## Book Review-Change: Principles of Problem Formulation and Problem Resolution

My first highlight in Change: Principles of Problem Formulation and Problem Resolution is “… persistence and change need to be considered together, in spite of their apparently opposite nature.”  It is a fundamental truth of change that too often is left trampled on in the rush to push through as much change as possible in the shortest period of time.  We’ve lost the value of persistence and stability as if we could make a boat with a sail and no keel.

## The Opposite of Bad Isn’t Always Good

I hated geometry class.  Logical proofs were mind numbingly boring and detailed.  However, I did salvage some learning from my time.  I learned that the opposite of bad isn’t always good.  Or rather I learned that, in logic, you’ve got to be careful.  Sets, subsets, negation, and all sorts of operations can lead intuitively to incorrect conclusions.  However, this is a lesson that I, and others, must continue to relearn.  All too often, we believe that any change is a positive change when something is bad.

We’ve got a bias towards action that leads us to believe that we should be doing something.  However, sometimes the wiser approach is to wait to make sure that the thing we’re doing is the right thing.  Einstein once remarked that if he had an hour to solve a problem, he’d spend the first 55 minutes understanding the problem and the remaining five solving the problem.  Too often, we jump to conclusions and action when what we need is more effort to understand the problem.  (See Antifragile for more.)

## Changing the System

Donella Meadows in Thinking in Systems explains how you can get different results by changing the system.  Often, we go about change by attempting to manipulate low-leverage factors.  Change explains that we need to be looking for the second-order, system-level changes that make a lasting impact and change.  As Change the Culture, Change the Game indicates, if you don’t focus on the experiences and beliefs, then the actions and results can’t be changed persistently.

They propose that there are three ways to mishandle any problem:

• Deny that the problem is a problem
• Attempt a change regardless of difficulty
• Attempt a solution which doesn’t match the level of interaction required (i.e. first level change to a persistent problem or vice versa.)

## Two Tragedies: Getting Your Heart’s Desire, and Not

When we’re looking at change resistance or Immunity to Change, the causes aren’t always clear.  Some call it fear of success; others look at it as a fear of failure.  (See The Gift of Failure for more on fear of failure.)  The truth is that getting your heart’s desire – achieving your goals – can be as confusing and disorienting as losing hope and deciding that you’ll never reach your goals.  (See The Hope Circuit for more on losing hope.)

What can sometimes help is to realize that there are options on both sides – whether you get what you want or you don’t.

## Reframing

One of the most powerful techniques that are used to shape conversations is reframing.  Reframing doesn’t change the actual situation or consequences but changes the way that you view them.  Reframing change as an opportunity – rather than a solution to a problem that people aren’t aware of – can get people to support the change.  Children that reframed the marshmallow in front of them to something more abstract like the means to an end were more likely to “pass” The Marshmallow Test and were rewarded with more sweets.  (See also Coachbook for more on reframing.)

## The Quid Pro Quo of Marriage Relationships

Even John Gottman would admit that marriage relationships are formed on the tradeoffs that each member of the couple makes.  Some of those tradeoffs are easy and some are less easy. but it’s about giving what you’re comfortable with and getting what you believe you need.  (See The Science of Trust for more on Gottman’s work.)  Change says that much of what appears in couple’s counseling is a disruption of the quid pro quo on which the relationship is formed.

## Truth Is Not What We Discover but What We Create

We believe that there should be some objective truth to all things.  The personality of a historical figure should match some accounts.  However, the deeper that we probe into things, the more we realize that we’re not capable of handling the entire truth.  We see only fragmented pieces of the whole – and, invariably, our perspectives fall well short of the bar for truth.  In realizing that we’re incapable of perceiving the whole truth, we must endeavor to create a consistent truth.  It should be a truth that interfaces with others’ perceptions of truth and doesn’t leave us on the wrong side of a psychological diagnosis – but at the same time recognizes a consistency around our experience.

If we want to develop a truth about change, we’ll want to ensure that we’re not looking just to discover it but rather that we’re approaching it with the real understanding that we create our truth as much as we discover the truth that is “out there.”

## Fear of Making Mistakes

Fear is a powerful, if unpredictable, motivator.  Too often in our quest for perfection, we fear that we’ll make mistakes, and those mistakes will be held against us.  In terms of Richard Lazarus’ observations in Emotion and Adaptation, we believe the consequence of a mistake to be high and our ability to cope to be low.  Whenever we’re looking to improve our chances at change as well as our retention of employees and happiness at work, we should endeavor to create a safe place to work.  (See The Fearless Organization for more about creating psychologically safe places to work.)

Ultimately, if we want to be successful at change we may need to spend some time reading about Change.

## Book Review-Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment

We’ve all seen things that aren’t there.  The stick that looks like a snake.  Shadows that move in the darkness that look eerily like the monsters of our childhood.  Sometimes, we’ve also failed to see what is clearly there.  We’ve missed stop signs and warnings that can keep us out of danger.  Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment is a study of the things that we do see, those we don’t, and how we can get to a more reliable understanding of the world around us.

Two of the authors of Noise, Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow) and Cass Sunstein (Nudge), are highly respected, including by me.  It was in an email conversation with Kahneman that I realized that Noise had been published and that I had to read it.

## Bias and Noise

A lot of attention has been focused on bias in recent years.  We look for bias in artificial intelligence, in our hiring practices, how we promote, and a million other ways where we may subtly (or not so subtly) prefer outcomes.  Bias, from a statistical point of view, is a systemic deviation from the truth in a direction.  Noise, on the other hand, is random scatter around the truth.

What makes noise interesting is that, in some cases, it may account for more of the overall error than bias.  This means that if we want to move towards better justice, we may be better served to address the noise than attempt to correct the biases that we may be facing.  That isn’t to say that biases aren’t important and we shouldn’t seek to eliminate them, but our experience is that biases are remarkably persistent, and it may be easier to reduce noise than to try to address bias.

## Finding the Target

Perhaps the most challenging places where noise appears are where we have the greatest trouble defining the target.  For instance, psychiatry is notoriously noisy.  While the American Psychological Association (APA) has invested great efforts into the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, now in its fifth edition (DSM-5), the criteria for diagnosing a disorder are sufficiently vague that it’s difficult to get agreement between psychologists on a diagnosis.  More disturbing, it’s difficult to get the same professional to make a consistent diagnosis when presented with the same facts.

While there are techniques that can be used to systemically reduce noise, the lack of a clear target will always involve noise.

## Predictions are Noisy

Other places where professional judgement is involved are also necessarily noisy.  In Superforecasting, Phil Tetlock explains how forecasts (predictions) are difficult to get right and the factors that allow some forecasters to be more effective than others.  This is because predictions, by their nature, don’t involve clear criteria, and cause-and-effect relationships are inherently noisy.  Some will over-prioritize factors and will therefore swing their projections too abundantly in response to that factor.

## Errors Don’t Cancel

In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki explains how, in many situations, the errors (noise and bias) cancel themselves out.  From the weight of a bull to the number of jellybeans, the average of the guesses often is very close to the actual number.  Certainly, Enrico Fermi’s techniques for breaking down a problem into numbers that can be easily guessed or estimated stands as a testimony that people can work together to come up with accurate answers.  His class at the University of Chicago famously predicted the number of piano tuners in Chicago.  (See How to Measure Anything for more.)  However, this stands in contrast to the Drake equation.  The Drake equation is designed to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial intelligent species.  Because it’s the straight multiplication of a large number of factors that are not knowable, the results are very wildly divergent, from countless extraterrestrial intelligences to zero.

The key thing to recognize about noise is that it often does not cancel itself out – and certainly doesn’t cancel itself out when a single, noisy decision is unjust to the person affected.  Consider mental diagnosis (or lack of diagnosis), child protection, child custody decisions, and criminal judgements.  Each decision impacts the individual or individuals in irreversible ways.  There’s no solace for the convicted criminal (who is innocent) that some other guilty criminal has been set free.  Though a mathematical average is right, it’s not fair to the incorrectly convicted criminal, nor the victim of the person who goes free.

