Cannot predict the future, but can prepare

Human interventions to control the COVID-19 pandemic have created complexity. People’s reaction to the interventions may be counter-intuitive and seemingly irrational – witness Donald Trump’s behaviour.

There is delay in obtaining information on the virus, the disease and the pandemic – therefore we are always playing catchup.

Human societies are inherently policy resistant and so the interventions are likely to be delayed, diluted or defeated. For example, the prohibition on sale of cigarettes has replaced by a black market: consequently 95% of smokers are still smoking … and the government revenue from sale of cigarettes has declined.

Mindsets and both conscious and unconscious biases in the scientists and decision-makers influences the information they seek, the way the gather it, their interpretation and how they make decisions. Can NDZ reassure herself and us that her recommendations and/or decisions on sale of tobacco products and alcohol are not influenced by her mindset and biases but only by the empirical evidence on what will ‘flatten the curve’?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new. We do not understand well the virus; nor its behaviour in human beings; nor the human body’s responses to the virus. For example, we do not know if people who have recovered from the disease have lasting immunity – and if they do not, then, for example, the notion of herd immunity in nonsensical. 

The pandemic is a ‘complexity mess’: every part of the problem interacts with other problems and is therefore part of a set of interrelated problems; simple cause and effect are replaced by effects having multiple causes and the effects are also causes of other problems.

            As a consequence of effects becoming causes, the nature of the mess changes as we try to deal with it.

In this situation, large scale interventions may have small effects on the pandemic and seemingly small interventions may have big effects. For example, enforced lockdown of an entire society may not stop exponential spread of the disease or even adequately ‘flatten the curve’. But mutual care for one’s fellow human’s being’s health might.

All models are wrong. All models of real-world complex systems are faulty imitations of reality – anyone who has drawn up and had to perform against a business budget understands this.

This does not mean that models are of no utilitarian value, on the contrary they can be useful, especially in revealing what we do not know or understand.

However, we need to be humble about our knowledge and understanding as we engage with complex problems. Be able to provide different and valuable perspectives on our data. As we learn, we may also need to change our decisions in the hope that the adaptation better will allow us to deal effectively with the present and the unknowable future.

A few key points on models and forecasts were highlighted in Dance with Chance:

  • Extrapolating historical patterns into the future will be inaccurate; the future is never the same as the past;
  • Complex statistical models fit historical data well, but don’t necessarily forecast well;
  • Simple statistical models often outperform complex models because they just forecast the basic trend forward;
  • Human judgment is a notoriously bad form of prediction, even when the judgments are made by “experts”;
  • The real extent of uncertainty is not captured in either statistical models or human judgments; modellers are surprised by the large errors and events not captured in their forecasts.

There is no need to be fatalistic, despite the challenges of truly complex problems such as COVID-19 pandemic. We might not be able to predict with accuracy the occurrence of chance events or how they will evolve. That does not mean we must be fatalistic. There are ways of becoming prepared for an uncertain future:

  • Accept that You Operate in an Uncertain World.
  • Assess the Level of Uncertainty you Face – Realistically.
  • Augment the Range of Uncertainty you’ve Realistically Assessed. A simple but practical way of achieving this is to develop a range of certainty around any prediction you make. Human beings are just not good at imagining just how bad or well the future might be. Therefore, the authors of Dance with Chance suggest taking the difference between the largest and smallest value in your data set and doubling it to set a range around your predicted value. This should cover about 95 percent of all possible outcomes.
  • Prepare: The next step is to consider how one might prepare for such extremes of change. Prepare for the worst and post-mortem critics will say you over-reacted; prepare for the best and ‘you should have known it would be worse’. We are already witnessing this as COVID unfolds, as more data become available and as prediction models are refined.

George W Bush was the butt of may jokes, but he prepared the USA for an influenza epidemic in 2005; his administration’s detailed plan last was updated in 2017 – it is why there is a federal stockpile of equipment for a  respiratory epidemic! The plan was not implemented by the Trump administration.  Bill Gates made similar proposals in 2015 after the W Africa Ebola epidemic – he was ignored. Here is a view from Fareed Zachaia on what COVID will mean: are we prepared …. For the worst or best possible outcome?

Roger Stewart.  April 2020  

Slack in the System

Dynamic human systems have three ways of dealing with change in the environment: buffers (absorb), feedback (adapt) and feedforward (anticipate). This precis has to do with buffering – slack in the system. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have exposed organisations and countries with no or very little ‘slack in the system’.

Organisations are being exhorted to do more and more, faster and faster with less and less. Lack of slack reduces the ability to respond to opportunities and threats. A counter-intuitive principle of dynamic systems, such as business organisations is that some slack in the system is essential for its efficient operation. ‘Fat’ is wasteful slack that should be eliminated.

Prudent slack imparts resilience and robustness: an ability to absorb internal or external ‘shocks’ to the system e.g. unexpected loss of an executive, equipment failure, an epidemic.

Resource slack is equipment, inventory or personnel in excess of average or current demands. 

Temporal slack is a bit of extra time, e.g. allowing an additional 10 minutes when travelling to a meeting at another location.

Procedural or control slack is the under-specification of non-critical processes or authority – it allows for some flexibility. 

Conceptual slack is heterogeneity of perspectives on a system’s state, functions, and environment – i.e. some tolerance of different points of view.

Prudent slack is a buffer that makes organisations robust. Robustness is the ability of an organisation to maintain critical functionality and to perform well in the face of significant stress: threats and opportunities. Stress occurs more frequently than random events: think of late delivery of material, increase costs, machine breakdown, temporary absence of key personnel, or a big order.

The challenge for managers is to know if slack is prudent and beneficial or wasteful. One approach is to monitor carefully what happens for some months after a larger order comes in, when a crucial supply is delivered late, when equipment breaks down or when key personnel are absent for a brief period.

Selected Online Sources

 ‘Cut the Fat but Keep some Slack’, by S Mullainathan and E Shafir in Strategy and Business 2014:74. Reprint 00229: http://goo.gl/wAE3QE

The Joy of Slack,by R Wears.. http://resiliencehealthcarelearningnetwork.ca/blog/the-joy-of-slack

Roger Stewart. March, 2014,  April 2020 202  

PRECIS: WICKED PROBLEMS

This precis is about the principles that should guide how to deal with a wicked problem, such as can occur in any business. The COVID-19 pandemic has become a wicked problem, but not because it is a new contagious disease. It has become wicked because the entire nation has been locked down since it became clear there was community spread of the virus.  Lockdown put an end to or severely impaired the essence of society: human interaction. The consequences have been deep and wide and created a multitude of interconnected secondary problems for society. The merits of the lockdown are not at issue here. Interconnected problems in society, on which there are diverse perspectives and interests, are seldom solved … they may never end and continuously need to be ‘re-solved’.

            Authoritative strategies:  give the problem to some group of ‘experts’; they gather data, analyse and make recommendations; some powerful stakeholders may be consulted then the authority makes decisions. Other stakeholders acquiesce or are forced to abide by the authority’s decisions and they follow the orderly flow determined from above. Authoritative strategies do NOT solve or resolve wicked problems – they tend to cause protracted discord.

Collaborative strategies: are particularly relevant where part of the solution to the problem involves sustained behavioural change by many stakeholders and/or citizens. Success is contingent on shared information, shared understanding about the problem, and shared commitment to the possible solutions. Shared understanding means that the stakeholders understand each other’s positions well enough to have intelligent dialogue about the different interpretations of the problem, and to exercise collective intelligence about how to solve it.  

At the core of collaboration is a win-win view of problem-solving. The collaboration may involve ‘experts’ from diverse fields; partnerships between different stakeholders and with government (the authority); treaties and compacts; and information and related campaigns to influence voluntary, appropriate lifestyle changes.

Key advantages include higher stakeholder commitment, more comprehensive and effective ways forward, and fewer resources having to be used by any one stakeholder. The process costs can be high skills in dialogue and of collaboration ay be limited. Poorly managed attempts can lead to conflict, hardened positions and stalemate.

Unlike tame problems (see tabulated summary on the next page), wicked problems do not have a right or wrong solution; would-be solutions of wicked problems range from good to bad or workable to unworkable and tend to be intractable … they seldom come to a definitive end: the intended outcome may be ‘delayed, diluted or defeated’.[i] While there may be algorithmic elements in the design of the solution(s) to wicked conundrums, the keys are creativity, flexibility and adaptation-on-the-go.

Roger Stewart

18 May 2020


[i] John Sterman. Business Dynamics.  Boston; Irwin McGraw-Hill; 2000

Sustainability

burnt at the stake cartoons, burnt at the stake cartoon, burnt at the stake picture, burnt at the stake pictures, burnt at the stake image, burnt at the stake images, burnt at the stake illustration, burnt at the stake illustrations

Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of belief that conflicts with established dogma. Sustainability has become the subject of dogma and hocus pocus; it is time for an heretical view.

Business sustainability is defined in confused corruptions of what has become the painful platitude of profits, people and planet.  The alliteration aggravates rather than ameliorates. 

As the word sustainability has rolled through the confusion of environmentalism, corporate governance codes and the media it has gathered so much conceptual baggage that it has been rendered unfit for (just about any) purpose. We are enduring a period of a major exogenous, but man-made shock to the survival of companies. Our fight for our companies’ survival has resulted in a diversion. A risk we now face is post COVID-19 diversion to preparation for the next 100 year (unknown). When sanity prevails we shall be at risk of being diverted from THE major risk to business: endogenous decline and the inevitable demise of the corporation

First, it is useful to define sustainability so that it means what it is meant to mean for centuries.

sus·tain (səˈsteɪn)

tr.v. sus·tained, sus·tain·ing, sus·tains

n. sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty

1. To keep in existence; maintain.

2. To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for.

from Latin sustinēre : sub-, from below; see sub- + tenēre, to hold

The word carries the notions resilience and endurance in the face of exposure to potentially destructive energy … and an optimistic view includes the corollary of an ability to “bounce back” to a flourishing state, not mere existence. 

Consider a business organisation as a human social system that is part of but subordinate to and dependent upon society. In its turn, society is contained within, subordinate to and dependent upon the natural environment.  There is dynamic interaction between these systems … systems within systems, a recipe for the kind of mess in which complexity doyens delight. 

Human social systems are purposeful. A purposeful system is one that can act with intent: it can set goals and produce a variety of chosen outcomes in different ways.  Social systems can learn, adapt and create. 

Somewhat paradoxically, the environment upon which social organisations are dependent is not purposeful; it is limited in that it is a state-maintaining system subject to entropy.  So, while environment is superior in the hierarchy of containment (it contains society), it is subordinate to the human social system within it: by commission or omission, society may and does disturb the dynamics of the environment.   The environment is not purposeful; it is adaptive and its creativity dependent upon the very few random accidents with a successful outcome (i.e. evolution).

So, let’s return to the notion of sustainability qua sustain-ability.  In order for a business (system) to endure it must be resilient against a few potentially sources of destructive energy:

  • Endogenous decline (organisational entropy) which is the common to all human systems.  Just as cells seem to be pre-programmed to die (apoptosis), so it would seem that human social systems, such as companies, also are pre-programmed to die (organisational apoptosis is a useful metaphor). This accounts for 95% of cases of organisation decline and death.
  • Exogenous disasters, either environmental or societal, e.g. the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake near global lockdown. These events are uncommon, accounting for less than 5% of cases of organisation decline – but they may cause mass extinction of corporations.
  • Environment exhaustion refers to the decline in natural resources and the consequences of damage to the environment that strain and diminish its state-maintaining ability.  This cause of corporate decline is currently uncommon but may also one day cause mass extinction of corporations inter alia. The damage may be irrecoverable n the short term and this matter deserves attention at all levels of society.

Businesses are purposeful.  Therefore, they may set for their organisations purposes that are directed at internally determined integrity and also at their relationships with society and the natural environment.  Every organisation comprises three interconnected basic subsystems its social system, its value creation system and its governance system.  All of these are also dynamically connected to the organisation’s external environments, business, social and natural.

So what does this mean to a board of directors and its role in sustainability?  It means that the governance system of the business must ensure that all three subsystems strive individually and together the organisation strives to ensure that the business is resilient and endures the three main destructive threats.  It is a drive towards the maintenance of organisation integrity.  In this context, integrity means nothing more than wholeness – a whole that is more than the sum of the parts.  Therefore, a board should ensure that congruent philosophy, policies and practices and in place so as to maximise the resilience of the organisation to dis-integration while allowing the freedom to take considered risks in pursuit of the organisation’s socio-economic purpose.  It is in this context that so-called integrated practices and reporting have real meaning.

Finally, there is a moral dimension to the causes of organisation decline.  While human and juristic persons have individual rights, they also have the obligation no knowingly to infringe on the rights of others now or in the future.  The custodians of juristic persons (such as directors) have a moral obligation to try to maintain the integrity of the organisation with which they are entrusted and It is the good and right to be a mindful and caring corporate citizen. 

The dark side-effects of high performance

I am an overachiever. I set high standards, break boundaries and am driven to succeed. Over the years I started noticing a pattern, a dark side-effect of this behaviour. At first, I thought it was just me. But through questioning individuals with the same approach to life and work I made a startling discovery. High performance can lead to some nasty side effects.

 

The attitude of winners

High Performing individuals have a strong desire to succeed. This desire drives our determination and attention to results. It is energy intensive and our relationship with time is stretched, we want results now. ‘Later’ is a concept that only applies to others. We make sure that we squeeze every possible minute for the potential to produce better outcomes. The pace of the working world has definitely increased – but performers struggle to wait for results, whether it is getting a new client to sign a contract or producing new marketing material for the website.

Sounds great – what’s the problem?

My findings are NOT scientifically validated but I will share them – and you can decide whether it makes sense. I have identified 3 main challenges to this approach to work:-

  1. Pace – our desire for results can ‘alienate’ us from people who prefer a slower pace. We can come across as aggressive, a trait that may cause others discomfort and lead them to say ‘no’ – just to get away from us. This negatively effects relationships with co-workers and clients.
  2. Authority – we have a tendency to justify overstepping authority to get the results we want. To us, the ends justify the means, to others it is destructive and negatively impacts their ability to trust. Trust, in the workplace, is very important for success.
  3. Energy – being ‘us’ is energy intensive. The wins are great… but when we don’t experience frequent wins we can become almost frenetic in our actions to create them. It is easy for us to become ‘addicted’ to wins and, like any addict, when there is no win, we experience withdrawal symptoms. We can even become desensitized to winning which leads us to pursue bigger and bigger goals. Our internal drive increases stress and the greater the stress, the more likely that we produce results that fall short of our expectations.

Oh Sh*t… I’m stuffed!

Not necessarily. There is no need to seek medical intervention just yet. Awareness of this dark side of performance can allow you to challenge the way you approach work and life. If you are happy to continue making these trade-offs, then there is no need to adjust your work behaviour. If, however, you feel exhausted, out of control or down in the dumps on a regular, ongoing basis… perhaps it is time to encourage a healthier approach.

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

What if we’re wrong?

dunce kidIt starts at school. Our pathological fear of being wrong. We are taught that being wrong is embarrassing, undesirable and will get us into trouble.  We learn that being wrong is bad. Our desire to be right has some pretty nasty consequences.

 

What’s wrong with wrong?

Absolutely nothing! As a species we are obsessed with getting it right, seeking perfection and avoiding mistakes at all costs. This is simply not possible. I’m not advocating that we deliberately give up… I’m suggesting that being wrong about something isn’t an indication of your value or worth. It is a part of being human. The only thing wrong about being wrong is how we fear it, avoid it and punish ourselves and others for it.

Challenging assumptions that make us right

Even when we are wrong, we will justify that we are right. This introduces some assumptions that can play havoc in our lives. When people disagree with us it is natural to assume some things…  like they are ignorant; they are idiots and just can’t connect the dots; or they know the truth but disagree because they are bad. Thinking that other people are wrong, and we are right, can cause us to treat people unfairly, not to mention some indignation, irritation and unhappiness. It can also prevent us from experiencing some great learning that introduces new possibilities! Imagine your reaction if you were to realize that you were wrong about something. Now imagine that instead of beating yourself up, feeling miserable and retreating into a cocoon of isolation; that being wrong opens a door to possibilities you didn’t even know existed. That isn’t so bad, is it?

Help break the stigma of wrongness

The next time you catch yourself, or someone else, (and especially your kids) doing, thinking or lose the fear of being wrongbehaving a way that you decide is wrong – pause! Instead of trying to correct them, challenge yourself to see it from their perspective. If we work out how to separate the doing, thinking or behaviour from the person, it becomes possible to provide a learning experience for ourselves and others. This approach is only effective when we address it without anger, frustration, irritation or contempt. I invite you to try this just ONCE. Really give it a go. I’m pretty confident that you will be surprised at the results –  if not, does it matter if I’m wrong?

There is nothing wrong with trying to get it right. It drives our intention to improve, push boundaries, innovate and grow. Being right isn’t a bad thing… it’s just not the only thing. The message is that we are all going to be wrong, sooner or later, and that is ok.

If you are interested in learning more find an inspirational TedTalk video by Kathryn Schultz on being wrong in our video inspiration section. She uncovers some surprising consequences and inspires us to embrace our very human nature.

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

How we sabotage our own success

self sabotageWhether you ride a bicycle or a Ferrari you are able to experience success. I posed a question to the founder of the Neurobusiness Group, Dr. Srini Pillay, on whether he experienced what I perceived to be ‘the height of success’. His response was humbling, with far reaching implications.

Depth – not height – of Success

When asked whether he experiences, from my perspective, the ‘height’ of success, he responded “I don’t think success has a height – maybe an endless depth.” Once again I am struck by the power of words and meaning on our experiences in life.   All of a sudden, success becomes accessible to everyone. Think about the word height. Does it feel far away, reachable only with effort, almost like something you have to ‘do’? Now think about ‘depth’. Does this feel easier, deeper and almost like a natural consequence?

Mine your own Success

Many of us feel that success is a consequence of achievement. Very often it is measured in wealth, status and power. The very measure is enough to trigger our ‘that’s impossible’ internal dialogue, and once we believe that it is impossible – it becomes impossible. But what if we could adjust the way we measure success? What else could success look like? What else could success mean? This allows us to explore internal frames of reference for success. We are looking at how we are able to experience success, as opposed to what we have to do, to achieve it. Where we are isn’t as important as how we feel about where we are.

A little goes a long way

Dr. Pillay prescribes ‘imagining’ our way to success. Imagining strengthens our brains GPS system to navigate toward the things we want. Feel lost, stuck, blocked, empty or just ‘off track’? Harness the power of your subconscious mind to steer you where you want to go. All you have to do is uncover what you really want. It sounds simple… but it is pretty challenging. Are you clear on what you really want? Can you imagine what it will look, smell, feel, taste and sound like? If you believed that anything was possible – what would you dare to allow yourself to want? Unless you send your subconscious GPS clear signals of the destination, it is not able to direct you there.

We are all navigating an uncertain and turbulent future. We are expected to improve results under increasingly complex conditions. It is very easy, under these conditions, to lose sight of our own ability to influence our direction. Decide what success means to you and go for it!

For more information, find this Tedtalk by Dr. Srini Pillay on Wired for Success – The Science of Possibility in our collection of inspirational videos. Dr. Pillay is the founder and CEO of The NeuroBusiness Group, a part time assistant professor at Harvard and author of ; Your Brain and Business; The Science behind the Law of Attraction and  Life Unlocked.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

How are you ‘showing up’?

show upI had an insightful conversation with a new client about ‘showing up’. It was a refreshing take on leadership development, not from the perspective of training leadership skills, but empowering individuals and teams to ‘show up’ in a way that is meaningful, relevant, inspired and engaged.

What is ‘showing up’?

How do you perceive your value in the workplace? How do others see you? What difference does your presence make? Showing up is about owning your space. It is about standing up for the value you are trying to achieve. It is easy to get distracted by meetings, office politics, reports, productivity and many other things – but how much do you allow these things to influence your purpose within your role?

What if I’m not ‘showing up’ the way I want to?

Congratulations. Awareness is the first step to ‘showing up’ the way you want to. It means you can see a gap – and where you can see a gap, you can close it. It’s helpful to go ‘back to basics’ here. Where is the possibility in your role? What are you delivering that has personal value to you? When you connect with what you are doing, when you believe in why you are doing it, it has a tendency to motivate and inspire you, as well as those around you. Passion is key here. Find your passion and ‘showing up’ powerfully becomes possible.

Why does this matter?

When we are personally invested in what we do, we find work more meaningful and rewarding which has impressive results on performance. It is the difference between doing a job you get paid for and doing something that provides learning, enjoyment and an extension of purpose.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give – Winston Churchill

So, what now?

Once you have made a choice to ‘show up’ more powerfully there are several things that you can focus on to build some momentum. The first is to gain clarity on your current reality. How engaged are you on a scale of 1 – 10? The second step is to decide where you would like to be. How engaged do you want to be on a scale of 1 – 10? Once you know the gap you are able to experiment with various ways to close it. Find what works best for you and prepare yourself for a little discomfort on the way. It really helps to develop a ‘possibility’ mindset here. Another great motivator is to surround yourself with people who are ‘showing up’ the way you would like to.

How we experience the workplace, and our lives, is a choice. Our attitudes, perceptions and assumptions all play a role in the quality of our lives. Remember – reality is just a construct of the meaning we associate to everything, to our predisposition toward potential and the way we choose to see the world.

Watch this Tedtalk by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who talks about show up, speak up, look up, never give up and lift others up as a way to positively effect change.

We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

The Uncertainty Effect – and how to overcome it

free your mindYou’re inspired… now what? As humans we crave certainty in just about everything we do. We will even stay in god awful situations because it is ‘the devil we know’. Find out how to turn inspiration into action that helps you move forward.

Possibility VS Uncertainty

There is a frightening duality at play in our thinking. It is a place where anything is possible, but at the same time, it is the place where we get stuck. The possibility force sees potential and is inspired toward a better future. In the other corner we have uncertainty, which hamstrings us. Since social media is teeming with inspirational quotes and messages, I would like to focus on its opponent – uncertainty, and its sticky consequences.

The Uncertainty effect

We avoid uncertainty. It’s the programming we are built with. Some people can tolerate more uncertainty than others (people who aren’t afraid of a little risk) but ultimately, as humans, we like to KNOW, to be able to predict an outcome. But that isn’t the end of the challenge. On top of this, we are wired to move away from threat (and uncertainty is a threat). This is a double-whammy. We are wired to stick to what we know and move away from anything that threatens our ability to know. Our default is to do nothing and it takes concerted effort to overcome this challenge.

 In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.- Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome to nowhere… how long will you be staying?

So, we want a better future, to make a difference and to leave a positive mark. But because we don’t know how to start, we do nothing. This is nowhere. Where possibility goes to die. We spend too much time in this place – dreaming about what we want without being able to turn this dream into reality. It is a place of demotivation, isolation and regret. This is where you are if you feel ‘stuck in a rut’. This is where you are when you catch yourself wishing things were different.

The Great Escape

Everyone is capable of escaping nowhere. All it takes is action. Stop thinking and DO something, anything! The first actions you take are not important because they get you where you want to be, they are important because they help you break the status-quo. They help you move forward. Take any decisive action and it breaks the ‘thinking’ stalemate. It is important to overcome the fear of uncertainty by doing something you wouldn’t normally do – the ‘what’ is not important. The ‘what’ will come later – once you have strengthened your commitment to leaving nowhere. STOP thinking and START doing.

By taking action, any action, we confirm to ourselves that we are in the driving seat. It confirms that we are prepared to face a little discomfort in order to achieve the things we want. It proves that we are able to influence our lives. Best of all, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

What small action can you take, today, that will help you move forward?

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.

Are you feeding your hungry mind?

a hungry mindEverything starts with an idea. What you see in the world today – businesses, architecture, fashion, movies, technology, books …. literally everything was born into the world because someone had an idea. Turning thought into reality starts with a great idea. We all have ideas. We are wired to make connections and solve problems. Great ideas are the brains way of having fun, of expressing creativity.

Is my mind hungry?

Our brains are uniquely suited to making connections – it is called learning. It’s not just about learning new skills… all information received – what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and experience forms new connections in our brains. If I ask you “what is a car?” you will think about your car, all your old cars, that time you had an accident, the car dealer who gave great service, what the car sounds like. We’ve connected a million things to cars – and to everything else. Learning these things didn’t require any effort – it was done through experiencing. So… YES… everyone has a hungry mind.

Automatic and Deliberate learning

We are all learning, all the time. Most of what we learn is automatic (through experience, our senses and the meaning we give to things). When we choose to learn something it is deliberate learning. This learning is a little more structured – because we are learning to accomplish a desired outcome (like speaking a foreign language). It feels a little (or a lot) more difficult because we are controlling the outcome of the learning.

Consequences of deliberate learning

You’ve mastered being able to drive a car. You can get from point A to point B safely. But you learned a lot more than that. You learned how to pay attention on the road, to look out for danger, you learned that driving a car gives you a sense of freedom, you learned a preference for the kind of car you enjoy driving. No learning happens in isolation… everything is connected. By having more connections you have more ideas. You enjoy driving so much you decide to design a seat that is more comfortable, or start a transport company.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.                                                                                                                                                         Alvin Toffler

I’ve noticed that a lot of companies have embraced a learning culture. In fact, many companies will pay for you to learn something (some even go as far as paying for things that are NOT work related). The business world is starting to understand that your ability to out-perform the competition depends on making the strongest, most creative connections. It is a thing of beauty!

If you want to have more options, more choices and express more of your potential I would ask you: how much time and effort are you taking to feed your hungry mind?

 We are interested in your success stories! Please share your experiences with us, and if you found this article useful – share it with your networks.