort against the efforts you want it, and need it, to be working against. This is a daily, weekly, monthly and annual leadership objective.

 

Different leaders have different styles working against this objective but, simplistically, that is the objective.

 

Now.

HOW you meet this objective typically takes some experience.

What do I mean?

 

I assume most leaders do not inherently know exactly how to do this … pacing an organization takes some experience and some practice, some mistakes and some successes and then you zero in on how to do it well <or just keep getting better at it>.

 

Using me as an example … I liked a hard charging group when I got to a eat sleep work organizational exhaustionteam/group management level. And I, personally, would be ecstatic if I didn’t have to sleep and I could go 24/7.

And, in the beginning, that was my vision for my groups.

 

By the way … in general … good intentions … bad idea.

 

But what that meant was that I probably learned this lesson, pacing and applying effort appropriately, too slowly <and I most likely will have a bunch of past team members chuckling painfully in agreement>. Going hard charging all the time is not sustainable — you juts have a constantly exhausted group.

Effective hard charging doesn’t mean 24/7 it means picking your moments and going hard.

 

That said… in desiring to have hard charging organizations there were certainly some lessons anyone would learn to limit needless organizational exhaustion.

Here are a couple I learned along the way:

 

  • I had to be consistent.

 

It doesn’t get discussed often enough but expectations go both ways. As a leader setting clear expectations is certainly expected <and I will mention that in my second learning> but it really helps an organization if you establish clearly what people can expect of you – behaviorally and attitudinally.

 

Words surely matter.

Setting expectations surely matter.

Actions surely matter.

But consistency matters above all. No leader is perfect and no leader will make the perfect decisions, let alone good decisions, all the time. Therefore it becomes incredibly important to just be consistent. Your organization, and specifically people, will become better accustomed to where you will be really really good and where you may be slightly off <and they will naturally accommodate both>.

 

In other words … your consistency actually offers your employees some direction for what they should do. Your best people will assess situations and know where you are consistently most likely right on, know the things you consistently overlook and know where you consistently leave some spaces for them to ‘do their thing.’

 

  • Keep some strong threads of consistency.

 

Threads of consistency permit an organization to not have to think about some things.

There were some really simple tactical things that I could control.

 

  • What do you mean <clarity in articulation>
  • Where are we going <set a visible North Star>
  • What do you want me to do <pragmatic expectations>

 

organize fish

If you could keep these three things solid and not have people milling about talking amongst themselves on these three questions you were staying ahead of the game.

 

It permits your organization to progress and not be stagnant. It permits your organization  to not invest unnecessary energy against those things and apply energy against doing shit.

 

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t have to do these things.

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t do these things at their own peril.

The peril? Exhaustion. frustration. Waste energy.

 

Not doing these things has an expense to an organization and mostly that is defined by two things – time & energy. I would point out that both of those things are not infinite resources to an organization. I point t out because if they are finite than you better have them available to you when you actually need them.

And that is why I chose to not use an organization as a race metaphor at the beginning but rather an organization as a body metaphor.

 

Look.

 

As a leader of larger organization you can hide your misjudgments or poor decisions in a variety of creative ways … mostly by shifting resources from one group to another or have another department assume some different responsibilities or by shifting some people into the work gaps or to buttress the best people who are flagging with some support.

 

But that is also not sustainable.

 

organizational exhaustion battery

The organization gets exhausted doing all that maneuvering … in addition … they get exhausted by you doing that.

 

I will admit that I got better at this as I moved up in responsibility. And, I will admit, I partially got better at it simply because I had more moving parts, departments and groups to manage. That is because I loved working 24/7 and I thrived with the energy of solving problems and … well … just energy. In a larger organization there is always something going on, some project or problem or initiative somewhere within an organization that needs attention or needs a little ‘push.’ This naturally permitted me to let one part of the organization ‘rest’ while another part of the organization ‘ran.’

 

Oh.

Think about that a second or two if you will.

 

What I just suggested is that an organization as a well-rounded circle or the classical myth of a ‘well rounded person’ is … well … simply a myth. In fact … the idea of it creates a false narrative in our heads.  As an organization learns and thinks and gains experience it does not expand smoothly but, rather, raggedly. Day after day, despite the fact it may feel like business is a grind or it may even feel too fast <or too slow>  an organization is constantly running toward some thought and experience … or … leaping from danger or something  disagreeable or some problem or some success and … well … suffice it to say it is anything but balanced.

And it is certainly not creating any smooth well rounded growth.

 

My main point?