## The Noise Audit

In recent years, with the advent of big data, statistics, and computing power, we’ve seen more and more datasets get processed to observe the noise and biases that have gone undetected.  Daniel Pink in When explains that you want to come in front of a judge after lunch rather than before, because you’re much more likely to be paroled.  While these studies often operate at the scale of massive data sets, it’s possible to do a more focused examination of individuals’ behavior at different times or how one individual compares to others.  Once you get “enough” data, you can see how one individual may be overly harsh or overly compassionate compared to the average.  (How to Measure Anything is a good resource for knowing how much is “enough.”)

Jerry Muller called it The Tyranny of Metrics, yet metrics and measurement are the only way that we can know what is and what is not working.  The Heart and Soul of Change laments the lack of quality and consistency in psychotherapy largely due to a lack of consistent measurement.  So, while it’s possible to overdo the desire to measure what is happening, it’s often the opposite problem that people find themselves fighting.

## Systems and Cognitive Biases

Sometimes the systems that we build and our cognitive biases play into our inability to detect noise.  Even the detection of noise represents a conflict.  After all, if there are multiple perspectives on the same situation, there is necessarily disagreement – and conflict.  An increasing number of people are conflict avoidant – particularly when in groups and committees.  Collectively, these forces push us away from getting the data and awareness that we need to discover and minimize the noise in our decisions.

We build systems and metrics that lead us away from an awareness of where our opinions differ and in ways that minimize the data that could surface the fact that there is noise in our systems.  Metrics that are easy to measure and evaluate are selected, because to pick difficult metrics just means they won’t be collected or, when they are collected, evaluated.

## The Uncomfortable Truth

In How We Know What Isn’t So, Thomas Gilovich explains the persistent delusions that we all have.  Whether it’s an impossible number of college professors who believe they’re better than average or the students who believe in their leadership abilities more than they should, we systematically believe we’re better than we really are.  Our ego actively deflects the feedback that could allow us to calibrate and reset our expectations.  Believing that we’re better than we are allows us to feel safer in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).  As Alan Deutschman explains in Change or Die, there is always the possibility that the world as we know it will be wiped out by an asteroid – but we don’t think about it, because to do so would immobilize us in fear.  (See Emotion and Adaption for how fear develops – and, indirectly, why a fear of asteroids destroying the planet is hard to avoid.)

## Values, Perceptions, and Facts

Much of the problem with building systems to detect noise comes in the form of confusion about what causes conflict and why it can be a good thing.  Conflict, in my opinion, is caused by only two reasons.  The first reason is that the person holds a different set of values.  The second reason is that the other person has a different perspective.

There are many ways of assessing the values of another person.  However, Steven Reiss’ work on the sixteen basic motivators, as shared in Who Am I? and The Normal Personality, provides a way of seeing what others value.  A more fundamental and basic model for motivation in morality comes from Jonathan Haidt’s work in The Righteous Mind.  It’s the interaction of these factors that can lead us to different conclusions even if we have the same data.

The second reason is our perspective, which is shaped by our experience and what we pull up to be relevant or salient to the topic.  These perspectives aren’t facts, but we often trust them like facts because we hear them in our own voice.  We believe that we wouldn’t lie to ourselves – but we do.  In Telling Lies, Paul Ekman draws the conclusion that we must know something is wrong for it to be a lie.  When we’re talking to ourselves, we don’t know what we’re lying.

Of course, there are some verifiable facts – things that can’t be refuted, like the Sun rises in the East.  Unfortunately, these irrefutable facts are few and far between.  We often find conflicts where the perspectives are different, but both perspectives are treated like facts.  Values, too, can be treated like facts – like universal constants – when everyone’s values are different.

Even parents find that the values that their children hold are different.  Some of those differences are likely generational (see America’s Generations for more).  However, many of these differences are due to the experiences the child has irrespective of the parent’s guidance.  (See No Two Alike and The Nurture Assumption for more about the impact of parents and others on a child’s values.)

## I Contain Multitudes

In “Song of Myself,” section 51, Walt Whitman says, “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”  However, most people don’t recognize their own contradictions.  They’ll decide A in some circumstances and B in other circumstances – but when faced with the same data.  Objectively we should make the same decisions irrespective of the time of day or the degree of our hunger, but in reality, we don’t.  Instead, we make ad-hoc decisions based on little more than whim, and when asked, we will justify them.

When the bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain – the corpus callosum – was surgically severed people would see things in one eye but be unable to consciously explain what they saw – however, they’d still act upon this information and make up stories about their actions to explain them.  (See Incognito for more.)

## The Wisdom of One

Even though noise doesn’t always average out, sometimes it does.  The conditions under which the wisdom of crowds works best – primarily independence – isn’t always necessary.  It’s even possible for one person to harness Whitman’s multitudes and make two guesses that reduce the noise.  This is the same sort of result that Phil Tetlock found with Superforecasting.  The best forecasters intentionally looked at problems from multiple points of view so they could average out the errors in their own estimates.

So, it turns out that with the right prompting – and even without complete independence – it’s possible to get better answers.  It may be that people who have a range of skills – the foxes – are better at this than others.  (See Range for more on foxes vs. hedgehogs.)

## Integrating Information

The more expertise you amass, the more you believe that you can integrate information – but experts are “distressingly weak” in this regard.  At some level, this makes sense.  If you think about Gary Klein’s work and the awareness that we build mental models in which we simulate our situations, we can see that as long as the information we’re taking in is congruent with our model, all is well.  (See Seeing What Others Don’t and Sources of Power for more on Klein’s work.)  Efficiency in Learning calls this way of processing information “schema.”

While many experts believe that they’re good at integrating information, we have to recognize that most are not – it’s only those who focus on remaining open to new ideas and new perspectives that can continue to integrate new information – and adapt when things change.

## Frugal Rules of Mechanical Aggregation

It was the year 2000, and I was a small part of an effort to improve care for patients with diabetes.  Primary care providers weren’t specially skilled in how to take care of them, so care was spotty at best. The solution I developed took a set of rules and did risk stratification of patients and went so far as to recommend actions for the providers based on best-practice thinking.  It wasn’t complicated, and it didn’t have any artificial intelligence in it.  However, it made a statistically significant reduction in the key lab metric for diabetes care – it worked.

The rules were “frugal rules,” simple guidelines and thresholds that could guide behavior without being overly complex, and they worked.  Research shows that mechanical rules are better than clinical judgement in most cases.  No one wants to trust the computer to predict the best care – but it’s what they should do.  This isn’t to discount the advanced AI techniques – it’s to say that you can get close to the best results with some simple guidelines.

Even individuals armed with simple guidelines and checklists perform better.  It’s not the automation that does it, it’s removing some of the ambiguity around the correct thresholds and actions.  (See The Checklist Manifesto for more about the value of checklists.)

## Similarity and Probability

When we’re estimating the probability of something happening, in many cases, our brains are silently transforming the question for one that’s easier to process.  (See Thinking, Fast and Slow for more on how System 1 does this substitution blindly so that we’re not even aware.)  We trade the question of how probable is something for how similar are the conditions to something else that happened – and what happened in those circumstances.  The result is we systematically make errors when we’re asked to predict probability instead of looking for similarity.

## I Don’t Like It, So I Won’t Believe It

“I reject your reality and substitute my own” is a popular quip in modern culture most recently associated with Adam Savage of MythBusters.  It’s what happens when someone doesn’t like the reality that they’re presented with, and as a result, they refuse to believe it.  While on the surface, it sounds ludicrous, it happens more often than one might imagine.

It’s hard to believe that people believe the Earth is flat – and yet that’s exactly what the International Flat Earth Research Society believes.  They’re founded on the premise that we’ve all been lied to, and the Earth is really flat – not round.  There are a number of things that you have to start to believe for this to be truth.  They are, however, things that members of the society seem to have no struggle doing.

