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The Innovator's DNA

Book Review-The Innovator’s DNA

What’s your innovation makeup? How are you wired? I’m not talking about the values that are described in Who Am I? I’m not talking about your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I’m not talking about Enneagrams. (See Personality Types: Using Enneagram for Self-Discovery) I’m talking about your habits that lead you to being able to innovate consistently. That’s what The Innovator’s DNA is about – the habits that lead you to being more innovative.

Five Behaviors of the Innovator

There are five key behaviors of the innovator:

  • Associating – Connecting seemingly unrelated ideas to one another to find new and novel solutions to existing problems.
  • Questioning – Having a passion for inquiry, asking more questions than providing answers.
  • Observing – Intense observation, watching the world for gaps and opportunities in everyday people, products and services.
  • Experimenting – Constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas. There’s always an experiment running – even if the experiment is in their head.
  • Networking – Connecting with others for ideas – not just resources.

You don’t have to be good at all of them to be an innovator – however, you should be strong in at least two and excel at four of the five behaviors – in other words it’s relatively easy to compensate for one innovation behavior difference – but hard to compensate for multiple gaps.

I find the list interesting because I write my book reviews and blog posts around the idea of associating concepts that I see as related though others may not. I often ask questions that were raised in my readings that didn’t come from the book itself but instead came from the ideas that arose in my head as I was reading.

I love people watching. I’ve hinted at it repeatedly in my blog. I love watching things work. I used to love watching John Ratzenberger’s Made in America TV show. It just showed how things were made but it was interesting to me.

Experimenting has always been fun for me as well. I have a solar powered mini-barn. I’ve created a dual-door doggie airlock to reduce heat loss and still have a way for the dogs to get in and out of my office. I created a sled for the top of a RC car so I could take videos of bands marching.

The final behavior is a place where I think I could improve. My LinkedIn profile has nearly 1,800 connections at the time of this writing. So I know people – but I won’t say that I network with them the way that I should to share ideas and grow.

Skills of the Executive

So if there are five skills of the innovator, how do those skills align with the skills of most executives in large organizations? The answer is not well. Executives have gained their position through their ability to execute on the existing was of doing things. In fact, the Innovator’s DNA says that there are four skills that executives are good at:

  • Analyzing
  • Planning
  • Detail-oriented implementing
  • Disciplined Executing

You may notice that these are not at all the skills that are necessary for innovation. Larger organizations value and reward the skills of delivery – the skills of execution.

Innovation is the Enemy of Operational Efficiency

One of the problems in large organizations is that they’re necessarily focused on operational efficiency. They’re focused on doing the same thing with fewer errors and greater efficiency. The idea is that profit is maximized when you reduce the waste and refine more efficient ways of doing things. This is the heart of lean manufacturing. You remove anything that doesn’t contribute to the consumer’s perception of the result.

On the other hand, innovation requires flexibility, change, and failure. These aren’t compatible with the operational efficiency mindset. They are specifically opposite of what is needed for operational efficiency. It’s not possible to try and fail – and be the most efficient.

As a result organizations often shun the innovative ideas that may be what they need to make radical leaps forward because they’re so focused on making the incremental improvements in their processes.

Seeing the Broken

Innovators just see things differently. Innovators agree “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” However, they disagree about what is broken. They believe nearly everything is broken. They appreciate the elegance of a great solution but see so many solutions that are broken. When Reed Hastings, Netflix’s founder, encountered rental late fees he knew there had to be a better way. Fred Smith knew there was a problem with the way that packages were being delivered and created FedEx. Edison knew there had to be a better (safer) way to light homes than gas. Robert Stirling knew there had to be a better way of generating power from temperature than the traditional steam boiler that were exploding and killing people so he created the stirling engine.

Innovators simply see everything as slightly broken – or able to be improved upon. Thus one of the key factors for being an innovator is seeing how to make things better.

Mental Models

Michael Dell took apart his computer to see the components and learn how they work. Innovators build models for how systems work (See The Fifth Discipline and Thinking in Systems). Knowing how things work allows them to build mental models and simulate ideas — as Gary Klein discovered with fire commanders and documented in Sources of Power.

It’s these mental models that allow innovators to see if the current status quo is – or isn’t broken. They can test alternatives to see if there are better answers. Much like Einstein is thought to have developed his theories – by running thought experiments in his head.

Synthesizing Novel Inputs

We know from The Adult Learner that we integrate our learning through our prior experiences and our self-concept. From The Art of Explanation we learned that we build mental models that allow us to communicate and assimilate information. Sources of Power talked about how we build our mental models transparently. We don’t always build them consciously. We just build our knowledge over time.

In The Innovator’s DNA we learn that we synthesize novel inputs by making associations. Innovators are trying to build their mental models of things – and bridge the mental models that they have in different areas together. Innovators are seeking to find a model that explains the inputs that they’re getting. This often causes them to connect ideas from different experiences together so that they form a tapestry of understanding – a tapestry that perhaps they’re the only person who can see in the beginning.

There’s another option for handling novel inputs – that is to discard it. Darwin used to keep a journal of disconfirming data so that his ego defenses couldn’t kick in and get him to discard the information that didn’t match his belief systems. Innovators either use techniques like Darwin to protect this precious disconfirming information – or they naturally gravitate to curiosity towards novel inputs.

Theory U

One of the quotes from Theory U and Leading from the Emerging Future both by Otto Scharmer is something said to Peter Singe (who wrote The Fifth Discipline) by master Nan “There is only one issue in the word. It’s the reintegration of mind and matter.” That is that everything is one.

The point here is that innovators bring back together what has been separated. They integrate ideas that have become separated.

Think Differently

What do you get when you assemble a set of diverse perspectives and skills of passionate people? Well, in the case of Steve Jobs, you get the Macintosh. More generally by bringing together different experiences and perspectives you create new and unexpected opportunities. This is why in Florence the Medici family were the catalyst to kick start the renaissance. They brought together masters from multiple disciplines together to share. When they did the innovators among them created the renaissance. The best modern day example is the TED conferences which seek to bring together technology, entertainment, and design. The goal is to kick start innovators and bring together new opportunities.

So if you want to think differently, pickup The Innovator’s DNA.

Job Aids & Performance Support

Book Review-Job Aids and Performance Support

I’ve been a big fan of job aids for years. It’s my awareness that job aids are more impactful than training that led to the creation of the SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide. I’ve read many materials about how adults learn – like The Adult Learner and Efficiency in Learning. However, I’ve not found many resources that focused on the humble job aid – that is until Job Aids and Performance Support: Moving from Knowledge in the Classroom to Knowledge Everywhere. Finally there’s a book that focuses on the fundamental reality of today’s world – that we can’t possibly take it all in and memorize everything. We have to leverage brain augmentation systems to cope in today’s world.

Brain Augmentation Systems

I don’t know about you but I keep forgetting things. Sometimes it’s what I was supposed to be getting from the grocery. Sometimes it’s why I went into the other room. Other times it’s more frustrating as I can’t remember the name of a movie or song. I can feel it just on the edge of my consciousness but still can’t put my finger on it. It’s these frustrating experiences that has lead me to develop a set of brain augmentation systems that are designed to work around my limited memory, frail attention, and other limitations. Many of us have turned to searching the Internet before spending a moment struggling to remember some obscure fact.

My brain augmentation systems are equally simple. When my son is with my ex-wife I set an alarm for 30 minutes before his bed time so that I remember to call and ask him about his day. I write notes to take to the grocery store or create a list on my phone.

I’ve spoken before about how I take notes in my post Research in the age of electrons. I leverage my blog as a place to go back and search for how I related topics to one another. I send myself an email when I’m out and want to remind myself of something. This system works because I don’t leave any messages in my inbox.

I have these systems because I know that I can’t keep up with what’s going on around me. I’ve decided that I’ve given up trying to keep up with the world and all of the details on my own. I have accepted that there are more things going on than I could ever possibly keep up with. I’ve accepted that I have to find ways around depending on the old things that have worked. I have to create new solutions.

Cheat Sheets

I tell the kids and the folks I work with that I “cheat” all the time. However, I don’t quite mean it in sense that I’m being dishonest. Instead I mean it that I’m changing the rules. I’m using information from outside of the context of the question or I’m using learning from outside the sphere of influence.

For instance, when I do project management for a technical project I cheat. I do that because I have a large amount of experience in technical topics so I actually understand what the folks are talking about. I can logic out what can and can’t work. I leverage my awareness of where the problems can be. So in one sense I’m “cheating” as a project manager because I’m not relying on just my project management skills to help the project be successful. However, there’s nothing dishonest about it. It’s just leveraging skills that a typical project manager wouldn’t have.

So sometimes cheating isn’t about being dishonest, it’s about getting things done. Such is the case when people refer to productivity aids as “cheat sheets.” The term itself is pejorative – implying dishonesty where none exists. So while “cheat sheets” is often how employees refer to their productivity aids – they’re not indicating their dishonesty. They’re indicating their desire to do what’s effective even if it goes against the culture of being well trained.

One of the challenges that productivity aids have is that “cheat sheets” took the place of traditional training – and thus cheated the instructor out of their work. We’ve kept this terminology despite the fact that the productivity aids have been hugely helpful for organizations of all sizes. We sell quick reference guides (a less pejorative terminology) to help users better navigate in SharePoint. We know from experience that they work.

Types of Performance Support

The world today is a world of electrons and atoms – in that order. More frequently than not we’re staring at resources electronically. Whether it’s a desktop computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone, we’re looking at a tool that has the capability of bringing performance support to us. That’s why it is important to understand the types of performance support that are available to us. One way of thinking is how integrated the support is into the flow of what you’re doing. Consider:

  1. External Support – You’ve got to stop what you’re doing and go someplace to get support.
  2. Extrinsic Support – You have to stop what you’re doing but the support is available directly in the system.
  3. Intrinsic Support – The support you need is integrated into the system so completely that you don’t stop your work.

One example of external support as the written manual for the software. You get up go find it, read it and then resume your work in the system. An example of extrinsic support is clicking on the link included in the system and then searching an online help from inside the application. An example of intrinsic support is a wizard that is walking you through the process.

However, all of these examples are examples of productivity aids that help you at the moment you’re in the task. That’s only one type of productivity aid.

Planning and Partners

The Job Aids and Performance Support speaks about two different kinds of productivity aids. The first kind is a planner. It helps you prepare for the task before it begins. It’s a checklist for what to pack before travel. It’s a resource planning worksheet that helps you select the right hardware. The second type they call a Sidekick. They’re with you at the moment of need – such as a language translation application, a French-to-English dictionary, or other resource to take with you.

Obviously each has its place. I’ve talked about my use of checklists as a pilot in my review of The Checklist Manifesto. However, checklists aren’t the only productivity aids that pilots use. When we’re doing planning we’ll use weight and balance worksheets, maps to plot our course and worksheets to plan our route, fuel, etc., pilots have a long history of using productivity aids that aren’t electronic and a growing dependence on electronic tools to reduce workflow, reduce errors, and improve safety.

In fact, I built a set of tools for myself for both planning and for use as a sidekick. Consider my diagram of the different kinds of airspace and the separation and communication requirements. It’s useful during the planning process – and sometimes as I’ve got to make changes to my plans in flight – say for instance due to cloud cover. I need both of them to be as safe as possible so sidekick or planner isn’t an either or decision – it’s one of what can you do as a planner and what can you do as a sidekick?

Integration and Tailoring

We’ve developed a fascination with the idea that we should personalize and tailor every experience but the jury is still out as to whether or not that’s the right way to go. As discussed above, the level of integration into the task being performed can have a massive impact on utility of the performance support. Research on the impact of tailoring – often called personalization is more dubious.

In a Jupiter Research study they found that the impact of personalization on a web site was about 8%. That is only 8% of respondents increased their access of web sites based on personalization. Jupiter Research called personalization a myth.

We’ve seen how advocates of personalization have cited the rise in calls like one-to-one marketing. One book, The One to One Future, was initially published in 1993. IBM is now selling Verse as a way to personalize your view of your work. Microsoft is selling Delve with the same aim. We’re already seeing our Facebook feed and our Google results silently adapted to what the algorithms believe are more like our interests – whether or not this matches our desire or not.

The idea of tailoring in all information – not just performance support – has been with us for a long time but the advent of big data has driven this to a new level where everyone seems interested in filtering the information we get for us – so that we don’t have to do it ourselves.

