Misconceptions are harder to correct than lies.

We all do it, take things out of context, only read the summary, sound bites, hearsay and even don’t listen carefully or fully enough to truly understand. These lapses of focus and concentration can sometimes lead to misconceptions about certain things in our lives. These misconceptions are often not noticed because we actually don’t realise they are misconceptions until we expend some effort in discovering them and correcting them. Misconceptions are like cracks and in the foundations they can range in size from minor hair cracks to major structural fissures. It is only when we begin to build upon them that we start to notice things aren’t quite correct or aren’t quite how they should be.

Like the denial of an alcoholic we often fail to recognise the misconceptions we carry and blindly follow and heaven help anyone who tries to correct them, for us. The simple fact is, that lies on the other hand are far easier to identify and therefore correct. Think about it lies or false concepts often hit a brick wall of reality where things don’t add up. At this point there are usually glaring and obvious inconsistencies, so we begin to dig deeper. Once we begin to examine the facts and look carefully at the lies or false conceptions, we are actually prompted into awareness of their existence. To a vigilant mind, lies and false conceptions are like acids corroding the understanding of the world; while misconceptions are like caustics, slowly undermining it. Acids burn when it touches our skin so we become painfully aware of it quickly and address it by washing it off, to correct the situation. Caustics also causes damage yet we do not feel it burning our skin so a caustic solution can continue to burn you without you every knowing its present.

Misconceptions are more subtle than lies, yet they skew or pervert our perceptions of the situation in much the same way. Misconceptions behave in a caustic way because we don’t realise they are misconceptions at the time. If someone told you today was Monday, when you knew it was actually Tuesday, you’d know it was an untruth or a lie; yet if you woke up thinking it was Monday, you could actually plod threw the whole day and never realise your mistake. You may even argue that the day was in fact Monday, with some vigour. In this situation your misconception would only come to light if you needed to work with a date oriented task.

Misconceptions like misunderstood lyrics can be rather difficult to shift and can actually lead to differing outcomes.

So how can we stop them? Well we can’t actually stop them, the best we can do is reduce the opportunity for them to exist.

Some thoughts on how to reduce the misconceptions:

1) Definitions are the foundations of communication, therefore when using jargon or sound bites paint the frame work of their meanings, in your context. It wouldn’t be the first time people glaze over the meaning of a word because of embarrassment.

2) When ever you use information from another field or discipline be aware that your audience my not be cross the subtleties of that area or field. Again context or the lack of a common context may allow misconceptions.

3) The opportunity for miscomprehension lies in life experience of your audience, the more homogenous the crowd the more specific, focused and jargon biased you can be. The trade off for easy of “communication” is an increase in potential misconceptions.

As a member of any community if you truly wish to discuss, debate and explore possibilities you must define, scope and frame the context of the discussion point. Only when we’re on a firm footing of known concepts and defined language can we have the freedom to truly communicate and explore ideas. Most people find the grunt work of defining and framing boring but without shared concepts, language and communication fails and falls into disagreement and argument.

Have you ever debated/argued with someone only to find the disagreement was solely based upon a subtle difference in the definition of a word. Words are not just words they carry with them subtile overtones of meaning which vary for each of us depending upon when, how, where we heard them and what they meant to us.

I hope these thoughts about misconceptions may aid in avoiding them.

When is help not helping?

An interesting experience at the local fried chicken store. Last time I went to my local fried chicken store I was struck by the total lack of awareness by the staff. The simple process of taking orders, preparing food, bagging and final delivery was completely off the rails. The bizarre thing was that it had gone off the rails mostly because of one “helpful” person. To summarise the situation I’m at the counter to order and ended up waiting more than 10 minutes for a staff member to take my order. The store was not overly busy only a few customers. So why the long wait before taking my order? The staff member in question had left his post “the register” to aid another front of house staff member in bagging orders. Nice of him but in more than 10 minutes he never kept an eye on the counter for new customers and no other staff member bothered to notice. I personally would have walked out 3 times over but my son wanted Fried chicken so we stayed. While waiting and watching the process the staff were engaged in I noticed they were waiting upon menu items which were not ready yet. The back of house staff never glanced at the counter, the front of house staff had their backs to the register meanwhile the customer waited. Eventually the male staff member came to the register and took another customers order who had been standing there waiting. I actually thought she had already ordered but she hadn’t. Upon taking her order he proceeded to go off to the bagging area to help his fellow female counter part.