Many believed all sorts of crazy stories about the COVID-19 vaccines.  Everything from magnetism to superpowers and tracking devices were supposedly associated with the vaccines.  As of this moment, none of these things have been proven true – though I’m looking forward to super-strength if that particular story turns out to be true.  The point is that people will so firmly hold on to what they believe that no amount of dissuasion will break them free of their beliefs.  (There are still plenty of people that believe that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are treatments for COVID-19 despite having been thoroughly disproven by research.)

Diagnostically, people who refuse to accept reality can be classified as having a psychosis (detachment from reality) or schizophrenia (different interpretation of reality).  Neither of these is helpful when you’re trying to have a rational conversation about how to reach a common understanding.

## Decision Hygiene

Noise ends with a call to decision hygiene based on six principles:

• The goal of judgment is accuracy, not individual expression.
• Think statistically, and take the outside view of the case.
• Structure judgments into several independent tasks.
• Resist premature intuitions.
• Obtain independent judgments from multiple judges, then consider aggregating those judgments.
• Favor relative judgments and relative scales.

In short, use the structure of the way you approach decisions to help reduce noise – rather than create it.  The first step is to find a place to study the Noise.

## Book Review-No Time to Teach: The Essence of Patient and Family Education for Health Care Providers

Sometimes you pick up a book because someone recommends it, and it changes the way that you view a topic – and it changes the way you view the person who recommended the book.  No Time to Teach: The Essence of Patient and Family Education for Health Care Providers is one of those books.  Fran London is at the end of her career as a nurse educator and wrote the book to implore nurses and other providers to recognize the value of education – and to share what works.

It started early.  I started disagreeing with London’s perspectives.  Not just because it didn’t match my experience, but it also didn’t align with the best practices in training.  Focused on one-on-one, face-to-face communications, London discounted the value of supporting materials.  We know, for instance, from Job Aids and Performance Support that it’s worth assessing what is needed and what the best answer to that is – whether it’s training or a tool for getting the job done.  In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande explains the value of checklists (a kind of performance aid) to the performance of all kinds of tasks.  London tries to explain that you should individualize teaching – which is supported – but in a way that neither recognizes the ability to get leverage nor addresses the fundamental process of assessing what the patient and family know.

In The Art of Explanation, we learn that people can learn within a range.  If the gap between their current knowledge is too great from what is being taught, it will be lost.  That matches Malcolm Knowles et al.’s understanding of The Adult Learner, who needs to connect what they’re learning with what they know.  Efficiency in Learning provides a path for developing materials to support teaching that can be used by people with varying experiences for effective learning – efficiently.

Ultimately, layered learning is the best approach.  Learners’ current knowledge is assessed, and they’re given a set of resources and instructions that match their level – and provide the ability for self-reinforcement.

## Assessing Knowledge

Too many professionals lead the witness when they ask if someone knows something.  “You know how to take care of a wound, don’t you?” will lead to the obvious response, “Of course.”  This response has nothing to do with the awareness of the needed skills but rather reflects the desire to not be perceived as stupid.  I learned decades ago the best questions have “no” as the correct answer.  They’re best, because in situations where understanding isn’t good or where shame or embarrassment may be a factor, people will default to a “yes” response.

There’s more to assessing knowledge than just a yes/no question.  The next step is breaking down the knowledge they need to know into a set of specific skills that must be used – including the skills related to decision-making about situations and potential problems.  Simple boundary conditions like “If they have trouble breathing, go to the emergency room immediately” or “If you don’t have a bowel movement in the first 12 hours, start with Miralax, and if you’ve not had a bowel movement in the first 36 hours, call the office to let us know” are great ways to help identify when action is necessary – and what the actions are.

## You’re Not Too Stupid

People have a high degree of anxiety when interacting with health professionals.  While they may be competent or even exemplary in their day-to-day jobs, often, the general public knows far less about health than health professionals believe.  (They have the curse of knowledge.)  It’s easy for the patient or the family to slip into thinking that the health professional is saying, “You are too stupid to understand this,” when that’s not what they’re trying to convey at all.

Whenever you’re struggling to communicate a set of skills to a patient or the patient’s family, it’s the teacher that is failing, not the student.  The teacher needs to try harder – and to apologize to the patient for not making it easier to understand.

## The Need to Teach

Too often, medical professionals see teaching (or even communicating with) the patient as secondary to their roles.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The provider or nurse will see the patient for a limited time, but they’ll be with themselves for their entire life – and the families will spend substantially more time with them than they’ll ever get with a healthcare provider.  The more these critical folks know, the less likely they are to have a negative outcome – or need to come back to the healthcare provider.

In the end, it’s only if bad outcomes are desired should someone say that they have No Time to Teach.

## Book Review-The Leadership of Organizational Change

Sometimes, paths cross a few times before connections are made.  The Leadership of Organizational Change wasn’t my first interaction with Mark Hughes.  I read it because of the respect I had for a man who has spent his life trying to understand and move forward our ability to implement change.

## The 70% Failure Rate

My first encounter with Hughes was only in his writing.  He was critical of the use of a 70% failure rate for change management projects.  His argument is that there isn’t research support for this number.  I agree that there’s little direct support for this number – but the indirect evidence that this is a reasonable number is compelling.  I explained in Why the 70% Failure Rate of Change Projects is Probably Right that large scale projects of all kinds tend to fail at this rate.  So, while Hughes’ point is valid, I’m not sure that it matters.

## Post Industrial Leadership Institute Think Tank

Sometime after first discovering Hughes’ challenge to the 70% number, he was invited to join a think tank that I’m a part of.  Hughes is a student of Joseph Rost, and Rost’s work drives much of what is done at the think tank.  Enjoying the conversation, I asked for a one-on-one conversation, which was graciously accepted.  Through the conversations, I got to understand Hughes’ interest in change leadership as a term – rather than change management, as is more frequently discussed.

Rost spends about two-thirds of his book, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, working up to a definition of leadership.  Rost himself was a student of MacGregor, whose Leadership is a tome of a work that offers the idea of transformational leadership.  Ultimately, Rost lands on “Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and collaborators who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes.”

## Intertwined

Hughes asserts that the study of leadership and change are therefore inextricably intertwined.  One cannot think of leadership without the aspect of change (or real change).  One cannot consider change without considering the leadership necessary to reach the destination.  In this intertwining, there are concepts that are difficult to disentangle.

Rost’s initial definitions included the word “follower” instead of “collaborator.”  There is a real belief that everyone is a co-leader, sometimes stepping forward and other times stepping back.  In such a conceptualization, how is it possible to define the one leader or leadership?  In fact, some of this is the point.  Rost doesn’t believe in leadership in the contemporary sense.

When we’re looking for drivers for change, we’re stuck between the need for a leader and the awareness that the leader needs followers – or they’re leading no one.  Unfortunately, there’s no single model of leadership of organizational change that is widely supported.  (See the Change Model Library for some approaches to change management.)

## The Rise of Scientific Management

One of the phases of leadership that we’ve transitioned through – or at least are transitioning through – is the work of Fredrick Taylor, who believed everything could be reduced to a most-efficient way of doing things.  Despite his popularity, a review of the work that launched him reveals that it was shaky at best.  The results were simplified, and some observations were erroneous.  Despite this, we find that managers want to squeeze out every last ounce of productivity based on Taylor’s scientific management ideals.  In Antifragile, Nassim Taleb expresses concern about removing the redundancy and capacity from a system.  We’ve seen too many places where removing the “excess” from the system results in a catastrophic failure.

## Philosophies

There are numerous philosophies regarding leadership and organizational change, each with their own benefits and limitations.  As Gareth Morgan explains in Images of Organization, no one model is “right” – models will always have benefits and limitations.  Leadership and organizational change philosophies are reflections of the way that we see organizations.

