TIP OF THE TAIAHA - MAY 2019

THE ONE QUESTION THAT RESOLVES CONFLICT


Conflict is an unfortunate and unavoidable part of our lives. While it has the potential to stimulate us to accomplish great things, it can also drag us off course, erode relationships, and keep us from becoming the kind of person we want to become.


Our daily challenge is to decide which conflicts are useful and which are counterproductive. Today, we want to share a simple formula that can help you avoid pointless skirmishes and take on what really matters most. Following it can dramatically decrease your daily stress level, pointless debate, and wasted time.


When you see conflict arise, ask yourself this question:

“Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?”

You may wonder, how does asking myself a mere question change anything? We have to recognise that in every waking hour we are bombarded by people and events that pull us in different directions. Our environment tempts us with never-ending distractions. If we can create just a split-second delay in our response, we can get back in control and consciously decide how we react.


Let’s examine the question more closely:


“Am I willing” implies that we are taking responsibility. We are asking ourselves, “Do I really want to do this?”

“At this time” reminds us to stay focused on the present moment. What matters is the issue we are facing right now.

“To make the investment required” provokes the consideration that responding to others is an expenditure of time and energy. Our resources are finite, so we have to ask “Is this the best use of my time?”

“To make a positive difference” places emphasis on our mission: to help create a better world and a better us. If our response wouldn’t accomplish one or the other, why get involved?

“On this topic” focuses on the problem at hand. Any time spent on issues where we can’t make a positive difference is taken away from topics where we can.


Asking the question provides you with sufficient time to reflect before you engage or move on. You get the chance to make peace with what you are not going to change and free yourself up to tackle the challenges that really matter in your life.


“Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?”


Ref: Dr Marshall Goldsmith




THE CONTRARIAN CORNER - How Success stories can mislead us


It always pays to be a little contrarian in your views and thinking I've found, even if it limits your abilities in the popularity contest arena. A great story I read a few weeks ago at the pen of another great contrarian Ozan Varol detailed a true chain of events dating back to WW2.


If a mathematician hadn’t followed his contrarian instincts, World War II may have turned out differently.


Abraham Wald was born in Hungary, got his Ph.D in mathematics from the University of Vienna, and immigrated to the United States after the Nazis invaded Austria. During World War II, he worked for the Statistical Research Group, which was tasked with applying math to solve various problems that came up during the war.


One question concerned how to better protect American warplanes flying over enemy territory. These planes would take serious fire, with some returning home and others crashing and burning.


Wald, had to determine where to put extra armour on the planes to ensure fewer of them were shot down. In the planes that had safely returned home, the bullet holes were clustered mostly on the fuselage, but not on the engines.


Knowing this information, where would you put the armour?


The answer might appear obvious: Put more armour in places with the visible damage, where the planes are taking the most flack. This was the approach the military wanted to follow.

But Wald thought the right approach was the exact opposite. The extra armour, he argued, should go where the bullet holes are missing—not where they are present.


Wald saw something concealed in everyone else’s blind spot. He realised they were looking only at the planes that had survived enemy fire and safely returned home—not at the planes that crashed and burned.


In other words, the bullet holes on the surviving planes showed where the planes were strongest, not the weakest. After all, these planes could be turned into Swiss cheese with bullets to their fuselage and still survive. The most vulnerable part of the plane was the engine, which showed no damage at all on the surviving planes. They weren’t seeing any holes on the engines—not because the planes weren’t getting shot there—but because the planes that were hit there didn’t return home.


So Wald proposed bulking up the armour on the engines. His proposal was quickly implemented and subsequently used in other future conflicts as well.


This story holds important lessons. In our daily lives, we focus on success stories—the surviving airplanes—and try to emulate them. Pick a random business book from the non-fiction aisle, and chances are that you’ll find a formula for winning the business game by following the lead of today’s mega successful entrepreneurs.


But this approach can be deeply misleading. We’re seeing only the survivors—not the failures who took bullets to their engine and never returned home.


For two main reasons, the success stories you do see are far less valuable than they appear. First, the story might be a perfectly curated portrayal that covers up all of the bullet holes (see, for example, most celebrities’ Instagram accounts).

Second, even if the failures are revealed—and the success story involves overcoming some form of adversity and emerging victorious in the end—the damage was often sustained in the fuselage where the armour was already pretty strong and resilient. Their metaphorical engine was never hit. So if you strictly follow their approach—but take one wrong bullet in the wrong place—you’ll probably crash and burn.


This doesn’t mean we should ignore success stories. Rather, it means we should take them with a serious grain of salt.

Using the contrarian mindset to growing people great is a useful tool. It opens the mind and the heart to vastly different paradigms of thought. It helps you question why certain things are the way they are and why they couldn't be better. In fact I would argue that the contrarian mindset is key and integral to the entrepreneurial and leadership process. Being able to conceptualise a different reality, even when that reality goes against the norm takes courage and sometimes a dogmatic attitude.


This applies in a leadership context to developing a culture that allows vastly differing opinions to 'live under the same roof'. Empowering a culture like this will mean there are more generative conversations going on and therefore many of the key metrics being affected.

In a progressive way the process below shows a simple route to disrupting an ecosystem starting with self and progressing toward disruption.


SELF SOVEREIGNTY -> COHERENCE WITH OTHERS -> GENERATIVITY -> CREATIVITY -> INNOVATION -> DISRUPTION

It all starts with fostering a mind for why, how, should, could?

As leadership development takes place in your organisation make sure there is place for the contrarian view, you never know when it will save you a nasty crash.


The details of the story come from Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking].






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