Now all this time I was wondering if the two young people had been trained in front of house customer service. The basics of any food outlet the way I see it is get the order as soon as possible, once you have their order they are hooked and wait. One of the metrics most organisations use for customer relations is the wait time, answer the phone call in 3 – 8 rings etc. Back to the “process” I use the term loosely; while the staff were waiting on the menu items, no orders were taken therefore the cooking team could not prepare the food in the meantime for the other customers. The kitchen staff never glanced at the counter to gauge the up coming work load, the management never appeared from the back of the store/kitchen. This was not rush hour (5 people in the store) but the entire team at the local fried chicken store had bottle necked.

The counter staff handed the food to the previous customers apologising for the delay. I was thinking ‘if you take the orders while waiting for the not prepared menu items, the wait would not be so great’. The order taking process is the most crucial and shortest compared to those following.

Several minutes passed and then the female staff member came to take my order. Meanwhile two other customers entered and the older man walked start up to order in front of me. Realising the error, the female staff member asked me for my order. When she asked me if she could take my order, I smiled and enquired in a gentle polite manner if she had been trained in customer relations. The intent of the question was not to offend but to genuinely discover if the chicken store or the management team had trained her and her male counter part for front of house. My question was ignored, so I added “you have to keep an eye on the register when your at front of house”, to make her aware that it is important. At this point the pushy older male customer became animated accusing me of being abusive to her and that she did not have to put up with that etc. All the while he was backing away from me towards the exit, a man of conviction. This is the classic guilt mixed with snap judgement scenario, the old man had pushed in and without knowing what had happened before, the lack of process, he assumed that my question was because she had gone to take his order before me. This type of person is no help and beyond help in fact I consider him a moron because only a moron would get involved wth little or no facts. However, guilt is a funny thing.

Now let me expand, I know I somehow intimidate people by my looks and my honesty but I am very aware of this and try to be super gentle when interacting with people. The female staff member did not appear upset but more surprised. In fact the old man caused more of a scene than anyone, ironic, guilt again. I then proceeded to give my order clearly and distinctly, “4 zee burger combos, regular and 1 pepsi max and 3 sunkist”, she read it back to me “a zee burger combo, 1 pepsi max and 3 sunkist”. I corrected her “No, 4 zee burger combos, regular and 1 pepsi max and 3 sunkist”, she read it back to me “3 zee burger combos, 1 pepsi max and 3 sunkist”. I corrected her again “No, 4 zee burger combos, regular and 1 pepsi max and 3 sunkist”. Finally on the third try she got it correct. Now she may have been flustered by my question or the old man but the question of front of house training seemed rather relevant at this stage.

Anyway the order was thrown together, dropped she asked me if I wanted the receipt, to which I replied “yes” and I left.

The receipt has a survey link on it for feed back, she didn’t inform me of this but I knew anyway. I took the food home and proceeded to fill in the online survey. Needless to say very dissatisfied appeared in more than one box. What was interesting was the question asking about cleanliness. I responded by checking the “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” option, yet in the survey process I was later asked why I gave them a dissatisfied. Poor coding? The fried chicken store can’t listen? Who knows. I responded that I gave a neutral answer in the survey.

Why is your helping not helping? a funny story.