The Western world, and particularly America, has built up the rise and fall, success and failure, of organizations, industries, and nations on the backs of leadership.  We believe in singular simple reasoning that allows for only a leader who possesses the mythical qualities of leadership and are therefore capable of leading anything to success.  The Titanic could have been led to port if only there was the right leadership to keep the ship afloat after impacting the iceberg.

These simplistic views of success and failure don’t adequately capture the dynamism that we find in the world today.  We know that there’s no one single causal factor for success or failure but rather a set of conditions under which people have found success – including with the help of a participant that others would call a leader.

If you want to get past the myth of leadership and move to a more nuanced view of how organizations can succeed, a good step may be to look to The Leadership of Organizational Change.

## Book Review-The Culture Puzzle: Harnessing the Forces That Drive Your Organization’s Success

It truly is a puzzle.  What makes some organizations stellar and others barely able to keep their doors open?  How do you fit the pieces of an organization together to survive in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world?  These are the questions that The Culture Puzzle: Harnessing the Forces that Drive Your Organization’s Success wants to answer.

## Tribes

Seth Godin wrote a whole book on tribes, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, which explains how tribes form and what it takes to get them moving.  However, another key concern for organizations is just how many tribes they have inside their walls.  Organizations, particularly those that grew through acquisition, find that they have different tribes in their organization, each with their own goals, rather than one big tribe in which everyone in the organization is a member.

When the Skunk Works was started at Lockheed, it was intentionally separated from the main organization.  What Kelley Johnson was trying to do needed to be different to succeed.  He intentionally created a new culture to replace the fragmented cultures that existed in the main organization.  Inside of the Lockheed walls were multiple cultures.  Engineers and machinists all had their own tribes – and they didn’t really get along with the other tribe.  Kelley Johnson wanted something different.  He wanted one Skunk Works tribe that had a singular mission, not competing tribes.  (See Skunk Works for more.)

## Shared Vision

The challenge of multiple tribes inside an organization can be the result of different histories and training, or it can be a failure for the leadership to establish a shared vision.  It can be that, in the absence of a compelling shared vision, individuals and teams have been forced to define their own visions – and that results in different tribes.

It’s like a climb up a mountain to find a guru.  Leadership teams head out to strategic retreats where they believe with the help of their skillful facilitator, they’ll discover the hidden meaning for the organization.  With this knowledge firmly placed in their brains, they believe – incorrectly – that they need just to share the epiphany, and all will be good.  Everyone will instantly share their vision.

There are numerous problems with this shared delusion.  In fact, the delusion is shared more than the sense of the shared vision of the strategy.  Too often, strategies devolve into platitudes that mean nothing.  (See The Fifth Discipline for the challenges of using platitudes.)  It turns out that everyone has a slightly different view of the strategy that was created, and the result is that when the message is communicated to the rest of the organization, these differences in understanding are amplified.

## Absolutely Necessary

Instead of the shared behaviors that the organization desires, we are left with behaviors that are perceived to be minimally necessary instead of those of an engaged team striving for the same goals.  The behaviors that drove the Skunk Works’ stunning success are noticeably absent as sharing is only done when it’s believed that there is no other alternative.

Trading is one of the keys to organizational life.  Influence Without Authority explains that no one ever has enough authority to accomplish everything they want to accomplish, so they have to do it through influence, and one of the best ways to do that is to capitalize on the law of reciprocity.  Quid pro quo is the law of the land, and it means that to encourage success, you’ve got to encourage cooperation.

Robert Axelrod ran a contest of computer programs to see which strategy would achieve the best outcomes.  It was patterned on the prisoner’s dilemma: two criminals are captured, and if they rat out their compatriot, they’ll get a shorter sentence – unless their compatriot rats them out, too.  Clearly the best case is for both parties to cooperate, but there’s always the risk that the other party will defect.  The results of his contest showed that tit-for-tat was the winner.  Starting by cooperating and then doing whatever the other program did on the last turn yielded the best result.  In short, if we want to be successful, we need to cooperate.  (See The Evolution of Cooperation for more.)

Francis Fukuyama expresses the same need for sharing in Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity from the lens of our need to trust one another.  If we can’t trust each other to be cooperative, then we aren’t going to be as agile or as effective.

## Never An Open Office in the Mind

I shared my concerns about the open office concept when Richard Sheridan promoted it in his book Joy, Inc.  I shared in my review of How Buildings Learn that many others, including Steward Brand, were concerned about open offices as well.  It turns out that open offices aren’t really what people want.  Even Les Nessman in the classic WKRP in Cincinnati knew the value of having a space with walls.

What we know about open office spaces is that people attempt to construct walls in their minds to compensate for the walls that are missing in their environment.  They work to create a safe space where they can work uninterrupted.  Sometimes they’re successful and can enter flow – and sometimes they’re not.  (See Flow, Finding Flow, and The Rise of Superman for more on flow.)

## Cooperation and Competition

When I was younger, Jack Welch, and his meteoric leadership of GE, was all the rage.  He recommended placing groups and even individuals in competition with each other.  The competition for ranking and resources was a part of the game.  The problem is we’ve seen that this strategy no longer works today.  Employees want to feel safe.  (See The Fearless Organization for more.)  The management strategies that Welch used left him with the nickname Neutron Jack (after the neutron bomb, which kills living things and leaves infrastructure intact).  As Fredrick LaLoux explains in Reinventing Organizations, organizations are changing in the way they’re led and the way they’re managed.

Today, few people would recommend having people or groups internal to an organization competing with another.  Some haven’t made a full transition to cooperating and have stopped at a sort of midpoint – coopetition – which is a mixture of both cooperation and competition.  However, the research points to cooperation being more effective than competition in most situations.

## Inspiration and Work

Inspiration has a lore surrounding it.  The idea is that the best works that have ever been created have been the result of inspiration.  Inspiration is certainly a positive feeling.  It drops someone into flow and gets them to create some of their best work.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Inspiration is a definite part of the creation of great works.  However, the problem is that inspiration is few, fleeting, and fickle.

Pasteur said that “chance favors the prepared.”  In short, things that look like luck and inspiration come most frequently to those who have put in the work to take advantage of these opportunities.  Work for a better culture, work to collaborate, and just work in general increases the chances that you and your organization will be able to assemble The Culture Puzzle.

## Book Review-Definition of Suicide

It’s hard to address something that you don’t have a clear definition of.  That’s why Edwin Schneidman wrote Definition of Suicide.  He’s not the only person to tackle this definitional challenge, but he may be the person with the most experience.

## A Rainbow of Colors

There have been numerous taxonomic approaches to suicide that often describe the lethality of the method chosen and the degree to which the suicide was intended.  The Neuroscience of Suicidal Behavior tackles the problem with these as well as the degree of planning involved.  However, as was highlighted there, there is invariably a continuum that things fall on that are difficult to distinguish.  For instance, what differentiates a parasuicide from a suicide?

More frustratingly, intent is very hard to infer and is therefore a dimension of great question, as Assessment and Prediction of Suicide reveals.  Schneidman’s own The Suicidal Mind explains that he believes communication of intent is a part of suicide.  (Since then, several others have questioned the percentage of people who do communicate their intent.  In particular, see Rethinking Suicide.)

## Durkheim

Emile Durkheim is at the root of suicide research – but sort of accidentally.  His primary interest, it seems, was the application of statistics to public health concerns.  It turns out that one of the examples that he used was suicide.  As the first work of its sort, it is something that everyone comes back to – and unfortunately replicates.