 

exhausted all possibilities tried everythingThere is no such thing as a well-rounded person and there is no such thing as a well rounded organization. A leader may certainly aspire to create a well-rounded organization but, even at your best, the organization at any given point in time is some shape other than a circle.

The good news is that this means organizations also naturally get excited to explore the edged forays into interesting things and, in parallel, get snagged on the ragged edges of unexplored thoughts or even second guesses with regard to the lack of smoothness in what is happening in departments, groups and efforts … as well as thoughts and growth.

 

Yes.

I will point out that this is why an organization can feel slightly uncomfortable on occasion as employees, departments and groups wrestle with this discomfort, as well as dealing with the ragged edges constantly poking at everyone, but I will also point out that is why the things I mentioned earlier become even more important –the consistency, the clarity and the lack of chaos.

I will also point out that his kind of ‘uncomfortable’ is okay. Ito a leader it is actually a sign that things are going okay and the organization is not stagnant <and good leaders know how to point out good non-stagnancy to calm uncomfortable>.

 

All that said.

 

I can unequivocally state that no organization is successful when needlessly exhausted. They can be tired at the end of the day but exhaustion is a symptom not of ‘a good day’s work’ but rather unnecessary mental stress trying to get things going, understand what to do and what to say and kibitzing over why it is so hard to get what seems like normal shit done.

 

When an organization is running well … whether the 350 million, 350 or the 35 organizational exhaustion balancing workrecognize it … there are many days when the 1, the leader, leaves the office exhausted.

And the one is exhausted despite the fact that 349,999,900 people, 341 people or 34 people went to sleep that day feeling pretty good about their day and their needs & wants & hopes took one step forward that day … and they are a good tired … not needlessly exhausted.

 

Oh.

Despite the fact the one went to bed exhausted that one will arise the next day fresh because the organization is ready to go again the next day … and not organizationally exhausted.

 

I will end by pointing out that an exhausted group, an exhausted department or an exhausted organization is the sign of poor leadership. And, most importantly, it is a precursor to signs of inefficiencies and declines in measured productivity.

 

little but big & 100

December 21st, 2016

 little things big things

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“You’re little but you’re  big.”

 

—–

Pretty Little Liars

 

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“The human tendency to regard little things as important has produced very many great things.”

 

—-

Georg C. Lichtenberg

 

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Ok.

 

Today is December 21st … the littlest day of the year – the winter solstice. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in terms of hours of daylight one tree christmas winter<solstice basically means “sun stands still”>.

 

On the winter solstice, everywhere south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours. Meanwhile, everywhere north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

 

The good news?

Daylight gets bigger from here. From here on out the days gradually get longer and the nights shorter.

 

Anyway.

 

On the littlest day it seemed like a good time to talk about big things … and their relationship to little things.

 

Couple of quick thoughts.

 

Time. We bitch & moan about not having enough time to do everything we want to do. I could argue that most people actually get more real practical pragmatic shit done on the shortest daylight day of the year then the longest daylight day of the year.

More focus. Less distractions. More shit done. less daylight hours. Littler day. Bigger productivity.

 

Time is time … neither little nor big.no-time-to-be-looking-at-the-bright-side-silver-lining

 

If you ever need an example of how littler can translate to bigger … well … the shortest day of the year is adman good place to start.

 

Little, or few, is more often than not a harbinger, forerunner or precursor to big.

 

From few, many. From one, multitudes.

 

This leads me to the heinous concept called ‘the big idea.’

 

I admit.

 

I get tired of hearing about ‘big ideas.’

 

In fact … in my cynical mind … whenever I hear big idea I hear hyperbole, fantastical thinking & likelihood of big failure.

 

I perk up when I hear someone say … “you know … I have a little idea that I think can make a big impact.” That I can get onboard with.

 

Let me make my point by showing how few, let’s say 100, can be the beginning of something big.

 

100 monkeys.

 

cancelled ThinkingMonkeyYeah.

100 monkeys.

 

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100 Monkey Theory

In 1952, on the Japanese island of Koshima, a monkey named Imo washed a sweet potato before she ate it.  She and her fellow, Macaca Fuscata monkeys were given sweet potatoes by the scientists who studied them.  The monkeys like the taste of the potatoes, yet did not like the dirt.  Imo taught her mother and the other monkeys she came into contact with and over time more and more monkeys were washing their potatoes.

 

Imo’s practice catches on.

