January 26, 2011
The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions. Antony Jay
I‘m not much impressed with the critics. They are the people who, at first glance, look smart and creative. They’ll sit in meetings and play the role of the Devil’s advocate. On the surface, they appear to be team players pulling in the same direction as the rest of us.
Look beyond the facade, though, and you’ll notice some interesting contrasts. Critics want to be perceived as creative thinkers, yet they demonstrate little creativity just by pointing out what’s wrong with something. They hope you’ll regard them as hard workers, yet in reality they have chosen the path of least resistance. Critics hope you’ll see them as high performers, yet they do most of their swimming in the shallow end of the pool.
Initially, critics might appear to be part of the solution, but actually they are part of the problem.
Again, I’m not much impressed with the creativity of someone who is quick to spot wrong answers. I’m impressed when someone can spot wrong questions, and I’m even more impressed when that person wrestles with finding the right questions.
In earning my master’s degree I took a class in market research. One key thing I learned was this: To the get the right answers we must obsess with asking the right questions. The wording of a question often determines the answer.
Do you ask good questions? Do you find yourself mentally rewording and even rehearsing questions prior to asking them? That takes creativity, you know.
What is your motivation in asking questions? Do you want your questions to empower and add value? Or are you subtly trying to impress people by asking questions that are negative and destructive?
If we ask the right questions, I believe the right answers will magically manifest themselves. Agree?
January 12, 2011
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. Shunryu Suzuki
You are an experienced professional who knows what you’re doing. Right? Your education, your work history and your skills all combine to make you an expert in your chosen field.
It’s only natural if you want others to rely on you for your expertise, but be careful when you’re tempted to think of yourself as an expert. Being labeled an expert can lead to rigidity and inflexibility.
We gain experience as we learn from the mistakes of ourselves and others. Experience teaches us what works and what does not. Be cautious, though, because the more we become vested in the status quo, the more likely we are to get stuck in a rut.
I enjoy being surrounded by people who think with a beginner’s mind. Though they may be experienced and have reputations as “experts” they approach projects differently than do those who label themselves as experts.
A beginner’s mindset has these characteristics:
- Insatiable curiosity. A beginner is filled with wonder and looks at the world with a sense of awe. Like a child, a beginner asks lots of simple yet profound questions.
- Playfulness. The beginner has fun experimenting with different ideas and various options. A good beginner plays nicely in the sandbox and knows that teamwork can make the game even more fun.
- Flexibility. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. Innovation and major breakthroughs come from people who are not rigidly defending the status quo.
My wish for the coming year is that you will remain forever young and that you will always be relevant because you are a beginner, not an expert.
January 5, 2011
I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.—Mark Twain
In these tough economic times, it’s too easy to create worst-case scenarios and then start believing they will actually become our reality.
Too many leaders of nonprofit organizations ask, “What if our contributions dry up?” Then they make contingency plans to liquidate services core to their mission.
Too many patriotic Americans are manipulated by politicians who rally their base by crying, “The sky is falling.” Confidence and optimism spiral downward.
Too many frustrated workers cling to their miserable jobs because they envision scary scenarios where they might be destitute or homeless. Productivity declines as these hapless employees, paralyzed by fear, forfeit career satisfaction.
We can do better than that. In the coming year I hope that:
- Business leaders will acknowledge the threats they face and then have the courage and the vision to focus on the opportunities awaiting them.
- Elected officials will inspire constituents by talking more about they stand for rather than pandering for votes by talking about what they are fighting against.
- Talented workers will recognize that their greatest risk is taking no risk and that they will empower themselves to use their skills in ways no one could have imagined five years ago.
Sure, dark clouds loom on the horizon, but I challenge you to find a time in history when that was not true. In any situation, we can find something to fear. We can also find reasons for hope and optimism.
I find confidence and comfort in Christ’s words from the Sermon on the Mount when he said,
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In other words, don’t worry!
January 3, 2011
The people at WordPress.com sent me the following information on how this blog did in 2010. On the meter below, they rated the overall blog health as “Wow.” Here are some other interesting stats:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2010. That’s about 12 full 747s.
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