## Bacon’s Idols

Francis Bacon, whose scientific method helped to crystalize science, also wrote of philosophical works.  One aspect of those works that Schneidman calls out is the concept of idols – or sources of bias in our thinking.  Bacon’s idols, as explained by Schneidman, are:

• Idols of the Tribe (Idola Tribus). These are fallacies that accrue to humanity in general.
• Idols of the Cave (Idola Specus). These are errors peculiar to the particular mental makeup of each individual.
• Idols of the Market Place (Idola Fori). These are errors arising in the mind from the influence of words, especially words that are names for such non-existent things as “mind” or “soul.”
• Idols of the Theater (Idola Theatri). These are erroneous modes of thinking resulting from uncritically accepting whole systems of philosophy or from fallacious methods of demonstrating empirical proof.

These are perhaps some of the earliest views on cognitive biases.  It’s how we see things differently than they really (or objectively) are.  (See Why Are We Yelling and Thinking, Fast and Slow for more about cognitive biases.)

## A Time for Dreaming

Death and sleep are often compared as relatives – sometimes as close cousins, and other times as siblings.  Sleep brings us relief, a chance to stall our pain and dream of happier times – either in the future or the past.  With the close relationship between death and sleep, it’s possible to see how some might desire death as both an ending of their current pain and, in a warped sense, how it might give them a chance to live the life of their dreams.  It’s possible to see how it seems more desirable.

The overlooked item, in the cognitive constriction of suicide, is that sleep returns to wake where death does not return to life.  While a decision to sleep is temporary, a decision to die is irreversible.

## Not Quite Human

A challenge with some who die by suicide (or attempt) is that they feel somehow less than human and therefore undeserving of the grace and love that all mankind should show to one another.  In Moral Disengagement, Albert Bandura explains the need to make people less human to be able to inflict harm on them.  Phillip Zimbardo expresses a similar perspective in The Lucifer Effect.  What if suicide isn’t murder in the 180 degree, as Menninger suggests in Man Against Himself?  What if the thing that’s turned against someone is their belief in their humanity?  Schneidman shares one example where someone describes herself as an “it” or a “thing.”  Those sorts of descriptors minimize her own humanness.

The situation that created those feelings were stories I’ve heard before.  Pregnancies that were initially twins where one died in utero, and the parents told the surviving daughter that she killed her sister.  Another case where a father openly told his son that he should have peed inside his mother.  The list of these harmful parental responses to children is long, and unfortunately, the outcomes aren’t good.

## Who Needs the Afterlife?

Sidestepping the topic of who God is, what our purpose is, and all of the religiously entangled parts, there’s an interesting question about who needs an afterlife if the life here is better.  Of course, whether you believe you’re coming back as a cow or you’re going to heaven, there’s no need to dislodge that belief.  But a more interesting question is one about what we can do now, regardless of our beliefs about afterlife.  What can we do to improve how we treat other humans such that we want them less harm?

Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind proposes that we all have the same foundations of morality, the first of which is care/harm.  In short, we believe in more care and less harm.  However, despite this framework and the work of Robert Axelrod that confirms our cooperation isn’t an accident, and in fact is part of the Evolution of Cooperation, we find that too many people are suffering.

Improving someone’s condition even a little bit will help them make a different decision than suicide.  Instead of feeling hopeless, the improvement switches on The Hope Circuit and allows them to see that things can get better – since their degree of cognitive constriction may prevent that without a spark of hope.

## Loneliness

In The Psychology of Hope, C.R. Snyder explains that hope is composed of two components: willpower and waypower.  There’s an aspect of this that he doesn’t address directly, which is the degree to which you believe the rest of the world is friendly or hostile.  In a hostile world, someone is always trying to prevent your success, while a helpful world is constantly trying to help you achieve your goals.  (This is the work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, and you can find more in The Secret Lives of Adults.)

However, even with a helpful view, you can get stuck in feelings of loneliness, which prevent the connection necessary to expect the world is helpful.  In Loneliness, it’s explained that loneliness is different than the state of being alone.  It’s about that sense of connection – and it can be critical.

The more we can help people who are feeling lonely feel more connected, the better off we all are – whether they’re suicidal or not.

## Bankruptcy

Another way to envision suicide is that it’s declaring bankruptcy on life.  It’s the decision that you can’t make it better and you want to give up.  While this is tragic from the person’s point of view, it’s more complicated from the point of view of the others their life impacts.  Specifically, it means that people who knew the person feel as if their memories and experience with the suicidal person are somehow less important – at least less important to them.  They may even believe that the suicide invalidates their beliefs.

It’s easy to speak of the logical pieces of the situation.  Their pain.  The cognitive constriction that prevented them from seeing these memories.  However, that doesn’t help the hurting survivor who wonders what they could have done or why their perception of things was so different.

In the end, there may not be a suitable Definition of Suicide, it turns out we each may need to understand it in our own way.

## Book Review-Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body

For the most part, popular psychology isn’t exactly positive on your ability to really change your core personality, your default way of being.  Sure, it accepts that you can learn new coping skills and occasionally better ways of responding emotionally, but for the most part, the assumption is that your core personality is set.  This runs in stark contrast to the research about neural plasticity.  Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body explains – with science – how our perception of things that are unchangeable may be changeable after all.

## It’s a Mindset

In mainstream psychology, there are some acceptable conversations.  Carol Dweck explains that a difference in Mindset results in a difference in performance and the way that people respond to setbacks.  Anders Ericsson explains in Peak how the top of many professions got there through purposeful practice and how their brains are different because of their work.  Because this work is founded on traditional psychological and performance principles, there is relatively little push-back.  Even the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow, despite his observations of 5x performance and lasting effects, isn’t all that controversial.  (See Flow, Finding Flow, and The Rise of Superman for more on flow.)  Again, coming from a Western point of view, it’s largely accepted, like the medical machines that make the observations of the brain possible.

However, when it comes to the topic of meditation and mindfulness, there’s skepticism.  That’s particularly true if we rewind the clock 50 years or so and see how these ideas were shunned in the United States.  To be fair, there were charlatans and “snake oil salesmen” who sought to make money with no proof that anything they were selling actually worked and, perhaps in more than a few cases, a dim awareness that it didn’t.  Altered Traits is a walk through the research about how different forms of meditation and mindfulness have demonstrated efficacy in clinical trials and how the effects may be lasting – or even mind-altering.

## Mindfulness and Meditation

In the interest of providing a framework for the remainder of the conversation, it’s important that I pause to say that “meditation” is a catch-all word for a variety of contemplative practices.  One of those is mindfulness – that is, the process of observing whatever comes to mind without any reactivity.  They’re observed and let go.  Other forms of contemplative practices are designed to focus on something – including a process like a body scan or breathing.  In those times focus is lost, the distracting thought is acknowledged and let go.

Because there are different forms of meditation, each of them seems to have different results in impacting our neural patterns.  That’s why research into the impact of these practices is often focused on a specific technique, so it’s possible to measure the impacts of that specific process.

That’s complicated somewhat by the fact that the techniques used by meditators varies with experience.  More advanced techniques are used by the meditators with the most experience, making it difficult to compare the results of the more fundamental forms over long periods of time.

## After Enlightenment, Chop Wood

Collaborating with the Enemy quotes an ancient proverb: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”  The point is that while enlightenment may be a desirable goal, you return to the same life you left.  Or do you?  Heraclitus said that “no man ever steps in the same river twice.”  Meaning the river has changed and the man has changed – but changed how?

Those who had the experience of peace – or the high — that can come from a retreat or focused practice still realize that “after the high goes, you’re still the same schmuck you were before.”  But the research in Altered Traits seems to show that that’s not entirely true.  Much like Heraclitus’ man and river, it can be that the changes are so subtle that they don’t even register – but over time, they can make a big difference.

## The After Is the Before for the Next During

The continued cycle of improvement is what the complicated statement “the after is the before for the next during” means.  Said differently, whatever skills, experience, and capabilities you developed during this meditation you bring with you to the next one, making it possible for it to be easier, deeper, or better.  Of course, there’s no straight-line improvement, but repetition makes it easier.