 

Well, the interesting observation is that after a significant minority (let’s say 100 monkeys to use a number) of the monkeys were washing their potatoes, the scientists observed that very quickly after this, all the monkeys were washing their potatoes.  Like a critical mass had been reached and now all the monkeys were able to access this knowledge somehow even if they did not come into contact with Imo and her friends.  More interesting is that scientists observed that at the same time, on other islands monkeys were also washing their potatoes.

 

It appears that when 99 monkeys were washing potatoes and one more joined, a critical mass was achieved and this awareness was now available to everyone (please don’t get hung up on the exact 99 or 100 numbers).

 

This is known as the 100 Monkey Theory.

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So.

 

The foundation of the theory is when a certain critical number achieves an awareness of “something” <an attitude or behavior)> and that ‘something’ becomes accepted … it shifts into a norm, i.e., from the few, many.

 

I believe the truly stunning aspect of this theory is the ‘island to island’ aspect.

 

Oh.

 

And these monkeys didn’t have internet.

Nor a classroom.

Nor any physical contact.

 

This theory suggests that, although the exact number may vary, when only a limited number of people know a new behavior it may subconsciously reside as the conscious property of the collective people. I am NOT suggesting some telepathic mumbo jumbo … but … I am suggesting that accepting new behavior <and attitudes I imagine> has a tipping point.1 2 3 gif score rate life people

 

In addition … I do believe the ‘100th’ is reflective of my overall belief that great minds puzzling over similar situations are quite likely to have the same idea & thought <and inevitably the same innovation> wherever they may be and never having crossed paths with someone who is having the same idea at the same time>.

 

If you agree with that, then the 100 monkey theory is not as wacky or cerebral as it may seem at first blush.

 

Look.

 

You may not buy it.

 

You may not think people are related to monkeys.

You may think 100 isn’t enough.

But you should think about it.

 

You should think about how from little … something bigger arises.

 

And while I really do not want to get hung up on the actual numbers it is fascinating to think that there is a point at which if only one more person absorbs the new attitude and changes its behavior that somehow this awareness is picked up by almost everyone.

 

A book has been written on this theory, “The Hundredth Monkey,” by Ken Keyes Jr., I don’t suggest reading it because, well, the concept is pretty simple and you don’t need a book to explain it nor do I believe a lot of pages with graphs and explanations will convince you.

 

But.

Here is my point on the littlest day of the year.

 

It can take a littler amount than you may think to create the change and behavior you desire. Add to that thought the importance of 1 – as in 99 to 100.

 

Whenever you doubt that 1 can make a difference just think about the 100 Monkey Theory.

 

I believe any one even remotely interested in creating cultural change should invest some time thinking about this theory. Instead of needing dollars to create change or wacky ideas to affect attitudes or investing energy trying to create “a wave of change” someone should focus on “the 100” or ‘the few.’

 

Think about creating change by offering relevant useful behavior information and focusing on the few.

 

Gosh.

 

Sure would make life a little simpler huh?

 

<note: some people, like me for an example, call this creating an influencer base to influence mass behavior>

 

Lastly.

 

If you focus on the littler stuff, the fewer, well … this means you can have a planned what happenedlittler plan than normal.

 

I can hear the screams of disagreement from big idea people … “big ideas need to be nurtured and protected by big well thought out plans.”

 

Well.

 

The main issue with big plans and big planning is the fact that little things are always changing.

Even worse, these changing little things are oblivious to the neat orderly plan you had in place.

 

And even with all this change I imagine you have a choice … plow through the little changes swirling around with an unchanging plan … or watch the little changes <kind of like watching a double dutch jump rope> … and let your neat plan take on some less neat fluidity.

 

Little things can make big differences.

 

Little things can make big plans & ideas die.

 

And not everyone can see little shit when there is a big shiny looking shit dazzling you as if it were a star you shouldn’t take your eye off.

 

I would suggest that you know you are a big planner <as in one effective at creating Big plans> if all the little things that go wrong do not make your big plan go awry.

 

Little things can make big plans go awry.

 

Shit.

Little things can make anything go awry.

 

On the other hand.

 

Little things can make big impacts.

 

Little things can become big things.

 

So.hard to plan success_and_happiness

 

On this littlest day of the year think a little littler.

 

Think small.

 

Take a little time and focus on little things which, if nurtured, can become big things.

 

And maybe think a little about the fact that there is not too little time but rather maybe we should seek to do bigger things in the little time we have.

 

Oh.

 

And always remember … big shit is always a composite of a shitload of little things.

 

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“That is the problem, we give larger space to small things. We give them power to break us in the tiniest form.”