Amazon.com in particular, but other web sites as well, have used predictive analytics to improve their sales by recommending products that might be interesting based on the relationship of what we’ve searched for and what others have purchased. These patterns of behavior are aggregated and reflected back to us as suggestions in the page and an email if we fail to buy something after searching for it. They’ve built an efficient machine for getting us to find – and buy what we’re looking for.

The integration dimension is the dimension of how connected the productivity aid is to the process being done.

Should You Learn?

A more thought provoking question for the use of productivity aids is whether the productivity aid should teach the user – or whether the user should grab the productivity aid every time that they need the skill. Some are of the mind that productivity aids are replacement for training and therefore the goal of the productivity aid is to teach – but my belief system is different. I believe that in most cases in business we don’t train people so they’ll learn. That’s the side effect.

We train people in business to get them to be productive. We use training as a proxy for productivity because we don’t know how to measure productivity. If you view productivity aids from the lens of being a replacement for training it makes sense that you want to measure their effectiveness. However, consider the use of the humble calculator. While we teach every grade school child to be able to do basic math, we don’t rely on them executing large numbers of math operations without error. We give them a productivity aid in the form of a calculator so that we can eliminate the error rate as they learn more advanced mathematical concepts. So is the goal of the calculator to generate knowledge of basic math problems – no. The goal of the calculator as a productivity aid is to reduce the effort (cognitive load) and the error rate – not to teach basic math skills.

When to use Performance Support

There are eight conditions when the use of performance support systems are called for. They are:

  1. Performance is infrequent
  2. The situation is complex
  3. The consequences of error is intolerable
  4. Performance depends on a large body of information
  5. Performance is dependent on changing knowledge, procedures or approaches
  6. Performance can be improved by self-assessment and correction
  7. There is high turnover and the task is perceived to be simple.
  8. There is little time or few resources to devote to training.

Intranet as a Productivity Aid

In some sense I’ve been working on productivity aids my entire career. At some level the books that I write are self-study and therefore productivity aids. More directly, I’ve spent most of my career on intranets. I often see Intranets as Portal (Navigation), Content, and Applications. That is some of what an intranet does, point you to the right place. Part of what an intranet does is provide you the information you need. Finally, the remaining part of what an intranet does is provide applications you need to get your work done. Both of the first two components have aspects of productivity aids.

Providing navigation itself a form of productivity aid because it’s technically possible to teach everyone the different urls they need and places they need to go – however, this is impractical. It’s become overwhelming to have to remember so many different places to find things. So in this case the navigational aspect of the portal eliminates the need for learning – the user relies on the navigation of the portal for the information.

The second aspect, content, is often content that it’s possible for the user to learn but it too is impractical for them to learn completely. You can’t remember the details of the corporate benefits. Nor can you remember the ethical guidelines for accepting gifts from vendors. In truth, why should you? By providing easy access to information that you may need but don’t have the ability to commit to memory, the intranet is yet again serving as a productivity aid.

Committing to Memory

Sometimes we describe memorizing something as committing it to memory – that is that we’ve made a commitment to memorize it. We’ve made a decision that this is information that we need. The problem is that we’ve got a fixed amount of “commitment” that we can make to things. If we commit one thing to memory then we’re necessarily deciding that something else isn’t something we want to maintain. (See The ONE Thing for more on our fixed commitment.)

Also, as we design learning solutions – training programs if you prefer – how committed are the students to learning the information? Often times the training is required. The Learning Management System ensures that every person dutifully clicks their way through the required text and videos and guesses at the answers to the required questions until the requisite score is reached. How committed to learning are the students? Are they ready – or even able to commit this learning to memory? We learned from The Adult Learner that the information has to have a need to know, a foundation, a self-concept of the information, readiness, orientation, and motivation.

Measuring Effectiveness

One of the consistent challenges that I get when I work with folks in my daily work is the problem of assessment. Should we measure the uptime of the system? Should we measure the activity? Or should we measure the outcomes that the system is designed to address? The answer is all of them.

There are some low cost – and low value metrics – which you can and should capture. Metrics like uptime is useful in telling you whether the performance support system was available to help. Metrics like the activity of the system tells you whether people are using the system or not. Clearly these metrics are useful when we’re talking about electronic performance support – it’s harder to measure how many times that a worker reached over for a printed checklist.

However, the ultimate measure of any system is how it has impacted the business. If the performance support item is focused on reducing accidents then measuring the reduction in the number of incidents and accidents is a good way to measure the impact of the tool. If the performance support item is designed to support the sales department in their development of responses to requests for proposals then measuring the number of proposals won, the number of hours per proposal, or the amount of time before the deadline the proposal is done. Sometimes the ultimate goal, like getting more sales, involves so many factors that it’s not appropriate to measure the performance support tool with that measure – sometimes things like the increase in operational efficiency or in “readiness” is enough.

Seeing Good Performance

The hardest thing about measuring the effectiveness of productivity aids is measuring good performance. How do you know that a sales proposal is “good?” The ultimate measure is, of course, whether the customer buys but that’s a lagging indicator – it won’t show up until it’s too late. So what criteria can you use to determine whether you’re getting good performance out of the folks that are using performance support?

One approach is to measure readiness. That is, is the team operating at a point where they’re struggling against deadlines or do they have a good pressure between their backlog and their productivity? When the challenge is balanced against the skills people are more productive (See Finding Flow for more about the impact of balanced challenges and skills.)

However, this only works for a certain class of problems. Some problems, for instance writing a book, aren’t in a queue and don’t have real deadlines. In this case, how can you determine if your performance support helped someone write a book better? Certainly you can measure the time spent to complete the book – but there are no easy answers to spotting quality output – quality output enabled by a job aid or a performance support system.

The Heart & Soul of Change

Book Review-The Heart and Soul of Change: Delivering What Works in Therapy

I’ll be the first to admit that my reading list isn’t always the most mainstream. I can’t tell you how few people would find a book on effectiveness in psychotherapy interesting – but I know that it’s possible I’m in the minority here. However, I’ve been to a few counselors over the years. I’ve read more than my fair share of “self-help” books on psychology over the years and I began to become intrigued by the differences between different approaches and what different practitioners – whether authors or counselors – thought worked.

In The Heart and Soul of Change there’s the answer to how many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb. The answer is one. However, the lightbulb has to really want to change. As I read the chapters I began to form a picture in my mind about how therapy actually worked and how the process being followed isn’t the key – it’s the belief that things can change and will get better.

Placebo

One of the most interesting challenges in the research about what is and what isn’t effective therapy is the impact of the placebo effect. That is, how do you provide a service to someone that isn’t therapeutic? That’s pretty hard when you don’t know what is – and isn’t therapeutic. At some level just being heard can have some benefits so creating an environment that has no measurable impact is hard.

Harder still is the idea of a double-blind study. That is that neither the doctor (in this case therapist) nor the patient know whether the drug that they’re getting is active or simply a placebo. The therapist has to understand the course of treatment and anyone with professional certification will surely know if the treatment plan won’t produce effects.

While in medicine it’s called a placebo and the placebo effect, what’s really happening? The answer is hope. Quite simply, the most effective predictor of whether there will be progress made or not is the hope that there will be some change.

Hope

Hope is an amazing thing. It’s more resilient than any emotion known to man. You can push a man down. You can beat him up. As long as he’s got hope, he’ll be alright. Pandora’s Box is the mythical Greek story of Pandora who opened a box (or more accurately, a jar) containing all the evils of the world – and hope. Though hope was beaten down – lying on the bottom of the container – hope survived.

Hope is powerful stuff. In my own life the times when I’ve felt the worst is when I felt things were hopeless. I’m a relatively future focused guy (see The Time Paradox) and I firmly believe that having a growth mindset is essential. (See Mindset) I believe that hope is a mental wonder drug for a variety of maladies.

Are You Alright?

While we often ask “Are you alright?” we often are not interested in the answer. We don’t care about the other person, really. However, there are sometimes diseases and conditions which are met with scorn. Alcoholism, for instance, has a stigma associated with it that people believe if you are an alcoholic that you’re somehow a lesser person. For the most part, people have let go of this stigma when it comes to professional counseling, however, it’s not completely gone.

Still other factors, like cost are important. However, as barriers go, immediately after the factor of cost is the doubts of efficacy. In other words most people don’t believe that they can make things better by simply talking with a counselor. Perhaps this is because of a fixed mindset (See Mindset) but it could equally be that people know others who have tried counseling and it hasn’t made them any better. There is one mental health provider for every 350 people.

Choose Wisely

One of the interesting insights from the book is that the variability between therapists is larger than all of the other variability. That is more than any single factor the quality of the therapist that you choose will determine the outcome. The problem with this is that it’s nearly impossible for you to be able to determine a good therapist from a not-so-good therapist on the outside.

There are recommendations for standardized reporting and assessment of treatments but they’re so infrequently used that even if a centralized database were collected it wouldn’t be statistically valid.

So unfortunately the biggest impact on treatment outcome is a hard one for a consumer to control. Similarly, therapists are given a set of conditions that encourage better outcomes but no specific plan as to how they can become a better therapist. While there are some things that can be done (see the following sections) these don’t guarantee that the therapist will become better – it only makes the chances of positive outcomes more likely.

Set Clear Goals

One of the best things that you can do to improve outcomes in therapy is to decide on what you really want. That sounds really simple – and it is. However, it’s one of the keys to effective therapy – and in life. As Lewis Carol wrote “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Setting clear goals will help in nearly any aspect of our lives so it’s not surprising it helps with therapy.

Alliance

It’s powerful to feel like there’s someone who is on your side. Everyone wants someone who is in your corner. When it comes to therapy, the compatibility of the therapist’s behaviors and the client’s desires leads to a sense that the therapist is on the side of the client – or not. The research data says that the more effective the therapist is at helping build an alliance with the client, the better the results will be.

Therapist alliance is one of the most important factors considered – substantially more important than the chosen treatment. When you realize that nearly half of people who begin therapy never complete it, it is little wonder why alliance is so important.

Pain of Changing and the Pain of Staying the Same

When people enter therapy they presumably do so because there is some level of pain in their life. Perhaps their marriage isn’t fulfilling their needs. Perhaps they’re stuck in a dead end job. Maybe they’re dealing with a sense of guilt or shame from the way that they were raised. Rarely does someone walk into a therapy office saying “I feel great, but I want to feel even better.”

However, making any kind of a change has a cost and the cost of making a personal change is often times pain. Often it’s the pain of changing that keeps people stuck in their bad situations. The pain – or the fear of pain – prevents people from breaking out of the cycle that they’re in.

Pain is sometimes a difficult (or crucial) conversation. (See Crucial Conversations) Pain is sometimes rewiring old bad habits.

Rules and Guidelines

One of the questions that comes up is whether there are a rigid set of rules that must be adhered to in therapy or in a specific therapy. Or conversely, is too much adherence to a rigid set of rules detrimental. The answer seems to be mixed. It seems that in some cases the rules are an important part of getting good outcomes in therapy and in others the opposite is true that the rules become too restrictive and they make it harder to be successful.

A rule is a specific statement of what can and cannot be done. It provides a clear delineation between complying and disobeying. This is great when the ultimate goal is arbitrary. Consider for a moment the idea of someone who eats too much. The rule may be that they need to eat what’s on their meal plan for the day – and only their meal plan. That’s a rule.

In the case of someone who struggles with eating disorders this might be an appropriate rule. However, ultimately as time goes on and there’s a greater understanding and appreciation for things it makes sense to shift to guidelines. Consider the guideline that you should be on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you’re under one day and over the next it’s OK. However, if you’re over for several days in a row – particularly if you’re significantly over – the guideline breaks down.

So rules are good when you can’t put together the thinking processes that will support long term good behavior. Yes, they’re restrictive but they may be useful for a time. This is particularly helpful with addicts. Is it true that every alcoholic will lose themselves to their addition if they take one drink? Probably not, however, if you don’t set the standard at one drink where do you set the standard?

Longer term in most cases a guideline that can be processed by the client seems to be a better answer. In some situations, like the alcoholic above, it may be that it has to be a rule and never get converted to a guideline – but that’s not the rule – it’s the exception.

The more you can help folks climb from apprentice to journeyman to mastery of a space the more you can move to guidelines instead of rules. You can look at my post titled Apprentice, Journeyman, Master for more information.

Client Resources and Discoveries

Have you ever had a friend come up to you and thank you for advice that you never gave them? They earnestly believe that you told them to pursue a relationship, a job, or a hobby that you don’t remember recommending to them? If so you’ve experienced what can happen when you’re listening to other people. They form their own opinions of what you’re saying – whether you say it or not.