One of the key skills of the advanced meditators is the capacity to settle their minds quickly – on demand.  While average or moderate experience meditators may take a few minutes to settle down, the expert meditators seem to flow into it as quickly an easily as stepping into the next room.  I can’t share this experience with meditation – but I can share it with flow.

Most of my career has been built on the need to get into flow – in different situations.  Sometimes, it’s writing code.  Sometimes, it’s writing books, articles, or blog posts.  Sometimes, it’s presenting in front of thousands of people or facilitating a group of ten leaders.  They’re all different environments where I must get into flow to be effective.  In The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler brushes the way that various athletes push themselves into flow.  For me, it’s a sort of mental trick normally accompanied by very familiar and very loud music.  Once I’ve dropped into flow, I instinctively turn the music down.  I’ve had to drive myself into flow so frequently that it generally – but not always – comes easily.

## Eudaimonia

It was Aristotle’s word for flourishing, fulfillment, accomplishment, or well-being.  It’s the positive in positive psychology.  (See Positive Psychotherapy: Clinician Manual, The Hope Circuit, or Flourish for more.)  The aims of positive psychology and the spiritual-philosophical roots of meditation are well aligned.  The aim to move beyond human suffering to compassion or loving-kindness.

There are many nudges in the Eastern tradition that the goal of enlightenment or even fruits of meditation shouldn’t be for yourself.  The goal of the practice shouldn’t be because you’ll benefit yourself but rather the benefits should be something positive for humanity.  In other words, not just flourishing for oneself but flourishing for all mankind.

## Focus on Others’ Suffering to Forget your Troubles

When you help others – when you care for others – you forget your own troubles and concerns.  Atul Gawande in Being Mortal explains that something as simple as a plant can reduce mortality of those living in senior centers.  Twelve-step groups have known for some time that the best way to get someone through their addiction is to get them serving others quickly.  Like in meditative practices, you’re encouraged to find a coach with more experience than you – in twelve-step terminology, a sponsor.  However, twelve-step groups take it further when they encourage you to take on a mentee.

Aaron T. Beck, whose work on cognitive behavior therapy and depression is the cornerstone of treatments today, is credited with first saying that when you focus on someone else’s suffering, you forget your own troubles.  This is true – but with the caveat that this may not always be the best answer.

Sometimes, people use their focus on others’ problems to look down on them – or to avoid dealing with the issues at the heart of their troubles, and this can ultimately cause more pain and suffering than had they just dealt with their own issues first.  It’s a delicate balance.

## The First Person to Benefit from Compassion

Who is the first person to benefit from your compassion?  The answer is you, according to the Dalai Lama.  It’s the opposite of harboring anger for someone else.  In The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck explains that harboring anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Harboring compassion, however, is hoping that others benefit from you taking vitamins.  We develop compassion for others’ benefit and in turn reap some of the rewards.

## They Are All One

When Neem Karoli was asked which path (approach to meditation) was best, his answer was “Sub ek!” – Hindi for “They are all one.”  Though various approaches differ and have aspects that are more focused in one direction or another, ultimately, all the roads lead to the same place.  It’s a place where people are better people.  That’s probably the best way to think about Altered Traits – better people.

## Book Review-The Long Interview: Qualitative Research Methods

It’s easy to get wrapped up in big data, AI, and quantitative approaches to research and forget that there’s another dimension to research that is just as important as – if not more important than – the numbers that we seem to be driven by.  The Long Interview (part of the Qualitative Research Methods Series) is one approach to qualitative research that can provide a semi-structured approach leading to important answers.

## Qualitative Methods

Quantitative methods use large numbers and provide calculations and statistical formula to produce results that can quantify what is happening – but they’re unable to explain why.  Qualitative research methods flank the quantitative methods, being used both before quantifying metrics to define what to capture and after quantitative results are seen when there’s a need to explain them.

In the pre-quantitative mode, qualitative methods like ethnographic interviews (see The Ethnographic Interview), participant observations, focus groups, or in-depth interviews – and to some extent The Long Interview – can create an understanding of a topic area, which can be used to structure questions and collection of data that should be meaningful.  In these cases, qualitative methods ensure that what is captured and analyzed is relevant – it matters – and is accurate – it’s free of unnecessary ambiguity.

Conversely, the same methods can be focused on a specific result or situation for the purposes of exposing why the results are what they are.  Can’t explain why you can’t convert leads?  Qualitative approaches can help you figure out why.  You’re seeing a spike in sales in one region and want to replicate it?  Qualitative approaches can help you identify why sales are spiking to see if it can be replicated.

Where quantitative methods involve rows and columns of numbers, qualitative approaches ultimately center around conversations, many of which may be one-on-one.  Ultimately, it’s a short-term relationship between an interviewer and a respondent.

## Waterfall and Iterative

There has been an ongoing discussion in the software development profession for three decades now – not quite half the lifetime of the profession.  Should software be designed in one big pass, like bridges are built, or should they be built bit-by-bit over time, like a pearl?  The iterative, like-a-pearl approach is generally perceived to be slower and more expensive, but in real life, we find that it often works better – in some circumstances.

The critical difference between bridges and software was – and often still is – that the mechanical characteristics of the materials of a bridge are well known.  There are many previous bridge building plans that can be reused or at least adapted to the purpose of building a new bridge.  In short, the details don’t change, and they’re well known in advance.  Software rarely – but occasionally – fits this definition.  There are some projects that can be built in one fell swoop – and should be.

The alternate end of the spectrum are projects where the technology is unproven, and the user expectations aren’t set, so anything can happen.  In those cases, the degree of uncertainty justifies a slower, more iterative approach.  The point of the iterative approach is to create more learning about the situation so that the investments aren’t so large.

Qualitative research is the kind of iterative, we don’t know the territory, investigation.  It’s what we do when we don’t know how we’re going to get to the answers.  Driving down a well-known road with quantitative research and big data is certainly faster – but someone has to know where people need the road to go and build it.  It’s important to realize that research isn’t an “either-or” proposition but an “and” proposition where qualitative makes quantitative more effective.

## Respondents

In the context of social or anthropological research, there’s a challenge that respondents “lead hectic, deeply segmented, and privacy-centered lives.”  That makes it difficult for them to dedicate time to the qualitative interview process – and less likely to share when they’re in the interview.  It’s not easy to get people to reveal deep insights into their world because they don’t see them – and if they did, you’d need to build sufficient trust quickly to earn the right to hear their story.

Therefore, techniques like those shared in The Ethnographic Interview, lessons from Motivational Interviewing, and developing a deeper level of trust is essential for qualitative research success.  (See Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy, Revisited for more on developing trust.)  While qualitative research doesn’t require as many people, it does require the rapid development of a deeper understanding of those people.

Qualitative research takes time and can be perceived to be expensive, but it’s an important component to ultimately understanding the overall picture.

## Nine Issues

McCracken outlines nine issues that relate to qualitative research:

1. The Social Scientific Research Community – How should qualitative research fit in with other methods?
2. The Donor Social Science – How do we bring the various qualitative research into a coherent conversation?
3. The Qualitative / Quantitative Difference – As we described above, qualitative and quantitative work together – they are not competitors.
4. Investigator as Instrument – Quantitative research can be scaled because it doesn’t require a human. Qualitative research requires and is influenced by the investigators – for better or worse.
5. The Obtrusive / Unobtrusive Balance – There’s a need to push the respondent – and there’s a need for the investigator to step-back and listen. Finding the balance isn’t always easy.
6. Manufacturing Distance – McCracken uses distance as a term for detachment and actively minimizing assumptions. (See The HeartMath Solution for more on detachment.)
7. The Questionnaire – The point of the questionnaire in the long interview is to provide some structure to the conversations.
8. The Investigator / Respondent Relationship – Here, McCracken is focused on the level of formality / informality in the relationship between the investigator and respondent.
9. Multimethod Approaches – Here, McCracken is illuminating the need for multiple approaches.