Kajapajo

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cannot resist the invasion of ideas

December 16th, 2016

 strategy think anger angry business ideas filter

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“One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”

 

 

Victor Hugo

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“Our ideas, like orange-plants, spread out in proportion to the size of the box which imprisons the roots.”

 

Edward Bulwer Lytton

 

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Well.

 

Whether we like it or not … whether we admit it or not … we are all ignorant. It ignorant people understandingis impossible for s to know everything therefore we have ignorance boxes <different topics> in our heads just sitting around collecting dust waiting to be pulled off the shelf.

 

Now.

 

Those ignorance boxes are interesting boxes.

They come in different sizes and shapes and depths.

 

In addition.

 

Ideas are an interesting plant to … well … plant in the ignorance box.

 

Why?

 

The roots of ideas will inevitably end up in conflict with the box they have been planted in.

 

That is the inevitability of the invasion of ideas … conflict.

 

That is the inevitability of the invasion of curiosity … conflict.

 

One territory … let’s call it ‘the country of what you do not know’ is always being invaded by an army of ideas and thoughts <some true and some untrue>.

 

Yeah.

 

There are winners and losers in this whole knowledge, curiosity & ideas battle … of which you, yourself, can be victor or vanquished. The only thing you can be sure of is you will always be in conflict and always be at war.

 

That is one of Life’s biggest truths.

 

Curiosity comes with a price … and a reward.

 

I wrote once … ‘far too often we place curiosity in some unequivocal good or bad space … “curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning” or “curiosity killed the cat” … but, truthfully, curiosity embodies both good and bad. And I say that as one who is unequivocally in the camp of “knowing more of anything is good.’

 

The constant invasion of ideas seems to revolve around two things near and dear to my heart:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

truth and conflict

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking … therefore … the friction has a net positive effect. I could even argue that even bad thoughts that are well thought out and well articulated is positive friction. I imagine  could argue any thinking is better than no thinking.

 

Anyway.

 

The second is that … well … any conflict of thought & ideas will enlighten in some form or fashion. I tend to believe the arc of conflict leads to true knowledge. But “arc” is the key word. I think we get a little hasty with regard to people and thinking and this constant war. We forget it is a battle by battle thing and not a ‘battle which embodies the outcome of the war.’ We look at someone who we deem as ‘ignorant’ rather than viewing them in the midst of battle and somewhere on the arc of true knowledge.

I can honestly say there are few people I will not debate with, discuss with or have a discourse with. I will discuss anything with anyone and listen and respond … “go to war” in other words.

 

Yeah.

 

Other than purposeful ignorance I tend to view ignorance as simply the opening gambit in the battle of the day.

 

Regardless.

 

i will talk about anythingI am definitely a curiosity guy.

 

And, well, I guess I am definitely a conflict guy <when it comes to ides and thoughts and issues>.

 

And I love the thought that I am not actually seeking ideas or ‘working hard to learn’ but rather ideas and thoughts are constantly seeking to make battle with us … constantly invading our space, our ignorance, and … well … we go to war because it is a war worth fighting.

 

It is a fight for knowledge.

 

Look.

 

I have heard many people say “I want to know everything there is to know on this topic.”

I often wonder if they are up for the battle that will need to take place to make that happen.

 

I know someone can know a lot.

 

I absolutely know that you can know enough to be dangerous.

 

But I am 100% unequivocally clear that knowledge is a never ending battle.

Even on one topic you probably don’t have enough hours in a lifetime to know everything there is. I guess that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try … but suggesting you know everything is … well … not only silly but may actually be a reflection you do not understand the extent of the conflict at hand.

 

My site is called Enlightened Conflict.

 

My motto is ‘seek truth.’seek_truth

 

And I do feel as if I am constantly fighting a war … and fighting on the side of Truth.

Do I believe I know truth or at all truth? … absolutely not.

 

As any warrior would tell you … I get closer to be the best I can be as a warrior every time I fight. It is the conflict which fights ignorance and seeks to enlighten in victory … or maybe just survival of the battle of the day.

 

Maybe that is why the two quotes I opened with interested me.

 

The conflict of ideas does not have to reside in any open debate. You don’t even need another person. Ideas invade in any number of ways. They plant themselves in boxes you have forgotten you even had. They grow to a point where you cannot ignore them anymore and begin to battle existing ideas you have. It becomes … well … a war between learning and unlearning … new and old … what you knew and what you know.

Oh.

And once ideas bloom enlightenment occurs.

 

 

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

 

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Enlightened Conflict