Tag Archives: Business

Conventional Wisdoms: An Exercise (#2)

It was a great challenge to think through Lee Thayer’s thoughts on “advice” and knowledge in the previous post (Figuring Out). Today, I would like to tackle his second “Brain Exercise,” and attempt to think through it and make it meaningful to myself and hopefully to you, the reader. The second exercise calls for us to carefully think about the following:

“Conventional wisdoms always and inevitably produce conventional results. This means that if you perceive some problem or opportunity in a conventional way (just because that’s the way your mind works), you will come up with a conventional solution. But high performance, real achievement, is far from being the norm, far from being “conventional.” So the implication is that if you want to achieve extraordinary results, results that are not more or less “average,” then you have to produce those results out of some fairly unconventional wisdoms. … [Often such] perspectives … are counter-intuitive. That is, they run contrary to what most people already believe… always and inevitably …”

What unconventional way(s) could we think through this idea that would lead us to a better, more beneficial way of thinking? What Thayer seems to be saying is that the more conventional your thinking, the more conventional the results will be by virtue of your being limited by the conventional ideas which you use. That is, if you seek change in your organization, and since it comes from the thinkers you have available to you (your “resources”), you best make sure that the wisdoms you are drawing off of are potent enough to lead your thinking in the direction of that desired change. However, if the members of your organization are bounded by a “conventional” way of thinking, then that change itself will be “conventional.” We are limited by our thinking capacities.

Extraordinary (extra-ordinary) results come from one’s ability to think in ways that are not ordinary (conventional). The richer your mind, the richer the results of your thinking. If the stream of thinking in your or your competitor’s organization flows unchecked, then it will be that unchecked flow that will end up drowning your competitive edge. Thinking and questioning in counter-intuitive ways, having capable minds on hand will, on the other hand, provide critical power to your organization’s culture. Perhaps questioning conventionality and the conventions of your organization is the first step toward counter-intuitive problem solving?

In this light, it would seem that questions and the ability to be a superior questioner, in light of your purpose and your ideals (the ideals of your organization), would be a most beneficial skill to develop (is there a more “unconventional” approach that I am overlooking?). That, and perhaps, developing the ability to decipher the useful and provocative wisdoms from the run-of-the-mill ideas that get pushed by the mass business press.

Where would you look for the resources needed to become a skillful unconventional thinker? How does one begin to develop ab-normal strategies for high performance? What thinkers have colonized and influenced your (or your organization’s) mind? Where have they led you thus far? Can one be such a risk-taker in a conventionally-minded organization? What are the risks?

Figuring Out: An Exercise

In a blog post from early 2007, Lee Thayer proposed a series of “brain stretching exercises” meant to getting one’s thinking gears in shape. Today, I will attempt to exercise my brain by tackling one of these exercises. The exercise in question revolves around the idea that, “People can’t figure out what they need to know. People can only figure out what they are personally capable of figuring out. So they seek “advice.” And here a paradox rears its ugly face: If you know the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice (Thayer).” The link to the exercise is: here. Let’s dig.

Looking at the first two statements I would ask, what are some differences between what people can figure out (what they are capable of figuring out) and what they “need” to know? Is what you need to know dependent upon what you are trying to know? How capable am I (or, are you) of figuring out what you need to know? Are we, as humans, perpetually stuck in the condition of forever being limited by our own capacities for knowing?

Advice: Is most advice sought because one doesn’t know what one needs to know or doesn’t know where to look so looks to someone else for help? What should one do to maximize the quality of the advice that one gives/receives? Which leads us to the paradox that Thayer suggests: “If you know the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice.” What this suggests to me is that it all comes down to your capacity for filtering out what is relevant to your purpose and reason for knowing. That is, if you can recognize good advice from bad advice, then you probably don’t need advice. Is that what Thayer is saying?

Would the capacity to be able to distinguish good from bad advice somehow help one in their competency to be able to better figure out what they are capable of figuring out, thus leading them closer to where they should be?

Perhaps, if you have the ability to distinguish what advice is good/bad for you, then you needn’t seek. In other words, the building of the capacity to distinguish the two, in itself, becomes useful in terms of figuring out what you need to know. Where would you start exercising this capacity? In asking yourself for advice?

To further explore: If a person wants to take a job for a certain company, but, in fearing he doesn’t know everything he should know about that company, seeks advice from others, and then, in hearing the advice rejects the advice, did he actually need the advice in the first place? What benefit was the advice that he received? Had he already decided before even hearing the advice?

10 Tips for Mindful Work

Here are 10 general mindfulness exercises for when you are working.

1. Engage yourself in your work as if your job depends on it.

2. Become the best at what you do, not the best at gabbing around the office.

3. If you finish a project early, review your work and look for ways to improve upon it.

4. A big project is filled with small tasks, which may seem menial and/or tedious, but remember that the large project can only come together through the doing of the small tasks. Do them well.

5. Learn from your co-workers by asking the right questions.

6. If you are becoming overwhelmed by your workload, consider coming to work early. A quiet office very early in the morning can be quite refreshing and may be a nurturing atmosphere for productivity.

7. An afternoon walk outside may provide a solution to that problem you are trying to work out and the stimuli may help, too.