## Rummaging

The messy bit about qualitative research is that it draws from the investigator’s personality, experiences, beliefs, and skills.  There’s no one direct path to the answer.  Marcia Bates speaks about what we’ve learned by means of active-passive and direct-indirect.  She estimates we get 80% of our knowledge in a passive and indirect way.  In short, most of what we know we didn’t seek to know.  When we’re working with respondents, their experience of their lives isn’t directed, and therefore we shouldn’t expect it to be a single, straightforward set of questions that will lead to a clear understanding.

## Knowledge Management

Knowledge management concerns itself with explicit – contextless – information and the kinds of implicit or tacit knowledge that are hard to describe.  What’s wonderful about qualitative approaches is that they are a process through which some implicit information becomes explicit.  The investigator is the process through which the information is converted.  The investigator uses the long interview and other qualitative techniques to sense make what they’re hearing from the respondent and to elicit those things that the respondent rarely thinks about directly.

## Four Steps

The Long Interview is four steps:

1. Review of Analytic Categories – This is the orientation phase where the investigator begins to understand the overall landscape and the way that things appear – on the outside – to relate.
2. Review of Cultural Categories – This is preparation for how to ask the questions. It includes the development of a questionnaire and any materials that may be necessary to support the interview.
3. Discovery of Cultural Categories – This is the interview.
4. Discovery of Analytic Categories – This is the post-interview analysis.

## The Analysis

The analysis is itself broken into stages:

1. Transcript / Utterance
2. Observation
3. Expanded Observation
4. [Connected] Observation
5. Theme
6. Interview Thesis

## In Sum

The process laid out provides structure to what might normally be addressed as an ethnographic interview.  While it’s more efficient than a less structured process (or can be), McCracken still cautions that you should not use qualitative methods unless you cannot use quantitative ones.  I’d soften that a bit to say you should only use qualitative approaches to the extent that they’re required.  The irony is that the great benefit of The Long Interview is to avoid the longer interview.

## Book Review-The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles

Resilience is a common term these days.  Everyone wants to build resilience.  Everyone wants to know how to make people recover rather than crumble from challenges.  I picked up The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles, because I was looking for secrets that would have given Alex what he needed to be more resilient.  Life hit him with the loss of a former shipmate, and he couldn’t recover from it.  In the end, I didn’t find what I was looking for – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.

## Seven Skills

The summary of the seven skills the book teaches are:

• LEARNING YOUR ABCs: When confronted with a problem or challenge, are you ever surprised by how you react or wish you could respond differently? Do you ever assume that you know the facts of a situation, only to find out later that you misinterpreted them?
• AVOIDING THINKING TRAPS: When things go wrong, do you automatically blame yourself? Do you blame others? Do you jump to conclusions? Do you assume that you know what another person is thinking?
• DETECTING ICEBERGS: Everyone has deeply held beliefs about how people and the world should operate and who they are and want to be. We call these iceberg beliefs because they often “float” beneath the surface of our consciousness so we’re not even aware of them.
• CHALLENGING BELIEFS: A key component of resilience is problem solving. How effective are you at solving the problems that you encounter day to day? Do you waste time pursuing solutions that don’t work? Do you feel helpless to change situations? Do you persist on one problem-solving path even when you see that it’s not getting you where you want to be?
• PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE: Do you get caught in what-if thinking in which you turn every failure or problem into a catastrophe? Do you waste valuable time and energy worrying yourself into a state of paralyzing anxiety about events that have not even occurred?
• CALMING AND FOCUSING: Do you feel overwhelmed by stress? Do your emotions sometimes come on so quickly and fiercely that you can’t seem to think straight? Do “off-task” thoughts make it hard for you to concentrate?
• REAL-TIME RESILIENCE: Are there times when counterproductive thoughts make it hard for you to stay engaged and in the moment? Do certain negative thoughts tend to recur over and over again?

## Personal, Permanent, and Pervasive

Three dimensions clearly indicate how well someone will respond to a situation.  Will they be resilient or are they likely to become hopeless?  The dimensions are:

• Personal – Is this situation about me or not about me?
• Permanent – Is this situation permanent or temporary?
• Pervasive – Is this globally applicable or only in this situation?

The more that things are viewed as being not about me (not personal), temporary (not permanent), and situational (not pervasive), the more likely it is that someone will shrug off the situation and continue working.  The more that the opposite is true, the more likely it is that someone will get stuck.

## Realistic Optimism

Optimism – as long as it’s grounded in reality – is a good thing.  Barbara Ehrenreich criticizes it in Bright-Sided for deliberately ignoring things and self-deception.  However, I argue that we all have a bit of self-deception happening – and it’s not all bad.  It’s when our optimism diverges too far from reality that it’s a problem.  After all, as The Hope Circuit explains, learned helplessness was re-understood, with the capabilities of an fMRI machine and a map of the brain, to be the failure to learn control – even if we rarely truly have control.  It turns out that depressed people more accurately assess their skills – but that isn’t a good thing.

As Viktor Frankl explains in Man’s Search for Meaning, some optimism that is unfounded can be more harmful when the beliefs about what will be happening fail to occur.  As a result, the real trick is to find ways to look at the glass as half-full without deluding yourself into the belief that it’s completely full.

## Self-Efficacy

Related to optimism is your beliefs about yourself.  Do you believe that you can get things done, or do you believe that you’re incapable of doing anything right?  Do you believe that you have skills, strength, and value, or do you believe that you’re weak, useless, and without value?  The greater degree to which you believe you have self-efficacy, the better you’ll be able to maintain hope and thereby be more resilient.  Rick Snyder in The Psychology of Hope explains that hope is a cognitive process built on waypower (knowing how) and willpower (the will to continue).  Self-efficacy is about maintaining the power to get things done.

## Cognitions Don’t Cause Emotions

Despite what The Resilience Factor says, cognitions don’t cause emotions.  They’re related and they influence emotions, but they don’t cause them.  Lisa Feldman Barrett explains in How Emotions are Made that they’re guided by physical reactions and then are shaped by our experiences and expectations.  A better understanding of how emotions are formed is found in Emotion and Adaptation, where Richard Lazarus decomposes the process and helps us to understand the mechanisms that are in place.

Daniel Kahneman explains in Thinking, Fast and Slow that most of our cognitive is spent in a basic pattern matching system he calls System 1.  In this mode, we look for patterns in our environment and do the actions that we did last time – if they were successful.  In this pattern matching mode, it’s hard to say that there’s cognitions happening.

So, while we know that how we feel about something, especially our previous experiences, shape our emotions about it, previous negative experiences in similar situations will unfairly cloud our perception of current reality.

## It’s All in the Interpretation

If we break things down, our emotions and our resilience is in how we interpret a situation.  While there are stressors in the environment, it’s our reaction to those stressors that matters.  If we interpret negative outcomes of the stressor as high probability and high impact and judge that our ability to cope is low, we’ll be stressed.  The greater degree to which we’re able to perceive the stressor’s impact as improbable, small, and within our ability to cope, the less likely we’ll feel stressed.

Stress has serious long-term negative consequences that are well explained in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.  Suffice to say, the more we can avoid chronic stress, the better off we’ll be.

So, while it may seem like self-delusion and self-deception, when we ground our assessments in reality and evaluate things from the perspective of truth rather than fear, we are more likely to make accurate assessments and less likely to be emotionally triggered.

## Visions of the Future

One key aspect of perspective that is useful is a perspective about a positive future.  In The Time Paradox, Philip Zimbardo shares how we all see time differently from past negative and positive to present fatalistic and present hedonistic – and to a future focused view.  When we have a positive future view of time, we expect that things will get better in time.

I often share that time has a very long arc, and things that appear to be intractable today may someday be solved.  Problems that we believe are unchangeable are all washed away in the sands of time.  Even the well-built pyramids of Egypt are fading over time – and statues like the Sphinx are in serious need of a nose job.  Nothing is forever.