Sometimes you share some part of an idea but they combine it with something else they knew, another idea, or something else and they come up with something totally different than your original intent but yet they still attribute the idea back to you.

The research seems to show that clients are more successful when they’re relying on their own resources to get better. They utilize the things that they’ve been taught and don’t depend upon the therapist to solve their problems but instead find ways to solve their own problems with the information and tools that they have. There’s no escaping the fact that it’s the client that has to do the work.

Quick Fixes

Pseudo-science sells. Everyone wants the weight loss pill that will solve their weight management problems. They crave the easy solution to quit smoking. They long for an easy way for their marriage to be better. The fact of the matter is that we want is the quick and easy. In many cases healing our thinking is a lasting change– but it is not always quick. Consider that 32% of the medical studies in highly regarded journals didn’t hold up to later studies. There’s concern that published research findings might easily be proven false.

If you can get any supposed expert to say something positive for the price of a consulting fee, how can you trust that what you’re reading is real?

Talking and Taking

Psychotherapies are as effective as drugs – though the efficacy may be quicker with drugs. However, the effects of psychotherapy continues on after the therapy ends where with psychotropic medications the drugs must be continued to continue to receive the effects. We’re facing an epidemic of prescribed drugs without therapy. We’ve become a world consumed by people who are expecting some magic pill to be the quick fix they want – without the pain of having to confront the real issues and address them.

The High Cost of Mental Health

Mental health workers are making less and less. However, the cost in the mental health system isn’t the cost of mental health. The cost of mental health in our society is the impact it has on our health care system. As mentioned in Change or Die 80% of our medical expenses are spent addressing what are effectively behavioral – or mental health problems. Add to that the fact that mental health disorders rank first among causes of disability in the United States and Western Europe.

The cost of our inability to manage our mental health is quite literally our physical health and our ability to contribute to the society.

Play it Again Sam

Rounding out the coverage in the book is that paraprofessionals (think life coaches, bartenders, hair stylists, etc.) may do as well as professionals. That’s actually interesting since I’m not likely to ever pursue a career as a licensed counselor. However, I might entertain a life coaching certification if the conditions are right.

The research has shown that consumers have grown weary of services that treat mental illnesses and substance abuse as lifelong conditions. While I believe that there is a dramatic amount of improvements that can be made quickly, I’d personally recommend periodic check-ins. However, this weariness may lead folks who have traditionally chosen counseling to consider options like coaching and other alternative ways of getting help.

Finally, research shows that by the time a client is ready to tell you that there’s a problem, they’ve already decided that it’s time to leave. So for a group of insightful people perhaps it’s a good idea to listen more carefully to the clients. Of course, a good starting point is reading what does and doesn’t work in therapy and that is The Heart and Soul of Change.

Crucial Conversations

Book Review-Crucial Conversations

With seven children in the house, a wife, and people I work with, it feels like I move from one crucial conversation to another. It feels like I move from one conversation that is important to my relationship with someone to the next one. Certainly I’m no stranger to looking for skills to improve my communication and relationship with others (See Boundaries, Beyond Boundaries, How to Be an Adult in Relationships, The Science of Trust, etc. ), however, I felt like Crucial Conversations would offer a different perspective. I felt like it might be a good capstone for some of my research on how to manage difficult conversations. It didn’t disappoint.

Truth and Love

For me the heart of Crucial Conversations is the idea that you need to speak your truth in love. That is you have to be open and share your perception of reality with everyone at the table but you have to do so in a way that recognizes and respects the other people at the table and that their perspectives and values may be different.

I’ve spoken about truth – and the fact that it’s our truth not a universal truth – in my reviews of Beyond Boundaries, How to Be an Adult in Relationships, and Changes that Heal. Nearly every time truth comes up it’s balanced by grace or love. That is truth is a cold harsh reality that we can’t always handle. If we give folks pure truth, their ego defenses are likely to kick in and protect them – because they can’t handle the truth. (See Defensive Routines and my review of Change or Die.) At least most folks can’t handle the truth without love.

Owning Our Problems

Certainly there are situations that we didn’t create and we didn’t control. For me the most obvious example is the death of my brother. I had no control over that event – and no influence. However, most of our general circumstances and most of our problems have some component that we’ve created. If you’ve got a strained relationship with your children you own the times that you made a cutting comment. (I’ve made them too.) If you’re struggling financially it can certainly be that you were burdened with something that was your fault. It’s also possible that you decided that you had to have the latest car, iPhone, or handbag. Even a few of these indulgences or necessary status symbols can create a drain on your financial resources that have left you with challenges.

Consider for a moment what would happen to your finances each month if you didn’t have a house payment or a car payment. Most folks in the US have both a house payment and one or two car payments. These expenses represent a large amount of income. What if you could get to the point you could buy cars with cash and eventually pay off your mortgage. So sometimes our financial problems are problems of our own making.

In the context of relationships rarely are our hands truly clean. We roll our eyes at someone, treat them disrespectfully, or ignore them and later wonder why they treat us with hostility. It’s much more productive for us to realize that the only people that we can change are ourselves. We can’t change others. We can only reliably change our behaviors. If we get a different result from others, great.

We have to sweep our side of the street and get it truly clean before we can look across the street and complain at our neighbor not keeping their side of the street clean. (Here’s a secret we never really finish cleaning our side of the street so we can never get to the point of pointing out how dirty the other side is.)

Polaris

The north start, Polaris, is a constant reference point for us here on earth. Unlike the other stars in the sky which seem to move constantly, Polaris maintains the appearance of being constant. This fixed point is useful as we’re trying to navigate the world and navigate conversations. Without some fixed point of reference it’s very easy to wander through crucial conversations never knowing where to go next.

For us the north star are the answers to questions like “Who do you want to be?” This question can be expressed multiple ways. Perhaps the most humorous draws from old Tombstone pizza commercials where gunslingers in the old west would ask “What do you want on your tombstone?” – of course, they were talking about pizza but the somewhat morbid question is a great one. Said differently, what do you want someone to say at your eulogy? As morbid as this sounds it’s a fixed question. You know there will be nothing else that you can do. What legacy do you want to leave?

Another slightly less morbid line of thinking is to ask “What do you want?” Though it’s easy enough to answer with platitudes (See Nine Keys to SharePoint Success and The Fifth Discipline) of happiness, wealth, etc. it is a question with merit. It’s a question that when answered can help you know where you’re going and what you want to do with your life – besides live and die.

The Importance of Safety

I’ve spoken before of the importance of feeling safe. (See Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy, How Children Succeed, and Discussion and Dialog.) We will ensure our own safety – or at least the feeling of safety – in our communications with others. We’ll draw that safety from our own inner sense of security or from the true sense of safety in the conversation. It’s that safety that will allow you to be vulnerable.

Mutual Respect

One of the challenges when working with others is being able to see the positive qualities they bring to the conversation. When someone speaks in a language that is different than ours we often struggle to acknowledge their point. In the book Dialogue, we learned about three ways of conversing – about feeling, meaning, and power. When someone is concerned about forward progress (power) and another person is interested in the feelings of the parties, it will be hard to find common ground.

In an old story blind men come upon an elephant and each of them touches a different part and therefore each of them describes the elephant differently. One touched the tail and said it was like a rope, another the leg and said it was like a pillar, another the ear and said it was like a fan, another touched the belly and described it as a wall, and finally one touched the tusk and described it as a solid pipe. None of the descriptions is adequate to describe the elephant, however, each of them has a bit of truth to their description. The different parts of the elephant are like this. The problem is that none of their perspectives is complete.

In some versions of the story the blind men collaborate to build a complete picture of the elephant, in others they’re told that they’re all partially right but also wholly wrong. The point is that you have to maintain respect for others perspectives because they may just be “seeing” something that you’re not.

Look Higher for Common Ground

One way to encourage dialogue is to seek a place where the goals are in alignment and go from there. If you’re in a meeting with a sales team and a delivery team finding common ground may be hard to do. The sales team is looking for something they can sell to the client. The delivery team is looking for something they can deliver. In these specific goals there may not be common ground.

However, both groups want the customer to be happy. Both groups want the organization to make money so that they’ll have the potential to keep their jobs. When viewed at a macro level, there is no common ground but when you move to higher purposes – or look at the perspectives from a longer distance you’ll see that ultimately both groups do want the same thing – even if their paths to the goal are different.

Victim, Villain, and Helpless Stories

Much of the way that we experience the world isn’t reality. Just like the blind men and the elephant, we don’t individually see the same perspective. We don’t see the same reality until we get our stories together. Sometimes, however, we don’t tell helpful stories. Sometimes, instead, we tell stories that make it harder for us to move forward (See Mindset for more about how we can get stuck into fixed thinking).

The first story that we tell ourselves is that we’re a victim – or more accurately an innocent victim. We say that the universe has done us wrong and we deserve better – we’re entitled to something better. (See Anatomy of Peace for more about the entitlement box.) In truth we’re rarely a complete victim. (See Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy for more about not putting ourselves into bad situations.)

The second story is a classic hero and villain story. In our stories we are, of course, the heros but that’s not the focus. The focus is on the dastardly villain. The story lays out why someone else is being mean to us. Fundamental attribution error leads us to believe that our mistakes are based on circumstances but that those of another person are about their character. (For more about fundamental attribution error see The Advantage, Switch, and Beyond Boundaries.)

The final story is the story of the helpless. There’s nothing that little ole me can do about the problem. In The Time Paradox this is a fatalistic perspective. My favorite quote about this is one from Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Of course, you can argue that you’re not a small group – so go find your group.

These stories only serve to destroy dialogue and to make it more difficult to have crucial conversations.

Priming Conversations

Having several children it’s easy to get a playground to test how to make a conversation go well or go poorly. There’s always an opportunity to test how the startup of a conversation leads to an outcome. (See The Science of Trust for more about soft-startup.)

The truth is that in most cases the startup of the conversation has a significant influence on the outcome. (See Collaborative Intelligence for more on the impact of setup.) When I approach one of the children with humility and apologize about something that I’ve done to offend them, we have better results – they’re more interested in being open. I see this in all sorts of conversations. If I open a conversation revealing my true feelings the results are almost universally better.

Consider me telling someone that I’m excited for Christmas – that I’m looking forward to seeing the kids faces as they open gifts. That’s certainly true, however, it’s also not very revealing. It’s something everyone will say about entering Christmas. A deeper response – one that would open up the others I’m speaking with – is that I have trepidations because I don’t know whether all of my family members will behave. I’m anxious because I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten to get a gift for one of my nieces or nephews. Those are not predictable responses and they’re very real.

The more you’re able to prime the conversation with reality – with how you’re really feeling – and with admissions of wrong doing the better the results will be.

Empathy for How Someone Feels

Sometimes it helps to acknowledge how the other person feels – even if you don’t believe that the feeling is justifiable or that you caused it. In truth, you can’t cause a feeling in someone else. They choose to have a feeling. You can create a set of conditions that might reasonably lead to it – but that doesn’t make them feel a certain way. I can feel sympathy for their unpleasant feelings even if I don’t accept that I caused them.

I’m not suggesting that I can abdicate my responsibility to be in relationship with them. Instead, I’m saying that you can empathize with them without accepting guilt. (See Daring Greatly for more on guilt and shame and Boundaries about accepting responsibility.) Consider the pain that my son feels when I have a nurse administer a flu vaccine. Am I sorry that I had the nurse do it? No. Am I sorry that it had some level of pain associated with it? Absolutely.

How Decisions Are Made

Fundamentally there are four ways that decisions are made. They are:

  • Command – A proclamation is made by the leader and everyone ostensibly follows the decision.
  • Consult – Ultimately the leader makes the decision as in a Command type decision but in this case the leader surveys for opinions.
  • Vote – In this case a vote is taken with the stakeholders (however that is defined) and the results of the vote is the decision – even though not everyone agreed with it.
  • Consensus – Discussion or dialogue continues until every stakeholder can defend the decision. This is by far the most difficult approach to reaching a decision.

One could easily conclude that the best answer to how to make decisions is to build consensus, however, this isn’t necessarily the best approach. Anyone who has tried to reach a consensus for where to take a group out to lunch will tell you that sometimes getting consensus just isn’t worth the effort. That’s why we often settle for voting – because getting consensus is to lofty a goal to expect in every situation.

Dialogue

The book uses the title conversations but the ultimate goal of conversations is to enter into a dialogue. That is, the goal is to enter into an open and safe conversation that makes allowance for everyone’s perspective, talents, and benefits. You can find more about dialogue in my book review of the book review of Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together.

Whether you’re willing and able to have dialogues with everyone you meet, there are some useful skills that you can learn by reading Crucial Conversations.

Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights

Book Review-Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights

It was October of 2011 when I reviewed Gary Klein’s book Sources of Power. Since I read and reviewed it, I’ve referred to it repeatedly. While preparing to see if Gary would respond to a question about knowledge management, I realized that last year he published another book – Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights – and I knew I had to read it. In fact it usurped the normal backlog of reading and got placed directly at the top. That’s what happens for me when you have an author you respect on a topic that’s intriguing.

I’ve been writing and working in the space of innovations lately. (See Diffusion of Innovations, Unleashing Innovation, Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results, and Creative Confidence) I’ve been separating ideas from innovation – because innovation is about the execution of an idea. However, what sorts a great idea from a good one? How do you know which ideas to push through execution for? Well, that takes insight. That takes the ability to see the entire environment and know which things are important and which are not. This is exactly the kind of thing that Klein spoke about in Sources of Power – he spoke of recognition primed decisions.

Blurry Vision

As it turns out there has been a reasonable amount of interest and study about insights all the way back to Graham Wallas who wrote The Art of Thought in 1926. Wallas described a four-stage model of insight:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination
  • Verification

The model, according to Klein, is still them most common model for describing insight. That makes sense if it’s the model that has been around the longest. Through the course of the book Klein looks at ways that the model is useful and how there are problems with the model. He looks at examples where incubation didn’t have time to happen and examples where there wasn’t any specific preparation – only a generally prepared mind.

In the end, Klein believes in a different model that flows from three points rather than a single linear model.

Triple Path

Klein believes that insights are developed through three different paths: Contradiction, Connection, and Creative Desperation. Let’s take a look at these three paths and how they create insights.

Contradiction

Sources of Power talked about the mental models that the fire commanders build. They would simulate how the fire would behave and develop expectancies. They’d monitor the fire and the situation for anything they didn’t expect and that all of the things that they expected were true. These were guide posts that helped the fire commanders know when something was wrong. (You’ll also find discussions of mental models in Thinking, Fast and Slow, Compelled to Control, Dialogue Mapping, and The Fifth Discipline.)

Contradictions are at their heart this mental model engine hitting Tilt! It’s when A+B cannot equal C. It’s like someone saying they built a submarine-airplane. Airplanes are necessarily light and submarines are necessarily designed to withstand immense external pressure. Those design goals are mutually exclusive. By modeling how planes must be built and how submarines must be built it’s possible to see that it’s not possible to build a single vehicle that does both.

Mental models are built on anchors. They’re built on what we believe to be true. However, sometimes these anchors aren’t true. The anchor could be something we read, something we intuitively know, or something that someone else has told us. Contradictions form insights by removing these poor anchors and replacing them with new anchors that more accurately represent reality.

Connection

Years ago I was working with a school system and we needed a way to handle non-repudiation. That is that we wanted to ensure that teacher evaluations weren’t tampered with after their signature. Historically this is handled by having each party initial every single page of a contract. At the time I was doing some security work with hashes. A hash is a mathematical reduction of source information into a non-predictable output. A small change in the source data produces a very large change in the output of the hash. This prevents tampering of a message in transit.

However, the connection for me came that we could print the hash of the evaluation on a signature page. The signature page could be scanned into the system and would verify that the teacher had signed off on the evaluation with the same hash. They couldn’t say later that they hadn’t seen the comments that were in their review. The solution (the insight) came from the fact that I was working on different things around the same time. I was able to look for solutions to the problem which bridged outside of the normal boundaries for the solution.

The kinds of connections that you have matter. Tight bonds will bring a group together into a cohesive unit creating the concern for groupthink. Groupthink is the problem where groups will begin to think alike and thus lose the diversity needed for new insights. (See Collaborative Intelligence for more on group collaboration and groupthink.) However, tight bonds aren’t bad. Tight knit communities and connections to others at a deep level are powerful in their ability to improve our overall mood and health as was mentioned in my review of Change or Die.

However, as Everett Rodgers discovered and discussed in Diffusion of Innovations, the more cosmopolitan that someone is the more likely that they’ll adopt an innovation. Rodgers says that cosmopolitan people are more connected outside of their core sphere. They’re bridging people who bring innovations across different groups of people.

This blog is an attempt to be generally prepared for insights. I’ve mentioned part of my process of reading in my post Research in the age of electrons. That’s the mechanics of reading and capturing my notes for books. What’s missing is the process I go through after this to write the blog post. The whole process is designed from a learning perspective to ensure that I am able to internalize the concepts. In my writing I make a specific point to find the connections to other works that I’ve read, other reviews that I’ve done, and other concepts that are or at least seem to be related.

While some of the connections may be insights, I don’t expect that they are. I simply expect that by making connections frequently, by teaching my mind to look for them and explore them, that I’ll be able to find them in other areas of my life. As a side effect, readers of my blog can experience a pearl growing aspect of knowledge management. Pearl growing is the placing of links in the content to refer to other places for more information. The pearl growing technique helps adult learners find ways to have the content reach them where they’re at which is an essential part of adult learning (See The Adult Learner.)

Creative Desperation

We’ve all been in bad situations and have felt trapped at some point or another. While most of us haven’t been literally trapped, we’ve felt trapped. Words and phrases like “there is nothing I can do,” “It’s out of my hands,” and “it can’t be helped” are good examples of that feeling of being trapped. We’re trapped by our beliefs. We believe that we can’t change anything. Carol Dweck researched about this fixed mindset, this learned helplessness in her book Mindset. (See The Paradox of Choice, Who Am I?, and Bonds that Make Us Free for more about learned helplessness and Boundaries, Beyond Boundaries, Daring Greatly, Change or Die, and The Fifth Discipline on the related topic of victimhood.)

Our beliefs trap us only to the point where we’re ready to reevaluate them and decide whether or not we can continue to afford those beliefs any longer. In Boundaries and Beyond Boundaries, the authors Cloud and Townsend speak about the boundaries that we create with other people – the beliefs we have about what we will and won’t allow. They break boundaries into defining boundaries – the violation of which would change who we are – and temporary boundaries – those that we need for now but may not be necessary forever.

No matter what the boundary type, we can create situations for ourselves that trap us. To get out of that trap requires that we remain stuck or creatively get out of the problem by changing one of our beliefs. This is at the heart of creative desperation. We’re pained by being trapped to the point that we change one of our beliefs. We create a solution – an insight – because we’re left with no other options.

Creative desperation may not be as popular a way to create insight because as humans we tend to be less creative when we’re stressed. (See Drive and Creative Confidence for more on the impact of stress and creativity.) However, despite this some people overcome this by using their focused energies on the problem in creative – and sometimes radical ways. The result is a special kind of insight.

Anchors Away

The language that Klein uses for beliefs is the word anchor. That is we’re anchored to a particular way of seeing things. Insight changes the way that you see the world. Just like the curse of knowledge (See The Art of Explanation), you can’t see the world the same way that you did before the insight. The old anchor – the old belief – that you had is gone, moved, or radically changed. That’s the job of insights, to change the way that you see the world. Ideally old anchors are replaced with new ones that free us from limitations.

Verbalization

One of the problems with trying to study insights is that the very act of asking people to verbalize their thinking process interferes with it – as we saw in The Paradox of Choice. In this case, the research says that those who were asked to describe why they liked something (a poster) liked it less. In the space of learning we know that assessing education too quickly can disrupt the educational process. (See Efficiency in Learning.) It’s no wonder why trying to understand what causes insights is so difficult. It’s something that you have to be careful about how you measure because the measurement interferes with the process itself.

A long time ago I was in a class by Denny Faurote and as a part of the exercise he offered up to the class that someone could try to build a puzzle pyramid. Unbeknownst to me when I volunteered to try to solve the puzzle, he actually disrupted my solving it. I was close and he injected a question to disrupt my thinking at the critical moment because the illustration wouldn’t have worked if I had solved the puzzle – and he feared that I was about to. He confided in me that he had done it after the class – and I wasn’t upset. To me it was interesting to see how sometimes subtle distractions can prevent insight.

Errors and Insights

Sometimes the disruption comes from intentional or unnatural sources and sometimes the disruption for insights comes from other systems inside the organization. Many organizations are faced with trying to do more with less. Organizations, by their very nature, are designed to minimize errors and disruptions. It’s fundamental to the process of organizing to be able to predict the outcome. It’s the point of an organization to create repeatability. Many organizations have implemented programs like Lean Six Sigma (LSS), which are designed to eliminate waste (lean) and errors (Six Sigma). However, Klein cites sources that state that organizations that have implemented programs like this ultimately end up trailing other organizations in overall performance. Why?

The answer seems to be that so much effort into reducing errors inhibits the ability to generate insights. Where LSS is implemented it’s hard to do something beyond the norm. It’s difficult to get the organization to take a chance, to take a risk, or to seize a disruptive opportunity. Insights are directly opposed to the kind of predictability and status quo that reducing errors requires.

I sometimes talk about natural and unnatural conflict. Natural conflict are conflicts that are natural and predictable. For instance, developers and IT infrastructure folks are naturally setup for conflict. IT infrastructure folks are measured on reliability and up time. Developers are measured on their ability to implement new features into the systems. New features introduce change and risk. There in is the natural conflict between the two groups. For one to do their job they have to make it harder for the other to do theirs. Errors and Insights are the same thing – one disrupts the other. If you err too much on the reduction of errors you’ll inadvertently reduce the insights.

Perseverance

How Children Succeed calls it “grit.” Dan and Chip Heath might call it “stickiness.” (Referencing their book Made to Stick.) Perseverance is one of the key characteristics of insights. While it may not be possible to determine whether you should stick to a belief and persist or whether you should simply persist at changing your frame of references, persistence in attempting to learn is key to generating insights. Join the journey by reading Seeing What Others Don’t and start your own persistence in finding the insights that others don’t.

Multipliers

Book Review-Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

As a consultant for the better part of my career, I have had the opportunity to move between organizations fairly fluidly. I’ll be working with a manager for a few months or a few years and then move to the next project at the next organization. One of the things that has always fascinated me was the different levels of productivity that exist between different teams in different organizations. Some organizations can’t seem to get anything done and other organizations seem to fluidly manage an avalanche of projects and conflicting priorities. Some of how the best leaders I’ve worked with manage to get more out of people than the people believed they were capable of. That’s what the book Multipliers is all about. It’s about the people who are able to extract more from the people they have and make them successful – as opposed to those who crush the souls of those who work for them. I’ve seen both.

Five Disciplines

Multipliers says that there are five disciplines in which multipliers differentiate themselves from diminishers. They are:

  1. Attract and Optimize Talent (Talent Magnet)
  2. Create Intensity that Requires Best Thinking (Liberator)
  3. Extend Challenges (Challenger)
  4. Debate Decisions (Debate Maker)
  5. Instill Ownership and Accountability (Investor)

Trial and Error

I mentioned in my review of Changes that Heal that a friend of mine had said that I never fail – and after I finished laughing I explained that I fail all the time. The problem is that it isn’t just something that has accidentally happened to me. It’s not like it was a once in a while thing. It’s happening all the time. I recently did a set of interviews with development startups. These were people that were “making it” in their businesses. They aren’t the blockbuster successes that they may be in the future – but they have some measure of success.

However, as I learned more about them I realized that they all had multiple failures in what they were doing. Some started as a product company slipped into doing consulting to pay the bills and started moving back to products – only to fail again at developing a product. Eventually they would get to a point where they didn’t fail with their products, they just broke even. However, the next attempt was more successful – most of the time.

A.G. Lafley, the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble said, “You want your people to fail early, fast, and cheap – and then learn from it.” The expectation is that you’ll fail. Not that it will happen sometimes but that it’s an expected outcome – an expected outcome of trying. This is something that multipliers inherently know. They know that the only way to become a failure is not to try. However, as Lafley said, you have to learn from it. Bill Campbell, the former CEO of Intuit said it directly “You have to be smart enough to learn.”

It’s not enough to fail. It’s not enough to find a thousand ways to not make a light bulb. You have to learn about what you’re doing wrong to change the results. Edison was famously said to realize that air was leaching out of the materials and so his first success occurred because he created a vacuum in the bulb – waited several minutes and then activated the vacuum pump again to remove the air that leached out and he had success. That’s learning what wasn’t working and figuring out what to do about it.

K.R. Sridar the CEO of Bloom Energy said that you have to “separate the experiment from the outcome.” He has zero tolerance for those who don’t try to learn – but grace to accept the experimental failures that are bound to occur.

Talent Magnets

The first type of multiplier that the book covered is the talent magnet. They’re described as having four key characteristics:

  1. Look for talent everywhere
  2. Find people’s native genius
  3. Utilize people at their fullest
  4. Remove the blockers

Talent magnets can be observed in other ways as well. Talent magnets are really good at ignoring organizational charts. They’ll speak to both the highest person in the organization and the lowest on the organizational chart to accomplish their mission. They know that good ideas come from everywhere – not just a few elite people at the top.

Talent magnets also have little tolerance for prima donnas. We all have egos. However, our egos often get in our way. How to Be an Adult in Relationships talks about how the ego can become too big. The Happiness Hypothesis has my favorite metaphor for the way we think that centers on the Freudian view of the ego, id, and superego. I spoke about the need for an appropriately sized ego in my post for The Wisdom of Not Invented Here. While egos are essential, sometimes it’s necessary to get them under control – or get the person who holds the ego out of the organization. This reminds me of the concept of tall poppies which I discussed in my review of Humilitas. People whose egos cause them to raise their heads too high may need to be cut off.

Hard and Soft Opinions

One trick to leading people is trying to figure out where to put the rails. Rails guide employees. They tell them what is in and out of bounds. For instance, you may be able to authorize a $500 expense but not a $50,000 expense. That’s a rail – a guideline. However, equally challenging is communicating to employees what are rails and what things are just your “off the cuff” thoughts at the moment. As an employer there are some things that I absolutely want done the way that I want them done. There are also things that I don’t care how they get done as long as they do get done.

Multipliers calls this hard and soft opinions. Hard opinions are ones that are well formed and ones that employees are expected to abide by. Soft opinions are the “off the cuff” thoughts that employees can use as a starting point – but that they shouldn’t be compelled to follow. I’ve personally erred on both sides of this equation. Sometimes when I haven’t thought about something well I’ll make a comment and fail to identify it as just a soft opinion. It’s treated as the way things needed to be done. Conversely I sometimes fail to set out the hard opinions to keep folks reigned in. I’ve been known to have projects go “off the rails” because I’ve not communicated well what the rails are.

Liberators

The second kind of multiplier that is discussed is the liberator. These are multipliers whose magic is created in their ability to create space for employees to be their best. There are three key ways that they create this space:

  1. Equity in the Firm – They create a sense that the person owns a part of the company, the mission, and the results. This may not be literal ownership but it’s always the sense of ownership.
  2. Close Encounters – They interact with employees in supportive ways. Beyond just letting them fail they encourage employees that are struggling.
  3. A Master Teacher – Drive mentioned that motivation is created by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Liberators create the opportunity for employees to be masters.

There are techniques that liberators use to accomplish their goals.

  1. Play your Chips – Liberators limit their talk time. They try to listen much more than they speak. You can imagine a set of poker chips that you have to play when you speak. You get one for 30 seconds, one for 60 seconds, and one for 90 seconds. How would you limit your speaking if you had so little time to speak? In truth to get the most out of others, that’s all the time you may have.
  2. Label Your Opinions – I mentioned above the challenges of hard and soft opinions. Liberators are effective at letting employees know where the rails are – and where they can innovate.
  3. Make your Mistakes Known – In many contexts I’ve discovered that admitting your mistakes opens others up. Like trust it’s reflexive (See Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy for more on trust). If you’re willing to admit your mistakes – including both those that people already know about and those that they don’t – others will be more open with you and be more comfortable sharing their mistakes with you.

Challengers

In How Children Succeed there is a conversation about how children need to be challenged to be able to grow properly. Children aren’t the only ones who need challenges to grow. Challengers know how to create an intellectual curiosity that causes people to challenge themselves. Like in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains in Finding Flow, when people have the right balance of capabilities and challenge they do their best work. Challengers create situations by asking questions, putting people in challenging situations, and by taking big steps.

Debate Makers

Sometimes we believe that debate isn’t a positive experience. However, Hubert Humphrey, our Vice President under Lyndon Johnson said, “Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.” Alfred Sloan, the former CEO of General Motors said, “Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here.… Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.” (The quote is from Mindset.) In other words, we need debate. Without debate we’re no better than the smartest one among us (or the person in charge.) Debate makers do three key things to make the debate:

  1. Frame the issues – Help shape the debate by defining what the issues are. (See how this is impactful in Dialogue and Dialogue Mapping)
  2. Spark the debate –Debate makers create a safe and rigorous environment where there’s an energy toward resolving the debate while respecting the parties involved. A great debate is:
    1. Engaging – Everyone in attendance wants to be a part of the discussion.
    2. Comprehensive – It creates a holistic understanding of the issues at hand.
    3. Fact based – Deeply rooted in facts, not opinions. (In God we trust, all others bring data.)
    4. Educational – No matter who “won or lost” everyone feels like they gained new understanding and that it was the learning that was important.
  3. Drive sound decisions – In the end a debate isn’t an opportunity to exercise our lungs. It’s an opportunity to reach a decision. Debate makers ensure that debates end with decisions.

Investors

Investors build in the people that follow them. They create opportunities for them to grow. Here are four key things that investors do:

  1. Let them know who is Boss – Counterintuitively, Investors give their employees 51% of the vote for what to do. They’re accountable for the decisions but they’re also responsible for making the calls.
  2. Let nature take its course – As was mentioned above, everyone needs the opportunity to fail – and learn from it. Investors make a point of letting their people learn the hard lessons.
  3. Ask for the Fix – Employees are often willing to defer to a boss’ ability to resolve a problem. Develop the habit of asking employees to provide you with a fix when they provide you with the problem.
  4. Hand Back the Pen – There are times in every leaders work when it’s appropriate to start to lead the discussion. However, the most powerful thing that a leader can do is to hand the pen back as soon as the situation can be handled by an employee.

Accelerators

Multipliers ends with three recommendations for what to do:

  1. Work the extremes – Address the weaknesses that are holding you back – while enhancing your greatest strengths. It takes only one or two strengths to be very successful – as long as there are no blockers.
  2. Start with Assumptions – Instead of trying to deal with individual behaviors that you don’t like, focus on your assumptions and attitudes. If you develop the right assumptions then the behaviors will follow.
  3. Take the 30-day Multiplier Challenge – Take 30 days to work on just one aspect of your ability to be a maximizer. See if working just one area doesn’t make a difference.

That’s a great way to end – are you willing to become a better leader by working on one weakness for 30 days? Maybe you should pick up Multipliers and see how it can be done.

Schools Without Failure

Book Review-Schools without Failure

With seven children in various parts of their educational journey, one could understand why I’d want to understand more about schools and what can be done to prevent failure. However, the truth is that reading Schools without Failure was triggered by a conversation with my friend Ben Gibson. We were exchanging emails about the idea of an integrated self-image and he suggested I look at Glasser’s work. Candidly, when Ben recommends that I read something – I read it. He’s been an educator his entire career. Currently on the school board in Bay City Michigan – where I attended high school – I know he’s seen education from nearly every point of view. As a student of his while in high school and at college, I know that he has a passion for students learning. Being honored to be called his friend, I know that he thinks deeply about how to make the process better for everyone.

However, as I’ll often lament, education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Or rather, the way that we try to educate children and adults isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve looked at the adult learning problem with Malcolm Knowles work captured in The Adult Learner. I’ve looked at education – life education – in How Children Succeed. Overall I studied the book Efficiency in Learning to learn what techniques decreased cognitive load and improved retention. Where those studies focused on the individual learner, Schools without Failure is more focused on the systems in play in the learning environment. (See The Fifth Discipline and Thinking in Systems for more about systems thinking.)

Conditioning in Failure

Sometimes the unintended side effects of our actions and behaviors are very problematic. (See Diffusion of Innovations). Sometimes we unintentionally make things worse. According to Glasser, that can happen by providing failing marks in grade school – and school in general. Carol Dweck discussed the problem of a fixed mindset – that we can’t change our situation – in her book Mindset. Effectively, we can discourage children into a state of “learned helplessness” as discussed in Boundaries and The Paradox of Choice and Change or Die. Conditioning in failure occurs beyond the classroom – however, there’s no reason why it should continue into the classroom. Girls in disadvantaged situations see marriage as their only option for getting out of the situation they’re in – even if they don’t believe their marriage will last. They feel like their situation is hopeless in part because of the community that they’re in. The social norms don’t value education and few people that they come in contact with are successful.

We learned in Switch and The Happiness Hypothesis of the Rider-Elephant-Path model which speaks of the subtle power that cultural norms have. When the cultural norm doesn’t include education and doesn’t include getting out of poverty that’s what students expect. That isn’t to say that there’s no responsibility for the student to lift themselves out of the muck; rather, it’s to understand the factors and conditions that lead so many students to give up. One of Glasser’s points is that you can’t accept that just because a student is disadvantaged that they will fail. There are plenty of successful people who have come from disadvantaged situations. The problem isn’t hopeless. The problem is hopeful for those teachers and students that know you can be successful with hard work.

Love, Self-Worth, and Identity

A lack of love while growing up has repeatedly shown up in the literature as something that creates problems downstream. How Children Succeed speaks of rats who are more adventuresome because they received more licking and grooming. How to be an Adult in Relationships speaks about how love is necessary and healing for us. Changes that Heal calls love the foundation for health. If you lack love you’ll have trouble throughout your life because you’ll have a soul hole that you’ll keep trying to fill.

As I’ve mentioned before (For instance in How to be an Adult in Relationships and Churchless ) the Greek have three words for what we call love in English – Agape, Philos, and Eros. Eros is the reason we discuss love in school – because the conversation can quite quickly turn to sex. However, Glasser suggests that in the context of school that love means social responsibility. That is love for your fellow humans.

Self-Worth is that fundamental belief that you are worthy. Daring Greatly told us that shame and guilt were barriers to our wholeheartedness. My review of Compelled to Control and Beyond Boundaries both discussed the integrated self-image, which incorporates both the concept of self-worth and the concept of identity – that is, that not only are we worthy but we know who we are. Schools without Failure calls love and self-worth two pathways to identity. That is, you can get to an identity by experiencing love or learning that you are inherently valuable.

The problem with many folks in their development of an integrated self-image is that one of the images will reject the other. In truth, we’re all both good and bad. Our good-self rejects the bad-self and vice versa. So we as humans find it hard to accept our whole identity. One part of our identity – good or bad – tends to rule and push the other part of our identity out.

Not Responsible for the Hurt, Responsible for the Healing

If you’ve been hurt by someone else you’re not responsible for the hurt. Whether they neglected you or they actively did something to harm you, you’re not responsible for that harm. However, you are responsible for healing yourself – with the help that you need.

This level of self-responsibility is an important but fine line that Schools without Failure seeks to illuminate. You have to accept that there are conditions that will cause students pain without absolving them of their need to be responsible for healing.

Sometimes (often) it’s the student themselves that are doing things to harm themselves. This necessitates the tricky proposition of illuminating the behavior or thinking that is causing the student pain without condemning them or inducing guilt or shame. We have to, on the one hand, allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions while simultaneously trying to get them to stop the cycle that’s causing the problem.

Commitment

Consequences aren’t always close or near. Animals and humans, we struggle to see cause-and-effect relationships when the cause and effect are separated in time. One of the places where this is particularly evident is when attempting to teach commitment as a value to our children.

Commitment is a value that, when missing, often has a very long term impact. Commitment itself is about sustaining over time. The impact of not sustaining over time is lower levels of success over the long term as seen both directly in the skill that the commitment would develop (See Outliers for the 10,000 hour rule for becoming a master.) It’s also seen in the perceptions of others as they don’t believe that you’ll meet your commitments.

Teaching commitment is accepting no excuses for not meeting commitments.

Commitment to Education

Sometimes people call a commitment to education lifelong learning – as The Fifth Discipline, Mindset, and Leading Change do. The Adult Learner, Finding Flow, and Change or Die talk about the role in continuing to educate, to learn, and to reframe our existence to continue to grow.