8. Build your work competencies daily by asking questions and learning as much as you can about your current position.

9. The better you are at what you do, the more meaningful your work will be.

10. From CL wisdom, “Do the NOW well.”


Please help me expand this list. What techniques for mindful working work for you?

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Some Thoughts on Michael Wade’s “Slowing Down”

Michael Wade wrote an excellent article entitled, Slowing Down, which I recommend you spend some quality time with. His brief article deals with, as the title says, “slowing down.” Namely, slowing down the ways in which we might rush through a project, an email or a piece of writing (slowing down our habits of living). His words ring quite true to myself as I scramble to put on my tie, finish and send an email while wolfing down breakfast, so that I can get to work on time. His words also remind me of some Constructive Living wisdom, which goes something like this: When you are in a hurry, slow down.

It’s amazing how sometimes we can jump so far ahead of ourselves that we ignore some small yet crucial detail or task, necessary to the successful and mistake-free completion of a project or task. Even as I am writing this, as the words keep appearing, I am, in a sense, rushing (now revising). Maybe you can sense that. We tend to live in a world of varying degrees of speed (as Thayer reminded us in “Reach vs. Grasp”). Sometimes productivity can overwhelm us. Sometimes being too productive can cloud over the value of slow and effortful doing. Perhaps productivity folds back in on itself. Sometimes faster is not always better, only faster. If, as the cliche goes, “time is money,” then we should make sure that we are wisely investing our time. This does not mean engaging in “impulse buys,” but, more crucially, in well-thought-out decisions (purchases) and purposeful doing. It’s the difference between eating fast-food as opposed to eating fresh fruit. There are big differences in the outcomes of this seemingly brainless choice.

Wade points us to a simple yet, in my opinion, valuable, look at this controllable way of thinking and doing. Our TV game shows like to challenge us by testing how quickly we can answer questions. The person who is the fastest gets to reply. If, in that situation, we are fast and able to correctly answer the question, we may walk away with a cash prize. Nonetheless, our daily lives are much different than that. While speedy responses and speedy completion of projects may show us to be valuable employees on the surface, what if the haste of our doing results in some simple yet overlooked mistake? Do we still get “the prize?” What if that email lacked some important piece of information? Why kick yourself later when you had the choice to revise? Overlooking something can be corrected if we just slow down. Is tackling a project with speed and tackling a project with purpose different? If so, how so? Can a quick reply be a well-thought out reply? Perhaps, but not for me.

Sometimes we become speed and sometimes we become slow. How does this way of thinking change or improve our ways of doing? Does it matter?

An Hour with Warren Bennis: Leadership Video (Harvard)

In this hour long video, Bennis address leadership, “the failings of a leader” and much more.

The description of the video is: “Warren Bennis, chairman of the CPL advisory board and University Professor at USC, speaks to a capacity crowd about the development and future of leadership and leadership studies.”

Three Stabs at Lifemaking

1. In certain moments, too much self-talk hinders doing what needs to be done. You need to discern those moments for yourself for no one else can do it for you. Also, organizing projects and then failing to start them gets you nowhere, unless that is where you want to be – Nowhere and with no “real” change.

2. Some moments are ripe for thinking or for watching a film, but some moments call you to become more than you currently are through action. How much effort do you put into what or how you do things or in what or how you think about things? It is easy to get caught up in the mundane, but it might not lead you where you want to go.

3. If you want fresh results, change what you do or change how you do it. How much effort is put into doing what is necessary? Sometimes wavering happens, but sometimes the wavering becomes an excuse for not doing what needs doing.

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A Living Fluidity

Sara Batterby’s article Brand Personification is a concise look at the living fluidity that one’s brand undergoes through the use of social media and search engine dissemination. It is also a call to recognize the “human” element of branding.

Batterby writes, “Brands, like us, have no meaningful existence outside of the constantly changing perceptions, interactions and relationships that they share with others. They must learn to see themselves this way. Through the eyes of their virtual community.”

Branding in an online world is subject to fluxuations, relationship building and collaboration, noise, and spread. One’s brand identity shifts and becomes unstable through interaction (or non-interacation) with others. It is no longer paid advertising, but publicity (i.e. conversations), that sway a brand to the ranks of the favorable or unfavorable. People have a voice and it counts consequentially. Moreover, it is the one who spends time with the work that counts, the one who helps construct our brand by making it apart of who they are.

The virtual communities that one is apart of communicates to others a part of who one is. The online identity of the brand is caught up within these micro-conversations, this labryinth of interconnectedness.

Batterby goes on to write , “This fluidity of what constitues the brand has given it a living quality that is more akin to our own existence and this should give us some insight into what to do about it.” Some companies are recognizing this and have joined the conversation. Directors, writers and artists using services such as Twitter to connect with others have put themselves into a vulnerable, albeit necessary state – they have embraced the human element of their brand.

We knew all along that behind the facade of the brand lurked real flesh-and-blood humans, but now, the facade is fading before our eyes and many brands are using social media, engaging with others and changing the way that we interact with and view their brand. Also, this flux has, in general, gone on to transform what used to be an online “profile” into a brand, a virtualization of the self.

Batterby ends by asking the deceptively simple question, “If your brand was a person, what kind of person would you want it to be?” Look within. Look without. Listen to the conversation. Listen to your self. Who are you?

Sara Batterby is the editor of WORD UP!.

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