Exploring ways to bring excellence to LIFE!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Defy Labels

I am reading The Story Factor by Annette Simmons, which is an excellent book, subject and she writes it in a very excellent manner. This morning I read, “Getting caught up in categories and linear analysis misses the point…” (pg 80) when it comes to what kind of story to tell and why to tell it, because it is more than that. She further says, “It is useful to have categories, but they are not real.” (pg 80). She also talks of a 35 year old woman and snapshots of her at 3 years old and 13 years old and that she is neither 3 or 13 or 35 but all those things and more. Very cool


The easiest way to see this is to look at our interpersonal relationships. In our ordinary experiences with other people, we know that approaching each other in a machinelike way gets us into trouble. We know that the process of changing a relationship is a lot more complicated than the process of changing a flat tire on your car. It requires a willingness to change. It requires a sense of openness, a sense of reciprocity, even a kind of vulnerability. You must be willing to be influenced by another person. You don't have to be willing to be influenced by your damn car! A relationship with a machine is fundamentally a different kind of relationship: It is perfectly appropriate to feel that if it doesn't work, you should fix it. But we get into real trouble whenever we try to "fix" people.
-Peter Senge

We have objectified, analyzed and categorized our world to death. Our model in life today is to look at our problems as objects and for many purposes utilizing an unemotional perspective is useful, but it doesn’t fully cover the needs. Is it useful to look at our family in its entirety and make decisions on objective fact alone? Pick friends and lovers based on 32 personality measures for success? Plan our marriages, children, and careers on an efficient timeline reducing non value activities to a minimum and capitalizing on high value opportunities? I would hope most people would answer “No”, however, this type of thinking and I may add behavior is not a small minority. In some ways we are losing what we had when we didn’t have what we’ve got today. With the advent of ever increasing technology, we are losing our realization that machines cannot produce small humans and that humans cannot go through fertilization, a nine month gestation and a strenuous birthing and produce small machines. Thomas Moore in his book, The Care of the Soul, points to our machine age models as one of the reasons we are losing what we had.

The most universal challenge that we face is the transition from seeing our human institutions as machines to seeing them as embodiments of nature. I've been thinking about this shift for 25 years or more: We need to realize that we're a part of nature, rather than separate from nature.
-Peter Senge

While many may agree that way we spend our energy on our human relationships need to differ dramatically from our relationship to machines and technology, what about the energy we spend with regard to our companies and organizations? They are neither human nor are they machines, which does not mean that we should invalidate or necessarily marginalize their existence to rash strategies which constantly tear down and recreate structure as if there is one right structure that will become apparent in the instant it is conceived.

I worked with clients who in the past who would probably be better served by a metal detector than a plan or a strategy, for they are constantly looking for silver bullets (can you detect silver with a metal detector?). “When we get this (program, tool, process, person) we will be so busy, I don’t know how we are going to handle it.” In the meantime the old program, tool, process, and people sit around, gather dust and at least for one category of resource, grumble, complain, and wonder what’s next? All the while frittering away valuable energy in the form of dollars spent and not realized, potential untapped, and opportunities missed.

Companies and organizations are not people, processes or technology but the embodiment of all. They are the container that holds them all together and as such are a being in its own right; unique, different and requiring different attention. This container is the system that allows these things to thrive. Mess with the container and you mess with everything in it. Leaders need to know that when you change an organizational structure, it is like adding blue dye to a pond – it is very attractive for the moment but the unintended consequences and down stream negative effects are much more than the momentary thrill of looking good.

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