One of the best ways to learn commitment is to see it played out in our learning experiences in school. It’s one of the things that we’ll continue to do through our lives. Seeing the learning as a commitment can be powerful simply in that more educated professionals have higher earning potential. However, more broadly, being able to see the value of a sustained commitment can be life changing.

Unfortunately, most students see school as disconnected from their real life. They perceive that school has nothing to do with their real world. They believe the lie that you go to school to simply get a good job – not for their personal development as well. In part, this is driven by the preoccupation with memorization that we have in most school situations.

School for School’s Sake

Education used to be about preparing students for their lives. However, there is mounting evidence that schooling just prepares students for more schooling. I mentioned in my review of Emotional Intelligence that the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was never really designed for the way it was used. It was designed to identify students that needed a different teaching strategy – not necessarily those that were brighter – or less bright. However, as schools have focused on standardized testing and memorization we’ve moved into a world where we’re focused on the skills that are least likely to predict success.

60% of students said that what they were learning in school wasn’t relevant to their lives. Studies of medical students found that grades were almost unrelated to their success in practice. Fundamentally, the way that we approach primary education is flawed. Students are rewarded for their memory, and in the business world today we tell people to not rely on memory.

In the world of the Internet, Google, and with search for computers and intranets, we want people to navigate and search for the information they need rather than memorizing it. As I’ve discussed in my reviews of Information Diet, Guerrilla Marketing, and The Paradox of Choice, we’re overwhelmed with information. We simply cannot hold everything in our heads that we might need. Socrates was right that books have done terrible things to our memories – we can’t remember all of the stories that our predecessors memorized. However, at the same time they didn’t have to cope with the level of information that we do. No longer is the goal to memorize information. The goal is to be able to integrate and access information.

To transform schools into something relevant we need to adapt the way that we structure the educational experience by making it more relevant (see The Adult Learner) and more focused on the higher level needs demanded in today’s workforce.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

In 1956 Benjamin Bloom and colleagues created what became known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is a hierarchy of educational objectives – only the first level of which is recognition and recall of facts. The higher levels of the taxonomy include things like evaluation, analysis (comparison), and synthesis of new ideas. It seems that we’ve known for some time that we need to move on from the minefield of memorization but, by and large, our educational system – which adapts at glacial speeds – hasn’t changed.

Glasser recommends three types of class meetings that he believes help to drive relevance, critical thinking, and problem solving into the classroom:

  • Social-Problem Solving – Meetings about how students behave in school.
  • Open-Ended – Meetings about intellectually important subjects including those problems that are wicked. (See Dialogue Mapping and The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices )
  • Educational-Diagnostic – Meetings designed to assess the learning that has been done.

Curbing the Grading Curve

Does anyone believe that a C grade is OK? It may be passing, however, most wouldn’t agree that it demonstrates a mastery of the subject matter. The reasons for this may be escalation and the ego’s desire to be perceived as better than the average. As I mentioned in my review of Humilitas, Thomas Gilovich surveyed one million high school seniors and found that 70% of them believed that they were “above average in leadership ability.” Certainly we have the ability to have a higher opinion of ourselves than is warranted.

However, shouldn’t good teaching skew the results toward higher scores? Shouldn’t a good teacher create in their students an above average understanding of a topic? So why then do some teachers continue to insist on bell curve distribution of grades? They insist on the same sort of standard distribution that discourages collaboration? (See Collaborative Intelligence)

Learning with Models

Students in Glasser’s surveys appreciated the class meetings that Glasser advocates, but admitted that they couldn’t have as candid a discussion if the discussions were graded and would sometimes resist the discussion by asking “will this be on the test?” Students were so motivated to reach the arbitrary goal of the grade that they didn’t want to have their time wasted with things that aren’t on the test.

The tragedy of this thinking is that the best way to score well in life isn’t by memorizing facts, but is instead to build mental models of how things work (see Sources of Power). Certainly the specifics of the conversation won’t be on any exam they’ll take; however, developing a model to help them understand what they’re learning will serve them long after the details of the learning are gone.

Class Meetings

I mentioned that Glasser recommends three kinds of meetings, and though they are relatively self-explanatory, the methods that Glasser uses to help those class meetings be successful aren’t necessarily. Here are some highlights from the approaches used:

  • All of the students and the teacher are in one large circle so everyone can see everyone else.
  • The position of the teacher in the circle changes.
  • Teachers move closer to shy students to better encourage their involvement and to disruptive students to minimize their disruptiveness.
  • Teachers should team-teach meetings where possible so that newer teachers can get tacit knowledge of how to run a class meeting.
  • Even though the meeting is open in most cases, students should be encouraged to raise their hands so the teacher can help to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.

Glasser admits that sometimes teachers aren’t able to have the kind of open facilitated discussion that he advocates in class meetings, and the failures he cites are the same sorts of adoption concerns that any new idea would have. (See Diffusion of Innovations) Facilitation is actually quite a different skill than traditional teaching and because of this it can be uncomfortable.

Rules, Self-Esteem, and Communication

There are some other insights offered by Glasser, including that students with less permissive parents have higher self-esteem. He’s quoting a 1968 article in Scientific American by Dr. Stanley Coopersmith which says, “A second and more surprising finding was that the parents of the high-self-esteem children proved to be less permissive than those of children with lower self-esteem….” In short, if you want your children to be effective, you should set rules. Coopersmith goes on to say “We found that the parents of the low-self-esteem boys, on the other hand, tended to be extremely permissive but inflicted harsh punishment when the children gave them trouble.” The advice from the age of Dr. Spock was permissiveness and individuality – something that he doubted later in his life. (See Finding Flow.)

Glasser also points out that we can bounce signals off the moon but still can’t communicate with our children. I think that his scope is too limited. We can bounce signals off the moon but we can’t communicate to each other. However, Glasser’s insight isn’t a bad start. See what you can pick up from Schools without Failure.

Bowling Alone

Book Review-Bowling Alone

Picking up a 14-year-old book on social trends seems like a foolish thing to do in the world of the Intranet. It seems like with each new month that passes there’s a new definition of social at Internet speed – however, social is, as my friend Eric Shupps comments, “with beer in hand.” Whether you share Eric’s appreciation for alcohol or not, the comment is correct. Social isn’t about microblogging, a new Facebook game, or technology – social is, at its heart, about people. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam’s book about the decline of social capital in America, has been quoted in several of the books that I’ve read recently. It was quoted in The Science of Trust and Theory U. When multiple sources start pointing back to the same source I know I have to read it. There’s something there that a quick mention will miss. It starts with social capital.

Defining Social Capital

Before getting into the details of the decline of social capital in America and what causes it, we first must understand what we mean by social capital. Social capital is the idea that social networks have value. We inherently know this when we or someone we know is looking for a job. Social networks are the relationships – of varying strengths that we have. The more people we have relationships with – and the deeper those relationships — the more social capital we have.

Ultimately, our relationships with one another convey an ability to trust. We are, as Building Trust says, more likely to trust those who are more familiar to us. Trust is a lubricator of economies. It reduces the friction with which you enter agreements. That reduced friction means that you’ll go farther. Trusting is one of those powerful root virtues that in our daily lives we often overlook. (If you’re interest more in trust and how it works you should see my post Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy.)

Trust is more than just our direct trust of a singular person. It becomes woven into the fabric of our environment. This happens whether we believe in Karma – or not. We see that people get what they deserve – or not. As a result, our economies and our communities flourish – or wither. The Science of Trust speaks about the difference in strategies in different games. For instance, in games when coordinating efforts isn’t an option, the tit-for-tat strategy is often best – in short, Karma works. However, if we all do just what is best for us (von Neumann-Morgenstern equilibrium), we don’t truly end up with the best results. The best results come with a Nash equilibrium where we all work for everyone’s best interests – certainly our own, but others as well. That’s what social capital does. It shifts us from focusing only on ourselves to focusing on everyone being better off.

Membership Has Its Costs

While membership may have its privileges, it has its costs as well. In the case of American Express, it’s the annual fee. In the case of most organizational memberships today, it’s a membership fee. Whether it’s Aircraft Owners and Pilots’ Association (AOPA), the National Rifle Association (NRA), or the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) membership means paying a fee. However, this isn’t the same as it was for our parents. When they joined the Rotary club, Kiwanis, Lions, Elk, or Moose they knew they were making a commitment to spend time to invest in building social capital with the rest of the club.

Over the years, we’ve traded our personal involvement with groups and the causes they’re working on with a check. In turn, they’re working on advocacy and lobbying in Washington, DC. Instead of personally gathering to commiserate with others who share our goals and values, we’ve delegating those responsibilities to professionals who are tasked with moving forward our perceived objectives. This transformation to a financial relationship has allowed organizations to grow – and shrink – rapidly. Generating membership means little more than running mass marketing campaigns – but once those campaigns are complete, membership doesn’t typically stick – because there is very little social capital or relationship holding the membership to the group. People simply don’t identify themselves as members of Greenpeace like they did the Moose or Elk.

The problem is that social capital is formed on relationships and shared identity – not on money given to a cause. Social capital which drives society forward doesn’t work by proxy. You can’t learn to trust the folks in your neighborhood or community if you never work with them for goals that you both find important.

Considering the Church

Bowling Alone breaks groups into community, church, and work-based groups. In this division there’s plenty of evidence that church groups are the most likely group to perform philanthropic activities. In fact, the strongest indicator of philanthropic activity is involvement in church. So churches have an important role to play in the development of the fabric of society – even if the bonds of social capital are fraying at their edges.

Churches today are facing their own crisis. I wrote a bit about this crisis in my review of Churchless. Churches simply aren’t drawing the same number of people as they used to. Church attendance is certainly lower than it was 40 years ago. Despite the efforts to engage people and draw them back to God, the battle is being lost. Churches simply aren’t immune to the factors that are unraveling social capital development.

Collaboration, Competition, and the Employment “Contract”

We learned in Collaborative Intelligence that competition inside a group is a bad thing. We also learned from Hackman that he believes that the setup of the situation can be as much as 60% of the outcome. The setup can be a part of the social contract – or the social norms – that we all expect. It used to be that people expected to work their entire careers for one organization. When you started at General Motors or IBM or wherever, you expected that you would have a job with them until you retire. However, the corporate restructuring and downsizing in the 1980s meant that the implied social contract of employment for life was broken, and along with it came waves of change.

The number of people who HAD to find a new job (involuntary turnover) climbed, but so too did the people that chose to find a new job (voluntary turnover). In the exchange we were left with a more mobile workforce. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers don’t show a substantial change in job tenure over the last thirty years, there is a change. Even the small changes we’re seeing may be the tipping point between feeling secure and feeling insecure. Or perhaps just the press coverage that there is a change in tenure has created a feeling of insecurity.

When you don’t feel secure that you’ll have a job for the long term, your attitudes, behaviors, and perspectives change. Instead of helping a coworker be more effective at their job you’re more likely to focus on your own work and avoid helping them. If you believe that at the end of the day it will either be your job or theirs that is eliminated, as much as you like them, you’ll hope it’s their job eliminated and not yours. That means that instead of collaborating and supporting them you’re now competing with them – and that’s a bad thing.

Communities that Heal

Communities, as we learned in Change or Die, can have a healing effect. Tight knit communities support and watch over one another. They form associations to make micro loans when banks won’t make them. They watch – and discipline — each other’s children. These are the kind of communities that we want to be in – but also that are becoming rarer. We’re becoming increasingly more insular as we sit inside our air-conditioned houses instead of on the front porch. We don’t say hello to the neighbor as we get out of our car because we pull into our garage with the automatic door opener – which doubles as an automatic door closer. The logistics of our lives have us interacting with neighbors and their children less.

It’s hard to be involved in a tight knit community when you aren’t exposed to it. We’re also falling victim to another major trend – the trend of valuing our independence. As Americans, we own more cars and drive further than any other nation. We have a strong belief about the value of independence. No longer do we live in small agricultural communities where people came together to build barns support those who had hardships. Instead we are in the hustle and bustle of our industrialized and individualized lives. The communities that we grew up in where everyone knew your business are no more – because we have decided that we aren’t interested in being interdependent upon each other – because we’ve become more self-reliant (as Emerson would say).

Building Trust in an Electronic World

The reality today is that we’re living in an electronic world. We don’t get the newspaper any longer, we logon to CNN. We don’t watch the weather, we login to weather.com. We used to trust in institutions like companies. We used to trust in the government. We used to trust in each other. We can no longer see the micro-expressions that require a 60th of a second to see. Trust – it seems – is under assault. Our ability to dissatisfaction and alienation has risen in tandem with social media. We don’t trust institutions. We’ve seen church leaders do horrific things. We’ve seen banks and institutions of all types fail.

I described in my post Building Trust: Make, Renegotiate, Meet that the recipe for building trust isn’t hard. It does, however, take a long time. You have to meet many commitments before someone will trust you. Consider Ebay, which relies on feedback from other people to help you trust that the person with whom you’re going to complete a transaction is safe to work with. You rely upon that person having made and met commitments with other parts of the community.

Work If You Want To

One of the hypothesis presented about the decline in social engagement was that the primary drivers of social capital, wives of working men, started to go to work themselves and, because of that, they became less engaged in social clubs. However, the data doesn’t seem to support this hypothesis. Quite the contrary, that when people were working part time – particularly because of desire to work – there was a rise in the amount of volunteer and social work being done. In other words, getting women out of the role of homemaker may have some negative impacts on social capital development, but it has just as many, or more, positive impacts.

So yes, people are busier, but they’re also more engaged through the process. Working part time seems to drive social capital creation rather than deter it.

Wartime Activity

We, collectively, have more free time now than at any other point in human history. We spend less time working for our basic needs than at any other time. We are enjoying our time. That is, we’re enjoying our time until we’re rallied to a cause. The cause drives us to be more productive and turn away from the unimportant things. We found war twice in the 20th century. These were times when we in America rallied against a common enemy – and as a result we gave up some of our leisure time and instead focused on productivity.

However, what happened when the war was over and it had been won? Much has been written about the plight of veterans returning from war – but is it broader than that? Is it that the entire society was trying to readjust and cope – and the result was that we created more productive activity for ourselves? That is, that we decided for a brief period after the war – after the struggle – that we wanted to create in the world a better place and that we were willing to continue our activity level to be able to get it? It seems like this may be plausible based on the data, which indicated that the social capital creation increased at end of the war – at least for a short time. After a few years this engagement wavered and we started a downward spiral.

Social Norms of Connectedness

How often should you call your parents? How about your siblings? What is a normal level of connectivity with your family? How about your friends? These are hard questions with no single answers. The answers are driven by what your social network believes the right answer is. You may have friends who speak with their parents weekly – or even daily. You may call much less frequently, monthly or quarterly.

Slowly, and perhaps imperceptibly to us in the moment, our norms of social connectedness have changed. We moved away from our childhood homes and cities. In the era of long distance phone call rates we didn’t call each other as often because of the cost. Along the way we developed new habits – new norms – of connectivity. We’re changing the way that we’re connecting. It’s through Facebook and social media – and the data seems to point to the fact that social media isn’t the same as social gatherings. We’ve established new social norms, but they may not be healthy for us personally (we’re more stressed and anxious) or for society.

Bowling Leagues

Crowding inside a bowling hall breathing smoke filled air, drinking to excess, and eating high-fat, high-calorie foods may be the healthiest thing you can do – if you’re forming relationships with the people that you’re bowling with. Sure there may be the occasional heart attack caused by the food, but as it turns out (and as I’ve mentioned in my review of Emotional Intelligence.) the deep social connections that you’re building at the same time have an immense impact on your overall health. You’re better off drinking a beer and eating a greasy pizza with your best friend at a bowling alley than staying home and being isolated. It turns out that as we’re losing our social capital we’re also losing our health.

Social Capacity and Facebook as a Brain Augmentation System

A British anthropologist Robin Dunbar observed that the size of social groups increased with the size of a mammal’s brain. This led to what is called Dunbar’s number for humans, which places the number of stable social connections that we can maintain at about 150. If you’ve been on Facebook or LinkedIn for a while you’re likely to have more than 150 friends – or connections. However, Dunbar was speaking about a different level of connectedness than we’re used to today. He was speaking about communities of people. He was talking about social grooming – the process whereby we support each other and help each other survive.

In truth, Dunbar’s research really lead him to believe in different rings of relationships, each of which had a different level of trust. In the wider circles Facebook is effective at keeping us loosely connected with others that we’ve become acquainted with. It turns out that Facebook (and LinkedIn) becomes a way to help us maintain relationships in this outer circle of acquaintances, but it isn’t the same as having deep social connections with our list of Facebook friends.

The Causes

So what is the cause of the drop in social engagement? Who is holding the smoking gun of social malaise? The answer, as it turns out is that it appears to have been a set of factors (a conspiracy, if you are prone to such theories). No one cause can be found. While there are some factors that clearly have had a larger impact than others, there’s no way to single out a single cause. However, here are some of the suspects that the book lays out – and their associated crimes.

Television

Of the causes for the decline in social engagement, none was found to be more powerful than the invention of the television. The television privatized leisure time. One can sit at home in front of a television and be entertained with no effort of their own. Television is, quite simply, a very low-effort way to find pleasure. However, much like eating only chips all day would leave us longing for something more – something more solid, so too does excessive television watching. It’s the leisure equivalent of filling up on junk food. It tastes good going down but the longer term effects in our overall mood – and our waistline – are not desirable.

The data says that television is singularly the leisure activity that inhibits other leisure activities. Every other leisure activity led – statistically speaking – to other forms of leisure. Television doesn’t. Once your mind gets sucked into the television it’s unlikely to come out to play with others. Of all of the causes that Putnam evaluated, it was television that had the highest probability of contributing to the decline.

Generations

The second highest correlation came from a look at the various generations and their dispositions towards social capital creation. It turns out that, from voting rates to memberships, the declines seem to come in part from older generations disappearing from active social life. These folks have put well more than their share into our social capital development. They’re simply no longer able to continue to invest and the younger generations aren’t picking up the slack.

The older generations are still holding their own – being more involved during retirement than they may have been while they were working. They’re doing all they can into the golden years of their life but at some point no longer have the capacity to help.

Garage Door Openers

The final suspect is my suspect. It’s that we’ve become a garage door world. We drive home to our houses and we don’t park our cars outside where we can have the serendipitous conversation with our neighbor to learn about how they’re doing or the social concern they care about. We don’t spend time tending our lawns and gardens like we once did to create accidental engagement with others. We go inside and sit in front of the TV or the internet without needing – or wanting – to interact with anyone else in our neighborhood.

There’s no good measure for engagement in our neighborhoods. There’s no count of random interactions with our neighbors, but my personal observation is that, now that we don’t park our cars on the street or in the driveway as much, we simply don’t have as many random interactions.

Timeless and Timely

If you’re serious about social capital in your community, or even if you’re just serious about making social enterprise in your organization using only electrons, you should pick up Bowling Alone so you can understand the mechanics and the history of social in America.

Churchless

Book Review-Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them

Sometimes a book review and my experiences connect, and that triggers a chain reaction of books to read. I’m in one of those chain reactions now. I started with Theory U which led to Bowling Alone which led to reading Churchless. The last connection will make more sense once I’ve done the review for Bowling Alone. However for now, I’ll share that in Bowling Alone much of the book is the research about how we as Americans are not joining and participating in clubs as much as we once were. There’s a bit of data about how this decline worked relative to churches, but during a church service I heard many more statistics about the challenges of churches in America. When I inquired, my pastor shared the data was from the Barna group – and that led me to their latest book Churchless.

Churchless is the study of why Americans aren’t connected to church. The research indicates that slightly less than half (49%) of Americans attend church regularly – though regularly is defined liberally as attending once a month. Another 8 percent of Americans attend church occasionally, some of which are what the book calls CEOs – Christmas and Easter Only. Interestingly 33% of Americans are what the book considers de-churched. That is they have previously had a church experience but have left the church for some reason – perhaps they’re only on hiatus.

Finding the Differences

One of the things for which I’ve heard over and over again in the statistics, including those in Churchless and Bowling Alone, is that in many respects the Christian doesn’t look that different from the non-Christian. For instance, Christian and non-Christian youth are essentially equal in their sexual activity – despite the strong moral line that the church takes against sex before marriage. (For the record, I’ve not found the support for this in the scripture despite numerous attempts to find it in the translations as well as the original Greek.) Sure, Christians are more generous (by 5x) according to Churchless – but that’s not an outwardly visible aspect of Christian life. You may recall from Diffusion of Innovations that visibility is one of the key factors in influencing how quickly an innovation diffuses through a network. If there’s no visible difference in the way we behave as Christians – why would anyone want to become one of us?

Real and Relevant

Another criticism leveled against the church is often that the Bible isn’t relevant to today’s world. While many people – including those who are not church attenders – believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God, and still others believe them to be important stories but written by man – many struggle with how the Bible is relevant to their worlds today. In America, we’ve become self-reliant. We believe that we can make our own way and we don’t need anyone else. If we can make our own way then why do we need God in our lives? Even if you realize that you need God in your life, does the church experience connect you with God? All too often, the answer is no. 20% of the people who’ve dropped out from church say that they didn’t feel the presence of God there. If people can’t feel the presence of God then why should they come? Too often people walk out of church believing that it was just a performance, a show, or an obligation. That’s no way to motivate people.

Do they Care?

The key point to Christianity – the one thing that Jesus said over and over again – is that we should love. As I’ve mentioned before the Greek has three words for love. Eros – erotic love, Philo – Brotherly love, and Agape – God’s unconditional love for his people. Buddhists call Agape love compassion. It’s loving everyone. On this mark the unchurched are clear. They don’t believe that the church is a loving church, and accepting church, a church worthy to be called the bride of Christ. Instead, the church has become more like the Pharisees of the bible. (Given that Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, it’s probably not a good thing.) Both from the inside of a church and for those on the outside it can seem like a church is all about rules and values that you must hold. It’s often seen that you are either with “us,” the churchgoing Christians, or you’re in the “them” category. Unchurched often feel judged when they walk in the door.

Making Your Way in the World Today

The theme song for the television show “Cheers” includes the words, “Making the way in the world today takes everything that you’ve got.” Certainly we feel that. Today Americans are more stressed out than a decade ago. We feel like we’re always busy. We never have enough time to do what is expected of us. This one factor has led to lower church attendance. When you’re following a travel hockey team and you’re not home on Sunday morning – making church is hard. You can tell yourself that it’s only for a while and it’s not that big a deal, but all of the demands on our schedules and individuals skipping church is reducing the number of people in the building each weekend. The point here is that sometimes the numbers don’t tell the full story. It’s possible that you would assume that the congregation is shrinking because the numbers from the weekly attendance is dropping. However, if every family misses just one weekend a month your attendance drops 25% overall.

Societal Trends

The point of my reading of Churchless wasn’t to study how I could grow my church – because I’m not involved in that aspect of the church. The goal for me was to evaluate what’s going on with churches in the larger context of the societal trends in Bowling Alone. On balance, it seems like the church is impacted by the same factors that are impacting society as a whole. Adults are on their self-reliance path and that path doesn’t lead someone to understand their need for God – and that means no church. It’s disturbing that we’re valuing social media more and real conversations less. The data on the use of social networks like Facebook says that we’re feeling more distant from one another even as we’re technically more aware of what they’re doing. The factors that are driving people away from the church – like the feeling of entitlement – are driving people away from social institutions. We believe that we are entitled to be a part of the conversation – just like we are on Facebook – and church experiences of today aren’t that.

However, perhaps if you read Churchless you’ll be able to find ways to make your church more appealing to those who aren’t currently attending church. Give it a try.

Creative Confidence

Book Review-Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

I’ve been wandering around the land of innovation lately. I wrote a chapter for the Ark Group book Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results. That chapter really followed up on the chapter I wrote for Unlocking Value: KM as a Strategic Management Tool. Of course, I read and reviewed Unleashing Innovation about Whirlpool’s transformation into an innovative company. So reading Creative Confidence is trying to move upstream. I describe innovation as an idea that has been implemented. (Perhaps from my study of Diffusion of Innovations.) It’s great to work on the plumbing of sifting through ideas and ultimately converting them into innovations – but there has to be a source somewhere for these ideas. That’s what Creative Confidence focuses on – how to encourage, enable, and support the creation of ideas.

Boxes that Define Us

Everyone is born creative. Everyone is born with innate ability to be creative and to create something new. You see it in children all the time. They dance unapologetically. They color outside the lines – and sometimes off the page. They’ve not learned to be creative, they were born with it. Many adults, however, have unlearned how to be creative. We’ve learned that it’s wrong to color outside of the lines. We’ve learned to fear rejection and scorn as we do something that others don’t understand or approve of.

It’s the guilt and shame (See Daring Greatly) that begin to separate us from our innate creative nature. A small comment about how we’re not good enough is replayed over and over in our minds, leading us to believe that we really are not good enough. We’re not worthy. Faced with a wave of negative emotions and a shrinking personal value our ego defenses kick in and create a split in our personality. (See Change or Die for more on ego defenses.) We suppress the pain rather than dealing with it directly. The result is that we fragment our identity. On the one hand there is the minimizing comments which create a negative image of ourselves, but there is also a positive ego we create through our ego defenses and our belief that we are different than the comments that harmed us. This is the identity that we project. This identity is what Anatomy of Peace would call our must-be-seen-as box. That is we must be seen as someone different than we really are – or who we really, deep in our core, believe that we are.

From my perspective one of the keys to rediscovering our creativity is in integrating these two self-images. That is that we should resolve the internal schism that created the separation in the first place. I’ve spoken about integrated self-image in The Inner Game of Dialogue (part of my series for the book Dialogue.) I spoke about the need to eliminate boxes through this integrated self-image, but I’ve not spoken much about ways to reintegrate the image. I want to focus on this topic in this review.

Malleability and Fear

A prerequisite for reintegrating our self-images is the belief that we’re able to change. It’s what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. We have to believe that we can change who we are, where we are, and our potential. That’s something that Dweck explores at length in her book Mindset.

If we believe that we’re able to change, the trick becomes how we do it. Redirect speaks about cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and its effectiveness at changing the internal monologue that we hear. However, so does Emotional Intelligence and How to Be an Adult in Relationships. Clearly, CBT is an important technique. It’s been proven to be one of the most effective psychological therapies created. (However, a book that I’m not finished with, The Heart & Soul of Change, discusses many of the issues with testing psychological treatment regimens.) One key to actually making the change once you believe it is possible is to change that inner monologue from a negative confirmation to a positive confirmation. (See The Science of Trust
for positive and negative sentiment override.)

With the belief that change is possible and that you’re capable of change it’s time to do what Albert Bandura, in the context of conquering fears, calls the process of guided mastery – taking small steps to overcoming a fear. Bandura’s goal was the development of Self-Efficacy – that is the belief that we can reach goals or complete tasks. The process of guided mastery involves the development of a series of small steps to reach a goal. Desensitization is a variation that is specifically designed to reduce the impact of negative responses to stimulus. By repeatedly creating safe interactions it’s possible to reduce the fear response in animals and humans.

To repair a fragmented self-image we’ve got to go back to what fragmented the image in the first place. You’ve got to find the hurt – or more likely set of hurts that created the split in the first place. Often the hurts are caused by people who are closest to us. In my post Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy I linked trust, betrayal, vulnerability and intimacy. Because we trusted someone (even if it was only a little bit) and we felt like they harmed us (a betrayal) we were harmed. Our vulnerability due to trust created an opportunity for sufficient harm that our identity became fragmented – or at the very least cracked.

How many of us have been deeply wounded by a comment made by a friend? The comment may – or may not – have been true, however, the comment harmed us greatly. For me, personally, I have been harmed by how my friends see me – because it didn’t match the person I wanted to be or the person I saw myself being. I know that for me the reconciliation process for those comments is a very difficult process. I can dismiss the comment out of hand – indicating a lack of trust and therefore vulnerability – or I can process what they’ve said and hope that they’ve said it in both truth and love.

The key – I believe – to repairing a fragmented identity is to learn to trust again. We see this in desensitization and in what Bandura calls guided mastery. It’s all about making life safer. In How Children Succeed research was shared that spoke about how important it was to feel safe to be vulnerable – but more importantly how children who felt safer (because of fewer adverse childhood experiences (ACE)) were more well-adjusted and more inclined to take risks. In the context of creativity it’s feeling safe to be creative without fear of ridicule.

I still remember a comment that an English teacher made to me in passing. She didn’t mean anything by it, and I hold no malice to her for it. She told me that I shouldn’t consider a career in writing. My grammar was – and is – often awful. I don’t spell well. I sometimes get ahead of myself in my writing. (I know you’re saying “Duh”.) I carried with me for a long time that perception that I shouldn’t be a writer. As it turns out my journey to writing came from writing presentations – something a former boss nudged me into. It wasn’t writing. It was producing slides so it was OK. It also came from a friend who encouraged me to be a technical editor – editing for technical accuracy –and then eventually encouraging me to write a chapter. Now I’ve got author credit on 24 books and hundreds of articles. That would have never happened if I hadn’t been able to work through that part of my fragmented self-image – the one that didn’t care about writing and the one that enjoyed it but which was hurt.

When it comes to creativity one guy to look at is Walt Disney. As I mentioned in my review of Primal Leadership, I had the pleasure of visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum. One of the striking things about the museum is that you have the ability to see not just the end result of Disney’s life, which is quite remarkable. Instead you get to see the progression of things that he did to become the man he was. You got to see how he was able to do what people thought was impossible simply because of his dedication to his craft. You got to walk through the short stories that lead to longer features. You got to see whole new techniques that he and his team invented for creating animated movies. The other component to the Disney story that is compelling here is that he had plenty of setbacks, rejections, and failures. Bankruptcy is just one of those ways that he failed. So he was always trying to figure out how to be successful at his creativity while accepting failure as a natural consequence of trying. This is Walt Disney I’m speaking about, someone who has arguably done more to entertain people than anyone else who has ever lived.

Learning More than Fear

So what was it that drove Walt Disney and Thomas Edison to move past their failures and their fear? Some call it an innate desire to create. Others reduce it to the fundamental element of learning. They wanted to learn how something could be done. They wanted to see what the possibilities were, and how to make it really work. They had already seen what it was like to be a failure. They didn’t need to fear failure because they had been there, and they realized that the only way to remain a failure was to stop trying. Failure was a stop along the road. The trick was to not build a house and live there.

Interesting in the review of my notes from all of the books that I’ve read is that the word “lifelong” is most frequently (and nearly exclusively) used when speaking about learning or developing the habit of learning. There’s no clear pointer on what gets the process kicked off. It seems like the key is buried somewhere in research around Flow – that is that great leaders found a way to get into a state of high productivity when learning. They enjoyed it. Learning wasn’t the means to an end. Rather the ends – the tangible outcomes – were a means to learn more. Said differently they created a target, which created the need to learn.

When fear of failure moves out of the center spotlight, and it is replaced with the desire to learn, it becomes safe to be creative. When fear has to take a back seat to anything, it is weakened. It’s stronghold over our lives begins to falter and we can regain our creativity. It doesn’t have to be learning that you want more than fear, but learning creates opportunities for new places where fear has no hold.

Compassion and Empathy

Buddhists hold, as a core part of their beliefs, that they should have compassion for every living thing. Christians have a fundamental belief that they’re supposed to love their neighbor. (Including the Greek words Agape – God’s love – and Philos – brotherly love.) Fundamentally both believe in creating a connection – a shared experience – with another human being. It’s this connection that allows you to experience their world and to be creative for their needs.

Consider for a moment the plight of the average traveler in the 1960s. They were just beginning to have air travel available. The luggage of the time was big, heavy, and clunky. However, passengers and baggage handlers had to move this luggage around. It was around 1970 when Benard Sadow created the innovation of the wheel on luggage. His patent in 1972 for “rolling luggage” was, at the time, innovative. It was different than how luggage had always been done. However, by experiencing the plight of a traveler trying to move their luggage through an airport, Sadow, realized the opportunity to make luggage better. This is deep empathy to the plight of travelers.

Having compassion and empathy for others is necessary to create solutions that really resonate with them. All too often people design solutions for the surface issues that people see. Solutions are targeted at creating a bigger bag because of all of the things that people need to carry. It’s the creative person that creates ways for the items they carry to be less bulky – or to create a situation where they don’t need to carry them at all. From deep empathy comes innovative solutions. From a love of others comes a desire to create something that is harmonious with their lives.

Journeying to Mastery

Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, discusses what drives people. We’ve all seen Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the carrots and sticks model of rewards and punishments, but Pink exposes another model that focuses on the intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Mastery is an interesting motivator since mastery is an asymptote. That is that you can never really reach 100% mastery, you can only get close to mastery. Thus you’re always in a journey towards mastery – never arriving. I spoke about the impact of journey in my review of Changes That Heal.

Creating a deep desire to become a master at something – or achieve some level of mastery on many different topics. Mastery, as I discussed in Sources of Power – the mental models that masters create are different. They’re richer and by nature of their mastery people can see things that others simply cannot see. In Efficiency in Learning they call the mental models schemas. However, the message is the same. Masters just see the problem differently. Things that others can’t see from the noise masters pick out with ease. They can locate the salient information – the most important – quickly and they’re able to act on it. In terms of creativity the ability to see and know what’s most important, and to be able to create solutions based on that knowledge, means better solutions with less effort.

The journey to mastery is not a short road. In Outliers, Malcom Gladwell asserts that it takes 10,000 hours of intentional practice to become a master. The process of developing mastery may in fact take longer – or shorter but the message is simple. Developing mastery in a topic takes a great deal of dedication and effort. Paradoxically the greatest value may come in learning from many different disciplines. Some of the most important masters in history were polymaths – they had developed mastery in multiple disciplines. These folks showed a desire to learn, a fearless quest for doing something more, and very little concern for failure.

Acting with Intention

If you were to ask most people about a characteristic of a good designer what would they say? Most folks wouldn’t have an answer for you. However, what if you asked a professor who teaches management? Well, if you ask Roger Martin at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management you’d hear him say that designers act with intention. Designers and creators see the world the way it is, and they want to make it better. They’re always analyzing what they’re doing, and try to improve the experience.

In my office I have a rather steep set of steps up to the video studio. I put laminate floor in, and was disappointed to find out that the way that the stairs were created to work is a bull-nose. That is that the stair noses are taller than the laminate itself. I felt like this would be a tripping hazard. So I had custom pieces of metal bent to form over the laminate and screw into the end of the stair’s plate. I ultimately decided on stainless steel over aluminum because I observed that most people put their weight on the edge of the stairs, and the stainless steel – because it’s much harder – would hold up better. It’s a tiny thing, but it’s important to me as I walk the stairs nearly every day.

Crawling Your Way Through Fear

I made a conscious decision one day to not live in fear. I need to clarify. I’m not saying that I’ll never be in fear. I mean I’ll never live there. It will never be my home. I recognize that fear can be an appropriate emotion. If you’re face-to-face with a bear, lion, or other wild animal fear may be the appropriate response – unless you’re at a zoo and there’s a barrier between you. With the decision to not live in fear, I had to figure out how to live that out. One of the ways that I decided to live that out was to go caving. (Spelunking if you want to get technical.)

I’ve never liked tight spaces. I don’t know that it would cross the line into phobia or not, but I know that I didn’t like the idea that I could get stuck or not have enough room to move. I don’t know if everyone has the fear – and I certainly don’t know where it came from, however, I know that for me it was very real. So when a friend asked if I would be interested in going caving with her and some friends, I said yes. Certainly there are many people who would wonder about my sanity. Why would I intentionally do something that I knew I was going to fear and struggle with – of course the answer is that this was entirely the point. I didn’t want the fear to control me.

We ended up going to Buckner Cave. While it didn’t require rope or special gear, the belly crawling wasn’t something that I was particularly thrilled with. As I remember it the cave wasn’t awful. There was a large set of people who were with me and were encouraging me. The belly crawling though it felt like it was forever wasn’t really. It was probably only a few hundred feet.

What I learned out of the situation is that I didn’t have to be afraid of tight spaces. I realized that I could – in this case – crawl my way through fear. I could become more comfortable by realizing that my fears weren’t justified by reality.

Unlearning and Relearning

Mark Twain said “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know that ain’t so.” In other words, it’s what you’ve learned that is wrong that is much more risky than just not knowing something. You see, the world is split into the known-unknowns and the unknown-unknowns. The known-unknowns are things like not knowing how much gas is in your car. The unknown-unknowns are those random events that you can’t predict. Most people don’t worry about a thermostat in their engine failing or a timing belt failing. We simply just don’t know that we need to be concerned with such things. The challenge with this point of view is that incorrect knowledge is an unknown-unknown. You can’t see the place where you’re standing until you move. You can’t know that something you believe is wrong until you start to look at it from another point of view – and few of us do that.

However, being open to being wrong removes one of our greatest challenges to see how to be creative.

Creative Endings

I don’t know how to be creative in how I end this review, but I know that if you want to be more creative, you need more Creative Confidence.