Date: September 27, 2012

Author: JT

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When Two Unyielding Forces Collide

Why are there so many problems out there? Why are there enough to keep us all so busy?  Why, for that matter, is there a need for software business management consulting?

Why do we fight internal battles, only to accepting the solution, the one we already knew to be best, and be willing to act on it—after we hired a consultant, an outsider, to tell it to us?  Why is it we fight amongst ourselves, refusing to listen to each other, yet we’ll listen to someone who walked in the door and spotted the problem right off?

There are innumerable reasons.  But there are at least two basic ones that come to mind today.

The first stems from our ability to listen.  Yes, to truly listen to each other.  It is said that 60% of our communication (ok, you’ve heard other numbers) is through listening.  Yet only 25% of what we hear is retained.

We struggle with listening because of a range of ‘filters’ we erect without even knowing about them.  Filters like culture, comfort, fear, right, wrong, and the way we do it here.  These often preclude our truly hearing what is going on around us, what our colleagues are telling us, what we need to hear.

We also struggle with the challenge that the world is bombarding us.  We each hear over 3,000 advertisements daily.  We walk around cityscapes overloaded with visual queues.  We start to filter not only what we’re hearing, but what we’re seeing.  Whether by visual and auditory, we stop ‘listening’ as clearly as we perhaps should.  So, now you can appreciate one issue.

Julian Treasure speaks about how we are all losing our hearing in a :10 TED video.

Another issue is our comfort, our knowledge, our certainty.  That. We. Are. Right!  Kathryn Schulz does an excellent presentation at TED on ‘On being wrong.’  It’s worth listening to.

Kathryn points out most of us do whatever we can, to avoid being wrong.  We’re taught early in life that, my words, wrong sucks, don’t do that any more than absolutely possible.  Better yet, be perfect, error-free, right, and those are the ways to get ahead in life and avoid discomfort.

I found it interesting when Kathryn asked her audience a question: “What does it feel like to be wrong?”  She gets a series of answer like, thumbs down, dreadful, embarrassing…  Then she surprises the audience with a twist.  She points out, those aren’t the feelings of being wrong, those are the feelings associated with realizing you’re wrong.  Ha ha.  And, quite correct.

To be wrong, oddly enough, feels just like being right.

Being right, or better yet ‘not wrong,’ is an area of comfort.  We are comfortable in what we know, in how we perceive things, and in what the world looks like.

Funny thing is, no one else, no one, perceives the world the same way each of us perceives it.  The more rigidly we adhere to our own perceptions, beliefs of the rightness of the world around us, the more likely we are to run into conflict.  The more often we are going to be, ugh, wrong.

And herein lies the crux of the problem is where the two cross.  If we are no longer effectively listening, and, we are certain we are right (actively avoiding being wrong), we have lost the ability to learn.  The ability to learn how others perceive the world, the events going on around us.  The ability to learn that we ourselves were, yes, wrong.  We stop learning, stop being able to overcome adversity, because we are no longer ale to recognize that perhaps, just perhaps, we are wrong, that we need to change.

If two unyielding forces collide, if no one is able—willing to—admit they are wrong and learn from it, then everything comes to a halt.  And the consultants get called.  It’s not the only reason consultants get called, but it is a popular one.

 

Image credit: Mateusz Atroszko

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