Now I’m a fixer, yes one of those genetically predisposed “idiots” that when I see a problem I feel a need to put it right. Therefore, when I saw a blocked drain I grabbed my set of plumbing springs


and began to clear the drain. Soil, roots the usual mess and eventually the drain was all clear. Now in the meantime my father was helping (yep you know where this is going). So while I was still working on the drain he decided to help by picking up all the soil I had pulled out and put to one side. My helpful father began to scrape up the debris and remove it. I had to move my stack of springs which were near me and the debris, to give him room to work. Now a set of old fashioned plumbing springs have a special tool called a separation key. This key is


designed to hook the end of the spring and pull it, enlarging the spring spiral while you twist it to separate the springs from each other. Now this little tool is a must because the springs become incredibly tightened during use and separating them without this tool is a nightmare. I noticed that my separation key was not near the unused springs. Yep he had somehow picked up a 100mm key and thrown it out, without noticing. Yes thrown it out, he had placed the debris into the garbage bin out on the curb for collection that very day. After some digging and head shaking I found the key and could now get back to cleaning the drain.

These two stories actually have a common thread of helping “going pear shaped” and becoming the opposite of helping.

How do you judge your worth?

What makes you feel your work is appreciated?

What gives you satisfaction?

What gives you validation?………Metrics?

We all value our time yet we often feel that the real effort we put into something is not appreciated. A friend of mine once told me that “Nothing says thank you, like a pay check!” I laughed but on the whole he was right…. well basically. The actual feeling of worth is not really wrapped up in the amount of money we earn from our efforts. The sense of worth is far more intangible than that. What really makes me feel appreciated is not money but a sense that I have in some way imparted benefit, knowledge or ease. Don’t get me wrong if I’ve just worked an entire week only to get a thanks, I don’t feel appreciated or valued at all. I feel underwhelmed and will not help them ever again because obviously their life and efforts are far more valuable and precious than anyone else’s. Harsh? Not at all, only the way they value others time is.

“Cast not pearls before swine….” So why in all logic would you help/aid such a superior and perfect entity.

The basic fact is often a simple act such as a coffee or just company while I’m helping you out is enough. An experience being shared often eases the burden. This concept seems foreign to most but the simple truth is that as the helpee watches they also learn, maybe by simple osmosis, or by asking questions and even by active involvement.

What about the question of success? How do you gauge how successful you have been in a particular task?

The irony is that regardless of how many people in your lecture or class room, the true measure of success is the impact we have upon others. When a student finally gets it or understands the concept you have been trying to get across to them, then and only then do I feel satisfaction and validation. There are only a handful of people in our lives which impart such an impact upon us and these are the ones who are often not considered successful by the usual measure of things in our society. The quiet achievers and “teachers” who may themselves not know they have actually contributed more to others and as such have led a truly validated existence.

Metrics are often used to give validation or satisfaction yet the actual purpose of metrics is to gauge position. Position of a process. I propose that since satisfaction and validation are somewhat difficult to gauge and define, that we often substitute the more easily measured “metrics”. The ease of measurement does not make ease of satisfaction or validation.

Validation and satisfaction are destinations, metrics aid in keeping us on course and headed in the right direction. Metrics can be alluring and highly convincing but they fall short when we try to find satisfaction and validation. How could a static measurement give anyone a sense of worth?

Think about your own experiences. What gave you satisfaction and a sense of worth? What was the best work environment you ever worked in? Think about it the intangibles play a far greater part than the measurable or “metrics”.

Metrics are finite, cold, short lived and tools. Satisfaction is potentially infinite, long lived and a destination. Validation is warm, ever-lasting and a state of mind.

Initial expectations and pot plants

When you first interact with someone, your mind goes into high acquisitions mode. This is the initial response whenever we experience anything for the first time. Our mind is like a sponge absorbing vast amounts of details about the new experience. This is a good thing evolutionarily speaking because we have a rapid response to new stimuli and therefore a course of action can be evaluated quickly.

Yet this evolutionary advantage has a down side when dealing with others, in the long term.

We are curious animals and love to learn but we also love to experience new things. Now we all know that we all have at sometime switched off during a conversation, we go on auto pilot. This is not a bad thing per se but it does leave us open to the fact we are not driving the car so to speak, we are not actively engaged. This is the vacuum where assumptions and expectations rule and exert their influence, the world of lazy folly.

Consider the way we tend to accumulate information,

  1. Initial uptake, mind is like a sponge absorbing vast amounts of data
  2. Evaluation of new stimuli/experience
  3. Response plan
  4. Course of action

These steps happen subconsciously and often go unnoticed, yet they often become expectations and even assumptions.

So what about the pot plants?

Initial expectations and even assumptions for that matter, often go unnoticed just like the pot around that small plant you bought. You look after the plant, interacting with it on a daily basis, watering, rotating the pot so it grows straight etc. Yet after a few years the plant seems unhappy and stifled. No matter how much you water it, the leaves always seem to droop from lack of water.

How could this be?

The plant has grown enough to be root-bound. Unbeknownst to you and out of sight of all, the roots have wrapped around the pot, strangling the very plant they are meant to feed. Any green thumbed person will tell you, you should have re-potted long ago. In fact generally speaking you should re-pot every 2-3 years depending on plant vigour.

Back to initial expectations…...

Your parents still treat you like a kid, even though you have kid of your own.
Your siblings still treat you like their baby brother or sister.
Your friends from high school still see you as you were way back then.

These all sound familiar and are all based on the same idea of the root bound pot plant. The initial interactions laid the ground work for the initial expectations and assumptions. Just like the roots of a plant, things change even if you don’t see them. So over time your initial expectations of a person or situation, even if accurate at the time, will drift.

It is these subconscious initial expectations that remain static, just like the pot around our plant and just like the pot we rarely re-evaluate (re-pot) them. So maybe we should revisit our initial expectations and be aware of them.

Expectations and Empowerment bizarre possibilities.

So what if the goal is to enable the empowerment of staff, how can we possibly accomplish this when human nature and culture on the whole is risk averse?

Most of us expect negative results when we fail, this is basic survival. Yet we also know that the greatest rewards are often obtained when we seek opportunities and stretch outside comfort zones. These less travelled paths often are avoided because of the risk of failure and the expectation of “punishment” or negative results. The strange thing is, that as companies become larger they are often forced into previously unfamiliar territory. This very risk is often were the benefits lie.

Yet in an established hierarchy the management and staff often feel that it is better to remain inert rather than proactive and acting upon possible opportunities. We have negative expectations when we see opportunities. Often even though the answers are obvious and easily implemented, we stand idle because it’s outside our pay grade or we want/need higher management permission to enact any action or change.

This form of initiative blockage is systemic in most work environments, so how could we get around this blockage? The answer may just be as simple as the problem. We use a “get out of jail free card” strategy. If you give your management team or even expert staff an exemption card, if something goes wrong during a project they could utilise it and the entire issue is for all intents and purposes a blank slate, written on a piece of paper and thrown in the bin, never to be remarked upon ever again. This reset, enables the expectation that even if things do not work out for what ever reason then the risk averse bias is negated to a certain extent by the exemption card. Obviously this is not meant to be carte blanche but a method to alleviate the bottlenecking and allowing staff of all levels to maximise opportunities, developing skill of evaluation and risk assessment along the way, all within a professional framework.

Expectations Pressures and Self

The word expectations invokes different things for different people, yet most of us see it as a negative. Comments like “What did you expect?”, “Don’t get your hopes up.”, “Manage your expectations.” sound all too familiar. They all cast expectations in a negative light to varying degrees.

So why do we dread expectations and see them in a negative way? The simple answer is FEAR, the most basic driving force that we humans seem to indulge in on a daily basis.

Fear of failure, fear of being let down, fear of not being good enough and the list goes on and on.  The interesting fact is that we divide expectations and fear. By pulling these two intertwined threads, we obscure the reason for our dread of expectations, which is due to our internal fears and the way we perceive others will see us. I leave you with that thought, give it some pause and contemplate how fear impacts the way we behave.

Expectations, pressure and self, heavy stuff but basically both expectations and pressure are impacted by the latter, Self. We all make our own reality and in doing so sculpt the perspectives of others.

The word expectations predominantly has a cautionary negativity about it but it is also seen as an external force. I know that expectations commonly are exerted upon us from the outside, project, boss, peers, family….etc. Yet we overlook, the more important expectations those we carry within. We all carry these expectations of Self but we tend not to acknowledge them.

Small children tend to have no real fear of failure or how others will see them. How often have you heard a small child say “I can do that !”, even though they have never done it before? They are not inhibited by expectation either external or internal, they carry a self expectation that they can do anything and be good at it. Adults on the other hand become nervous and fearful of any potential failure, tending to exert massive amounts of stress upon themselves and adversely impacting the experience and even the outcome at times.

You see self-expectations are often overlooked but I believe they are the most powerful of all expectations. The image of self and how it impacts our behaviours and responses is a vast topic, I will not go into detail here but I will hopefully cast some light upon the issue, so as to help you along the path of self awareness about the Self-expectations we all carry.

These self-expectations that we have, often limit our advancement and stifle our ability to succeed. How often have we hesitated despite the obvious. This can be seen often in a career path where we settle in and get comfortable. We expect that comfort, and this feeling of comfort should be there, all the while slowly becoming oblivious to the need to stretch ourselves, so we can grow and feel a sense of accomplishment.

I’m not just talking about our salary or pay, although this is a very common symptom of the self-limiting expectations but the growing dissatisfaction from our own fear driven self-expectations. If you feel you could contribute or do a task better, why don’t you? The instinct is to keep your head down and bum up but at what cost to yourself and the group. The loudest and most assertive among us are not always the best suited to the task at hand.

Yet often we down-size our expectations to suit our comfortable stride.

Game play – a Management Insight

The whole idea of modern management can be distilled down to a single basic goal to maximise profit, the methods in which a company or business pursues this most basic goal can vary substantially, focusing upon different areas such as efficiency, staff satisfaction, R&D (Research and Development) and the list goes on.

For the purpose of this discussion the method chosen to achieve the basic goal of profit, is irrelevant.

I want to focus on a method of decision making that we are all familiar with, yet underutilise in our work lives. The process is that of game play and in particular the games of Yahtzee and Poker. The simple fact is that in our management we forget that there are not only outcomes but multiple outcomes from any given situation. These actual outcomes may or may not be desirable but they are equally valid regardless.

The reason I’ve chosen these two games to highlight my point is that although both games are games of chance, they are also games of skill, relying upon probable outcomes of particular desired patterns.

The game of Yahtzee is based upon poker with dice, the general game play is a simplified and modified poker variant. Yahtzee does not allow for the ability to bluff as in Poker which makes it less human but more instructive for my example.

YahtzeeAs you can see from the Yahtzee score card to maximise your score every box (category) must be filled with the highest possible score. This is where the management part comes in because when you get say three or four of a kind you need to allocate that roll of the dice, for the highest yield. You have to decide if the three 6’s you just rolled should be scored as either a three of a kind or three 6’s. The fact that three 6’s is the highest three of a kind possible is going to bias your decision, in this case, so you place them in the three of a kind category but if they were 4’s instead. Three 4’s is a good score for either category, and it depends where you are in the course of a game. You begin to see the point?

There are definite probabilities for each potential outcome and obviously the more difficult, lower probability, ones are the highest rewarding. However, if we focus on only getting the highest possible score for each scoring outcome we soon find ourselves in a losing situation. Each roll of the dice must be recorded and accounted for so aiming solely for Yahtzee (5 of a kind) will result in poor scores because that blind focus will mean other options will be ignored.

So what has this got to do with management, well projects can be considered outcomes just like a hand of cards or a roll of the dice in Yahtzee.

When we ask for a piece of work we expect to get it, yet in the real world we rarely get what we expect and in fact may not get it on time or at all. The delivery may be postponed because a part of the work has not been completed, requirements change over time. This can happen quite often and is one of the reasons we do risk analyses. Yet if we remove the original expectations, we may realise we have created a very worthwhile component which would not be delivered because it is not the expected/requested whole but could fit into and/or compliment another project. Just like in Yahtzee holding onto the original expectations may lead to a reduction in movement towards our goals.

When we manage we tend to focus upon expected outcomes and unexpected or below expected outcomes are disregarded or thrown out.

Both Poker and Yahtzee also share the fact that the initial hand or roll can then be cherry picked and tailored to achieve the best outcome available with what was given. Then the parts not suitable for the newly scoped goal are discarded and re-drawn or cast. This happens three times in Yahtzee and one, two or three times in Poker depending on how many draws are allowed.

Adaptive Management FlowThe simple fact is that maybe the three 1’s are better scored in the one’s category rather than the three of a kind box. The old make lemonade when life gives you lemons approach. We rarely get what we expect, so if we are open to see the possible benefits of a given outcome disregarding our expectations then maybe we will have more wins.

I suggest that we use the mind set of reiteration and liquid goals as seen in Yahtzee and Poker as a possible management methodology, examining components and maximising their utilisation.

We all want it

We all want it,
but we rarely get it.
We rarely show it,
and don’t know
what to do with it.
Yet worst of all
We only find it
When it’s gone …….

What is it ?

Well it could be a few things but to me it describes Appreciation.

We all have been on both sides of this one. A valued member of a team leaves because basically they weren’t appreciated in their present job and all that we’re left with by their absence is a sense of “I’m going to miss them.” or “they were a valuable member of our team”. …….Too little, too late.

What makes Appreciation so difficult ?

The innate need to feel self-reliant and our own person is at the root of many strange and bizarre human behaviours. I consider the inability to give and indeed receive appreciation a side effect of the increasing cultural trend of self-first and self is all. The interesting shift regarding one’s self image is part of a greater capitalistic movement. The way you define yourself is an interesting exercise; I is prevalent, we are ego centric, the three most important people are Me, Myself and I. The constant self-evaluation and keeping up with the Jones, means that the trend is to move towards self-orientated behaviours. In fact, the mantra of entitlement and selfishness has been heavily espoused as the way of the modern world. I wonder but at what cost.

The strange paradox which appears, is a situation where selflessness and even an altruistic philosophy is facing extinction. How many of us have happily accepted help and or support from a fellow worker or anyone for that matter.

Now let’s say, you begin a company and you need a web presence, email etc. These things are provided by a third party, friend or relative at no charge to you, just to help you out. During the course of a few years, the inevitable server issues pop up and are dealt with. The company is moving along at a reasonable pace, tenders, projects and the general life blood of the company is reliant upon your email addresses and hosting of your website. Now the rub, we all require to be appreciated when we are working, this in its basic form is your pay packet. The fact is your wages or salary are the most tangible way our society shows appreciation.

What if there is no pay, how do you express your gratitude and appreciation?  Should you? Once we lose the structure of a work for pay contractual environment, we waiver and fall because we are now in unfamiliar territory. But why is it unfamiliar?

The sad truth is even the simple act of gift giving has been infected with the economic comparisons of our modern society. Is the gift expensive enough? Is it too expensive? What happened to “Will they like it? Or Appreciate it? Somehow, appreciation has become an economic value. Common sense would dictate that if someone spends 20 hours working for you; a cup of coffee may not be seen as appreciation but it’s a start. There is a very obvious scale to the effort involved with anything, just because someone is happy to help don’t take advantage or abuse the fact.

The situation above will eventually result in an alienation of the third party, the image of self-dictates that the person doing the web hosting for free, must be happy to do so or they would not have offered. Conversely if it bothered them they would say something. The simple fact we are blinded by our own inability to see the effort from the other side when it suits us, is obscured by ego. The fact that your company is doing well has nothing to do with the free web hosting or the email addresses. The ego will not allow the possibility that we are beholden to someone other than ourselves for our success.

The sheer arrogance of this position is staggering. We only exist because of the effort and sacrifices of all those that came before us. Without our ancestors we would not exist, we stand on the shoulders of all that has come before. Yet in the modern world I made it happen and we all can be incredibly wealthy and successful. The modern world rewards us and those who fail or underachieve make their own fortunes. The helpful person is there to be used and abused so that we can spring board to success. This is a very dark and bleak path we are on and not the world I choose to live in. Does it mean I don’t get used? No. Does it mean I don’t help? No. What it does mean is I give the benefit of the doubt, a total of three times. I call this baseball rules, three strikes you’re out. I consider three chances more than enough.

So next time you help someone and expect a little acknowledgement for the effort you have made, try to remember how you responded when others helped you. You may find you did not show or express your appreciation and then be wondering why no one seems to offer aid anymore.

The cost of appreciation seems too great for our modern society and appreciation without capitalistic embodiment so rare we don’t even know how to identify it. I wonder how hard it is to say thank you or buy someone lunch….it may just kill me?

Quantum Discussions about Decisions

I have often been amused by the way most people consider the world to be binary. Their lives are mapped out in Yes / No options. We are often presented with or present to others questions or tasks that we expect to get either a yes or a no answer. In fact our cultures seem to be built upon the very idea that we need to know either yes or no. Yet the simple fact is that our world is not a binary one (Yes/No or 1’s and 0’s) but a far more complicated one. The realm of quantum mechanics, Schrödinger’s cat and the quantum states.

To understand we constantly search for simple correlations and then collate like facts or events. This is commonly seen in the way we pigeon hole ideas, thoughts, facts etc.. Yet by doing so we also reduce and strip away the “individuality” of the particular item or event. If I say rock concert then we all form an image of a typical scenario we consider to be a rock concert. The fact is that unless more information or context is provided then we could all see the rock concert as a completely different thing, a vast range of possible outcomes.

This is sort of the realm of quantum mechanics and computing because it becomes more about probabilities than about definitive out comes. Monte Carlo simulations also spring to mind as ways we can cope with the lack of definitive or binary outcomes in decision making.

I have long held that although we tend to fall back into the comfortable binary, Yes/No decision protocols we often ignore the neutral or zero state. I suggest that instead of a binary (0 or 1) protocol we should be aware that many things fall into a “trinary” (+1 or 0 or -1), yes three possible options. To highlight this consider driving forward, you can turn left or right but you can also continue forward. Often the basic need to feel empowered in our lives makes us see the world in a yes or no manner, yet we could also decide to not make the decision and wait and see. The wisdom of this is often obvious “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” or the “wait and see” philosophy.

So next time you feel you have to make a decision, ask yourself is the zero state actually a more prudent option ?

You must also consider that the trinary protocol’s Zero state is not mutually exclusive of the Yes or No options but actually allows for the possibility of greater clarity and reflection.

If it helps consider it a reiteration of a binary loop.

Decision Pic

Now this is not really as complicated as a true quantum method of decision making, I’ll leave that for the more Monte Carlo inclined people among you but it is a good place to start.

Be Water

In team dynamics there is a lot of discussion about personality types and behaviours. I suggest that all of these points of view although valid and interesting are all flawed to some degree because they all make assumptions and have inherent biases about the people involved. These assumptions and biases may be subtle yet can be highlighted by the simple question “How would you describe or define yourself ?” That’s easy to answer or is it? How many people can objectively answer honestly and without any bias?

This blog is meant to shake up and loosen the firm grasp that any previously held beliefs about group dynamics, personality types and their driving behaviours have upon us. I hope to highlight and to help clarify the complex interactions that are involved in groups.

The basic premise that personality is set and therefore the patterns of our behaviour are also equally constricted is mostly true yet flawed. While I was exploring the field of Chinese Astrology I came across an out of print book …… which highlighted at its very beginning that your astrological sign predisposes you to certain characteristics and behavioural tendencies. Yet the awareness of these predispositions, can help the person make a conscious effort to modify or even alter their own character and behaviours and therefore their destiny.

Whether you believe in astrology or not, doesn’t matter but the lesson that the human animal while predisposed to certain behaviours and traits, has at its heart the ability and possibility to modify and even alter these behaviours and therefore outcomes, is valid.

Martial artist Bruce Lee in a 1971 interview on the Pierre Berton Show, stated that his style was fluid and changeable. The example he gave was that water took the shape of whatever vessel it was poured into, it was not ridged or set but easily adaptable and therefore all forms and yet none at the same time. Lee’s fighting style was the same, taking and modifying many martial arts and adapting and changing fluidly during the course of a bout. The lesson he taught was to be water, adaptable and fluid.

So what does this have to with team dynamics ?

Well, we are all predisposed to certain traits, characteristics and behaviours, a group by its very nature is composed of different people. Sometimes the group will naturally form, people gravitate towards each other, seeking out like-minded people. Other times the group will be constructed by a lead or manager trying to find a blend of personalities and character traits that work well together, an equilibrium, at least on paper. Regardless of how the group is formed they all undergo, what I call “balancing“. The process of balancing can be at the people level, which is what most group/team dynamics seem to focus upon or as I believe also at the individual level.

Balancing can be seen by the dynamics in a group where the strengths and weaknesses of some individuals counter balance those of other group members. In fact it is this very interplay and dynamic which enables group bonding through interdependencies. These interdependencies in a well-balanced team are bidirectionally rewarding giving a sense of belonging, security, worth and need.

This balancing can be seen easily in the interactions between individuals but there is a more subtle balancing that occurs which is less obvious. The concept is actually rather common but not really readily acknowledged, internal balancing.

We have all experienced someone who behaves differently around a certain group of people or have maybe even done it ourselves? I’m not talking about the “two faced” type of behaviour which is unfortunately becoming rather common place in today’s culture, as a means to rapidly climb the career ladder. “How to succeed in business without really trying” was a great comic film on the topic.

I’m talking about the often subtle character shifts and even changes we all make when dealing with relationships. This is often more easily seen in personal relationships where compromise and modifications of traits and behaviours take place even subconsciously during the time of interactions. The blatant Boys night, Girls night type of peer gatherings often see this modification of character in a bad way.

The edict and professional ethos is that we adapt to allow others to be. The idea of becoming water the next time you interact with your team, being aware of any imbalances and then modifying your self-expression and behaviour to enable balancing, may just benefit you all. Certain people are naturally adept at these types of subtle behaviour shifts, almost chameleon like. These can be valuable team members, gluing and balancing a team’s dynamic towards a positive outcome or they can be highly manipulative types much like “How to succeed in business without really trying”.

Personally I feel that we are all made up of a multitude of persona, different points of view per-se, all working co-operatively for the greater good of the individual, yet there will be one persona which is in the drivers’ seat. This strongest persona is the one that we present, yet the others also exist and are equally valid. In the case of multiple personality disorders you could argue that the personas present in all of us as a team or amalgam, stop co-operating with each other to the extent of not even interacting and then we see the personality fragment into divergent psyche. This could also be seen in very poor group interactions where isolation and divergence occur and lead to a dysfunctional team.

We should be aware of this internal balancing and like the astrology analogy, be empowered so we can modify or tweak our interactions.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
Bruce Lee