## Guilt is Garbage

Guilt has an evolutionary benefit of helping us to change our beliefs and behaviors based on negative outcomes.  However, our negative bias can get us stuck in processing and reliving our guilt repeatedly.  This approach to guilt – constantly reliving it – is bad for us and for everyone.  Once we’ve apologized, learned from the event, and hopefully changed our behavior, we need to learn to let it go.

Guilt that is internalized too much moves from being that we’ve done something bad to shame, which is the assessment that we are bad.  Shame is a sticky substance that is hard to free our psyche from and one that serves no purpose.

## Analyzing Anxiety

Most people don’t have a clear definition of anxiety, particularly in terms of how it relates to fear.  Fear is a specific concern about a specific possible occurrence.  Anxiety is a fear based in the idea that we can’t even tell where the threat will come from.  Anxiety is therefore more challenging to eliminate in our beliefs, because we’ve got very little to put our fingers on.

Anxiety at its core is the belief that we’ll encounter a stressor suddenly and that it will overwhelm our capacity to cope.  If we want to reduce anxiety, we need to focus on how we can authentically build a person’s sense of self-efficacy – or, said differently, their personal agency.

Many people with anxiety believe that they feel powerful and able to take on life’s challenges but generally there’s something buried deep inside that prevents them from fully believing in their value and ability to overcome.

## Personal Agency, Self-Efficacy by Any Other Name

When speaking about people’s ability to get things done, I most frequently use “personal agency” rather than self-efficacy, because personal agency is inclusive of the availability of time and resources that go beyond someone’s sense of skills.  Personal agency is the heart of resilience.  The more personal agency you have, the more resilience you have.  (We speak a lot about personal agency in our work on burnout, which you can find at https://ExtinguishBurnout.com)

## Underlying Beliefs

Our underlying beliefs can sometimes prevent us from accessing our personal agency.  We believe that we shouldn’t show our strength or that it’s not the right time or place.  Sometimes, our underlying beliefs about ourselves and about the world are so hidden that we can’t see them ourselves – even when we try.  Sometimes, they’re the echoes of the voices that we heard in our childhood that we now believe are our own.

Finding these beliefs is often about asking why, despite our desire to change, we’re not changing.  Immunity to Change is a helpful framework for discovering what limiting beliefs are holding us back.

## Catastrophizing

The anti-power to resilience is catastrophizing.  That is, the propensity to evaluate things in the most negative possible light.  The stressor is certain, and its impact overwhelming.  A friend and comedian has a routine where he speaks about how his mom was a master at catastrophizing.  She went from he couldn’t take care of a dog to he couldn’t take care of a baby and he’d be arrested for child neglect – all in the space of a single breath.

We can dampen catastrophizing by attempting to ground our thoughts in reality.  Asking questions like, “Has this ever happened?  What was the result last time?  And what’s different?” can sometimes break us free from the grips of an overwhelming prediction.  Other times, it’s the question “So what?” that allows us to see the resources at our disposal.

If you want to be resilient, you’ll have to rewire away from catastrophizing, and Hardwiring Happiness can help with that.

## Denying Existence of the Problem

The real limiting factor is our ability to believe that we’re understood, and sometimes in their attempts to help us, other people minimize our problems to the point of denying their existence.  If you’ve never ridden on a plane before and are frightened, someone saying that it’s the safest form of travel isn’t just useless, it’s invalidating your concerns without hearing them.

So, on the one hand, we can acknowledge that our catastrophizing isn’t reality –but on the other hand, we want others to follow our path and understand how we got there.  We need to be understood even if the perspective we’re taking isn’t objectively real.

## Changing the Perspective

When we’re looking at our resilience, it’s as simple and complex as looking for different alternatives, evidence, and implications.  It’s simple in that they’re just a few things to be done – but saying them is much easier than doing them.  Perhaps in that gap is The Resilience Factor.

## Book Review-Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell

Stories are narratives that help others put pieces together, and while many of the stories we encounter in the media and in the movies are fictional, the kinds of stories you’re implored to tell in Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell are non-fictional.  They’re the stories that allow you to connect, differentiate, and ultimately close the deal.

## Story Design

Of course, there’s content to a story.  There’s the “who.”  There’s the “what.”  There’s the “when.”  However, these components by themselves aren’t a story any more than flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast are a bread.  There are plenty of guides to help you learn how to craft a story.  I’ve reviewed Wired for Story, Story Genius, and Building a StoryBrand, all of which can help you craft your experiences into a telling story.

Mike Adams is not focused on the development of the story itself, rather he’s walking us through what stories are important, why they’re important, and when they’re needed.  He does, however, offers a simple, four-step story design:

• Setting: By convention, the setting includes time and place markers. It flags the start of the story, sending the audience a subliminal signal that a story is beginning. Failing to start a story effectively is a common way to lose and confuse your audience.
• Complications: It’s a boring story if nothing unexpected happens to the “hero.”
• Turning point: Something happens that shows the hero a way out. Although vulnerability and failure are the grist of good stories, we have a strong preference for stories that end on a positive note.
• Resolution: The complications have been resolved. The hero is transformed, having learned something of value, and the business point is made. Tension and suspense are resolved

## Who Closes the Deal

Before delving into the stories, it’s important to recognize that it’s not our reason that closes the deal.  The rational rider on top of the emotional elephant has the role of press secretary – not chief executive officer.  Jonathan Haidt developed an Elephant-Rider-Path model in The Happiness Hypothesis that Dan and Chip Heath picked up for their book, Switch.  The short version is the rider is our reason, rationale, and consciousness.  The elephant is our feelings – and they always win when they want to.  In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt clarifies that our rider acts much like a press secretary – making up plausible sounding reasons for whatever the elephant decides.

This is an important point because stories engage us emotionally as well as rationally and can therefore persuade us to act.

## Prediction Engines

Adams makes the same point that was made in The Body Keeps the Score that we are fundamentally prediction engines.  It’s the primary purpose of consciousness.  He further makes the assertion that we update our world model when our predictions fail.  I’d qualify this with “sometimes.”  Sometimes, people deny reality and ignore the truth.  Sometimes, the corrections come in the form of laughter.  Inside Jokes explains that we laugh because our expectations were violated – and we detected it.  We’re rewarded with dopamine for correcting our mistake – without getting hurt.

The fact that we’re prediction machines that are constantly making corrections is important, because it means ideas that we submit to others, which are too outlandish or divergent from their beliefs, may be rejected as bad data rather than causing us to update our model.  When we’re communicating with clients, we’re constantly pushing the envelope so that we’re inside their acceptable range and far enough out that they might move it.

## Selling Archetypes

Adams also explains that there are five selling archetypes:

• The Authority — a sharp, confident voice tone
• The Friend — a warm, easy, melodious voice tone
• The Custodian — a low-pitched, furtive, secretive tone
• The Investigator — a curious, questioning tone, used in exploratory conversation
• The Negotiator — a reasoning, persuasive tone, used when negotiating

Of course, there are other models, like those found in The Challenger Sale; however, the models here work just fine too.

## Hook Stories

There three stories that are designed to get customers to want to know more about you:

• Key staff story
• Company creation story

These stories provide a way for the customer to connect and identify with you, your staff, or the company itself.  These stories are designed to get people comfortable with who you are.

## Fight Stories

The two kinds of fight stories are:

• Insight stories
• Success stores

These show why you’re the right people to work with.  They differentiate you from your competition and from the rest of the world.  These stories are critical, because insiders often place too much emphasis on small differences.  Clients want to know why we’re the only people that should be helping them.

## Land Stories

There are two land stories:

• Values stories
• Teaching stories

These stories are to help you land – or close – the deal.  They share that you’re aligned with their values and that you’re going to be a partner with their development – as well as solving the specific problem.

## Guides and Heros

The key thing that you need to remember when telling all the stories to your customers is that they are the hero – not you.  Your goal as a product or service provider is to act as their guide so that they can be successful.  That’s the point of Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell.