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26 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter #8: A wealth of experiences - Using past, inventing the future

This post is final chapter 8 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

The final chapter in your journey to become integrative thinker is your experience. It takes inputs from your stance and tools. At the same time, your experience also modifies your stance and tools.

Experience generates both mastery and originality. Mastery requires repeated experience in a particular domain. Mastery comes through structured repetition of a consistent type of experience. The person should have a structured method of observing and reflecting on his experience.

An integrative think also need originality - finding a new solution to a problem. Originality demands a willingness to experiment, spontaneity in response to a novel situation and openness to try something unplanned. It is a process of trial and error and iterative prototyping.

The best integrative thinkers combine mastery with originality. Our natural tendency favour mastery over originality. Mastery without originality becomes repetition. Such thinking will tend to miss salience and causal relationship.

On the other hand, originality without mastery becomes flaky. Master requires to distinguish  between salient and unrelated features , to understand what causal relationships are in play and how to analyze a complex problem.

At its core, integrative thinking combines mastery with originality. Without mastery, there will not be useful salience, causality and architecture. Without originality there will be no creative resolution. Without creative resolution there will not be enhancement of mastery. When mastery stagnates, so does originality.

21 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter #7: How Integrative Thinkers connect the dots - A leap of mind

This post is chapter 7 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 , Chapter 5  and Chapter 6 of the book. 

This penultimate chapter of the book focuses on the tools that the integrative thinkers use. The tools are:
  • Generative Reasoning
  • Causal Modelling
  • Assertive Inquiry
Generative Reasoning inquires into what might be rather than what is. It helps build a sturdy framework for creative resolution. Generative reasoning is the opposite of declarative reasoning, which is a cognitive tool to determine the truth / falsity of a given proposition.

Declarative reasoning works through deductive and inductive logic. Deductive logic works by establishing a framework and then applying that framework to solve a problem. for example, mammals are animals with warm blood and procreate via live birth. So all animals that meet these two criteria are mammals.

Inductive logic infers general rule from empirical observations and draws conclusion on what is and what isn't true. When we see the sun rising from the east every day, we conclude that Sun always rise in the east.

Both the above do not account for the idea of invention - the idea of what could be. Generative reasoning uses a third form of logic called abductive logic. Since abductive logic generates a totally new model, it is all called  generative reasoning. Integrative thinkers consider generative thinking as both conceptually legitimate and practical. Generative reasoning facilitates trial and error.

Causal modelling is the second tool of integrative thinkers. Sophisticated causal modelling is a crucial underpinning for causality and architecture. As discussed previously in the causality step, the thinker must consider non-linear and multi-directional causal links between subject variables.

We are natural model builders. many a time we are not even aware that we are using models. When it comes to causal modelling, two forms of causation are important. First is the material causation, which says that under certain circumstances X causes Y to happen.

The second form of causation, known as teleological causation, connect the way things are currently to the way they should be, also called the desired state. For a causal modeller, material and teleological causation connect the way things are to their desired end state.
How do we know that the causal model that we designed is robust enough? A technique known as system dynamics (a theory of mapping the activity of complex systems) holds that the results of our decisions are so often disappointed because either,
  • We overlooked important causal relationships, or,
  • We misread causal relationship usually by assuming them to be linear and unidirectional.
The primary focus of system dynamics is one sort of causal relationship. Multi-directional feedback loop.

One great tool for developing generative thinking is by using 'Radical Metaphors'. One dices a metaphor to describe the problem and builds a model around that metaphor. Metaphor tools help integrative thinkers in two ways. One, it helps thinkers conceive of the situation at hand in a way that is conducive to creating a new model.

Radical metaphors also help with keeping a coherent whole in mind while honing individual parts.

Assertive inquiry is the third tool for the integrative thinker. It is used to explore opposing models. Assertive inquiry helps unearth more salience and more unperceived causal relationships. Assertive inquiry involves a sincere search for other views and tries to fill gaps in understanding. It seeks a common ground between conflicting models.

Assertive inquiry promotes generative reasoning and causal modelling. It enables generative reasoning by breaking down conflicting models into pieces that can be reconciled into something better than either of the conflicting models. It also produces more robust causal modelling by enlisting more minds to explore and map the material and teleological connections that under-grid conflicting models

20 July 2015

Be patient. God wants you to succeed...

This is a post that I wrote in LinkedIn

Chinese Bamboo Tree
 I love the story of Chinese Bamboo Tree....
The farmer plants a seed and water that week after week. Nothing happens. It is as if the seed has decided to stay under the earth and not to come out and grow.
He persists.
He waters it for one year, nothing happens
Second year, one more year of watering and deweeding, nothing still
Third and fourth year, nada. Nothing. Zilch.
And towards the end of fifth year, when he has all but given up, something amazing happens.
In a time span of about six weeks, the Chinese Bamboo Tree grows up to an astonishing height of 90 Feet, that is a growth of about 2 feet per day.
The five years spent under the earth was preparation for this extraordinary growth spurt.
Amazing, isn't it?
I am fascinated by this story at multiple levels.
This is very similar to what happens in life. Some people are like the Bamboo Tree. Their potential remain hidden for a long time...
and then?
Wham !!!
They suddenly externalize their hidden potential. They perform extraordinary tasks. They write their books, they start their businesses...
They spent a long time hidden from the world and then over a short period of time they grow up explosively.
They are the 'late bloomers'. Einstein was one of them.
This story of Bamboo Tree also tells us that we must plant the seeds of growth. They are called dreams. Once you have your dreams, we must nurture them by adding love, affection and hope.
And patience. The Chinese farmer had loads of it.
Don't give up. Keep hoping, keep trying...
We cannot expect to achieve stuff if we do not plant the seed. And water them regularly.
We have to start with a dream. We have to start wanting something. Keep it totally focused.
Someone said, 'People always live their lives running away from what they fear. Instead they should run towards what they want'.
If you have your dreams and keep watering them you will achieve your dreams. That is for sure.
Here is the thought...
What if we do not have any dreams?
There are many people who live their lives without a dream, a goal or a destination. They don't know what they want. They simply get up in the morning, go to work or whatever, come back and plop on the bed feeling what one author mentioned as 'Bad Tired'. The life is lived as a ritual, doing the same stuff over and over, without thinking, without reflecting, without planning....
There is not goal, no destination...
There is no seed, there is no bamboo tree.
These people may have had dreams at some point in their past, but they failed to nurture them thereby letting those dreams decay.
Even more unfortunate are those of us who have very good dreams, healthy seeds, but they suppress them. They suppress their natural tendency to grow and prosper. They are aware of their potential but are not confident of following through with their potential. Their dreams are small and easily attainable. They create 'Bonsai Bamboos'. Their bamboo tree grows just tall enough. They do not
Bonsai Bamboo
have the confidence to back up their dreams. They do not respect themselves strongly enough to take their dreams seriously.
That is scary, isn't it? That you have the potential and you decide that you do not have potential. You do not have faith on your dreams, on your abilities to achieve your dreams.
So, starting today, let us write our growth scripts. Let us start focusing on our dreams. Write them down. Read them. Believe in them. Nurture them with love and affection. Don't give up on your dreams.
And wait patiently as the amazing 'Bamboo Tree' effect take care of the rest.

RM:OM:Chapter6: The construction project: Imagining Reality

This post is chapter 6 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 of the book. 

The stances of integrative thinkers have six common features. These concerns the world around them and their role in it..

One, they believe that whatever models existing at present do not represent reality. They are simply the best or only constructions yet made.
Two, they believe that conflicting models, styles and approaches to problem are to be leveraged, not feared.
Three, better models exist that are yet to be seen.
Four, not only that better models exist, by that they are capable of bringing that model from abstract  hypothesis to concrete reality.
Five, they are comfortable wading into the complexity to ferret out a new and better model, confident that they will emerge on the other side with a resolution they seek.
Six, they give themselves time to create a better model.

Integrative thinking is an inherently optimistic stance. They understand that the world imposes constraints on them, but they share a belief that with hard thinking and patience they can find a better outcome than the unsatisfying ones they are presented with. Integrative thinkers refuse to accept trade offs. They do not believe in 'either or'. They are more comfortable with 'and'.

The question is 'how do you cultivate a new stance?'. The answer lies in how you develop the six thinking patterns mentioned below.

One, existing models do not represent reality.

Our 'factory setting' causes us to confuse our perceptions, which are subjective constructions, with objective reality. So the first step in developing better thinking habit is to distinguish between them. The key points are two. One, anything that we consider real is a model of reality and two, that model is probably imperfect in some important aspects.

Two, opposing models are to be leveraged, not feared.

It is very important to understand that all models reflect reality from a particular angle. Hence it is possible to assemble a fuller, probably not complete, model of reality by incorporating a variety of other models. Salient data once overlooked, casual patterns once unnoticed, architectural possibilities once went unexploited, all begin to converge.
Opposing models are the richest source of new insight to a problem. The most creative, productive stance is the one that see opposing models as learning opportunities.

Three, better models exist that are not yet seen.

In this section the author bring in two conceptual ideas.These approaches help in evaluating theories of how the world works. The two approaches are 'Contended Model Defense' (CMD) and 'Optimistic Model Seeking' (OMS). In CMD we adopt a theory and then seek to support and defend it. As we accumulate data in support of the theory we have adopted, we become more certain of our theory and move toward achieving our goal certainty.

The problem with CMD is that the defender tend to ignore the non-confirming data. Also, when we go into the defense mode, we short-circuit any attempt to seek a more accurate model. Within the CMD framework, an alternative or clashing model is a problem to be eliminated. Alternative models pose a threat to the veracity of the existing model and must be disbelieved, distorted and disproved.

As against the CMD, the OMS model doesn't believe that there is a right answer, just the best answer available now. The presumption is that all models are fallible but doesn't mean that the current model should be rejected. For OMS, the resting state is not certainty. They are always testing their model against the best available data. Their goal is a refutation of their current beliefs, because refutation represents not failure but an advance. Stance is optimistic since the assumptions that future models will be better than the current model. Optimistic model seekers are discomfited by the presence of a single model.

One can become an OMS by close examination of their personal beliefs and determine how and why they maintain those beliefs. Typically we maintain our beliefs by engaging in CMD. Fore example we resort to authority to justify our beliefs. Logical circularity is another favorite strategy for CMD. An example of Logical circularity is 'I know I treated him fairly because I am a fair person'.

Four, I am capable of finding a better model.

This is the first of the three statements concerning self. To get into this thinking mode, one need to get regular experiences. It is not only that one get experiences, it is important that one thinks  reflects about their experiences. Through thinking one learns to analyze the salient and causal relationships underlying these experiences.

To learn from our experience, we must be explicit in advance about the thought process preceding the decision. If wee have thought through the decision beforehand, from analysis of consequences, one can learn from these experiences.

Five, I can wade through and get through the necessary complexity
From the outcomes, you can reflect on the actions that generated the outcomes. From the actions you have to go back and reflect on the thinking that led to these actions. Systematically reflecting on the way you think is a powerful way to change your thinking.

Six, I give myself time to create a better model.

An integrative thinker knows the value of patience. It is worth the mental effort to patiently wait for a creative solution to emerge.

18 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter5: Mapping the mind: How thought circulates.

This post is chapter 5 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of the book. 

The chapter starts off with the quote from Confucius, 'By three methods we may learn wisdom. First by reflection which is the noblest, Second by imitation and third by experience which is the bitterest.

The question is how do you build your integrative thinking capacity. In this chapter, the author builds a framework for building the integrative thinking. The framework for building your personal knowledge system consists of three parts, Stance, Tools and Experiences.

Stance is your most broad-based knowledge domain in which you define who you are in your world and what you are trying to accomplish in it. Stance is how you see the world around you, but it is also how you see yourself in the world. Stance has both individual unique elements and shared cultural and community aspects. Many a time, we tend to take our stance for granted. It is 'who we are'. The problem is that our view of who we are governs our assumptions about 'way things are'. In other words we tend to mistake the model of reality as reality itself. Stance guides us in making sense of world around us and taking action based on that sense making.

You use tools to organize your thinking and understand your world. Stance guides the tools that you choose to accumulate. Tools range from formal theories to established processes to rules of thumb. They help to recognize and categorize problems.

Experiences for your most practical and useful knowledge. the experience that you acquire are the product of your stance and tools, which guide you to some experience and not to others.

Experience enables us to hone our sensitivities and skills. Sensitivity is the capacity to make distinction between conditions that are similar but not exactly the same. Skill is the capacity to carry out an activity so as to consistently produce the same result. Skills and sensitivities tend to grow and deepen in concert.

Personal knowledge works as a system. Stance guide tools acquisition, which in turn guides experience accumulation. There is a circular relationship between these three. Experience may inform you to acquire new tools. Through the use of these new tools, we add depth and clarity to our stance.

The diagram below shows the interrelationship between stance, tools and experience.

Interrelationship between Stance, Tools and Experience
Beneficial or detrimental spirals

Personal knowledge systems are highly path dependent. When a person starts in a given direction, that direction is likely to be reinforced and amplified, not diminished or altered. This can either beneficial or detrimental.. at their best ,the three elements of personal knowledge system will reinforce each other to produce an ever increasing capacity for integrative thinking.

One the flip side, they can trap an intelligent person to a world where problems seem insurmountable. A narrow or limited stance will lead to acquisition of limited tools and limiting experiences. These then feeds back into the acquisition of even more limiting experiences and even narrower stance.

The spirals work powerfully in either direction. The good news? Neither spiral is pre-ordained. Your personal knowledge system is under your control. when you change your stance, you can change the tools and experiences and thereby broaden your integrative thinking capacity.

16 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter4: Dancing through complexity.

This post is chapter 4 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of the book. 

The full title of this chapter is 'Dancing through complexity: Shaping resolution by resisting simplification'.

Simplification and specialization are the enemies of integrative thinking. Human beings have a tendency to move towards simplification and specialization. Simplification is based on 80-20 principle where 20% of effort van produce 8% or result. Organizations decide that spending 80% of effort to get additional 20% is not worth it.

While simplification can be comforting, it impairs every step of integrative thinking process. It encourages us to edit out salient features rather than consider the question of salience more broadly. A simplification makes us favour linear, unidirectional, causal relationships even if reality is more complex and multi-directional. It also encourages us to construct a limited model of the problem before us.

Specialization is another variant of simplification. It forces us to focus in significant detail on a very small aspect of the broader picture. Specialization is inimical to integrative thinking because it undermines productive architecture. It encourages the sequential or parallel resolution discrete parts of a business problem

Integrative thinkers avoid both simplification and specialization.

I loved the example of how Tim Brown of IDEO helped AMTRAK design their offerings. AMTRAK wanted to compete with airlines. AMTRAK asked IDEO to design the interiors. Brown felt that AMTRAK, by focusing on interiors, was missing the bigger picture. Brown felt that AMTRAK should focus on the entire AMTRAK experience.

Brown and his team analyzed an entire train trip and found that it involved 10 distinct steps. They were, Learning, Planning, Starting, Entering, Ticketing, Waiting, Boarding, Riding, Arriving and Continuing. The interiors of the train was relevant to only one step of the train journey, vis, riding. 

Instead of just simplifying and designing the interiors, Brown and team at IDEO waded into the complexity and designed an integrated solution.

15 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter3: Reality, Resistance and Resolution

This post is chapter 3 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1,and Chapter 2 of the book.The full title of this chapter is Reality, Resistance and Resolution: How integrative thinkers keep their option open.

If integrative thinking was such a good idea, why doesn't people use it all the time? One reason is what is known as 'factory setting' or our mind. It has a tendency to ensure that ore models of reality are reality itself. In other words the think that what we think is right.

Why do we do so? We do so because of our tendency to modify the information that we receive into some kind of meaningful narrative. In doing so, we filter out much of the data that comes to us. In this process, there is no guarantee that we won't filter out valuable data in our quest to compile a coherent narrative.

Integrative thinkers have the ability to distinguish model from reality. The integrative thinkers has the ability to distinguish between reality and model that purport to reflect reality. In doing so, they are free to hold up the models up to analysis and scrutiny without needing to refute one from another. This helps them to explore the tensions between opposing models and gather clues to a better model. The message the they take away when faced with unpleasant choices is not 'Choose Now', but 'Think Harder'.

Book Review: Chapter Summary; Triggers: Marshall Goldsmith

The book 'Triggers' was reviewed HERE. The post below is a detailed chapter by chapter summary.

Chapter Summary:

The  central theme of the book is the question 'How can we become the person we want to be?'. In the introduction to the book author defines a Trigger as a 'Stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. We can better handle our reaction to a trigger once we become aware of its existence. Environment is the biggest trigger. While triggers are outside our control, we have a choice to react to them once we become aware of the same. 

There are two reasons why adult behavioral change is difficult. This is the coverage of Chapter 1. First reason is that  adult behavior change is very hard to do. Even if we do, getting into a consistent change process is difficult and a permanent change may take years. Finally, we may not know how to execute change. There is a difference between motivation and ability. We may have overconfidence in our ability to execute changes. Second reason that many a time, we may say we want to change but we many not truly want to change. The other aspect is that the judges of your change are others external to you. Finally the change has to be made in a imperfect world out there with all the triggers impacting our change process. 

Chapter 2 looks at a set of belief patterns that we hold that impede our progress towards better behavior. These beliefs help us justify our inaction and ensure that the change process fails even before it starts. The 15 belief triggers are as follows.
  1. If I understand, I will do: Author points out that there is a difference between knowing and doing. Knowing something does not lead to change. Doing is what leads to change.
  2.  I have will power and will not give in to temptation: We constantly overestimate our will power and underestimate the power of temptations. Sometimes, we will require help even when we have will power. Author mentions the story of how Odysseus put wax in the ears of his sailors to prevent them from listening to the soulful music of sirens.
  3. Today is a special day: This is a common excuse we use to compromise on our commitment. We use 'Special Days' as excuses to avoid sticking to our plan.
  4. At least I am better than .............: I am happy because I did better than others.
  5. I shouldn't need help and structure. They are too simple.
  6. I won't get tired and my enthusiasm will not fail. At the planning stage we are all 'Super men'.
  7. I have all the time in the world: We put off working on important stuff since we think that we have enough time.  This belief leads to procrastination
  8. I won't get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur: We discount the high probability of low probability events occurring. 
  9. An epiphany will change my life: We all wait for that sudden realization, that intuition or an unexpected incident to trigger our behavior change. It doesn't work that way. Behavior change require regular, systematic and consistent effort.
  10. My change will be permanent and I will never have to worry again: Unless we stick to a new behavior, chances of our reverting to the earlier behavior are high. Getting there and staying there are two different cups of tea.
  11. My elimination of old problems will not bring new problems.
  12. My efforts will be fairly rewarded: Waiting for an 'external' reward can trigger disappointment. Improvement in behavioral outcomes is its own reward.
  13. No one is paying attention to me. 
  14. If I change, I am 'inauthentic'. This creates stubbornness.
  15. I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior: We all need help and support in our change journey.
Our environment has a lot of impact (often negative) on our behavior. The impact of environment over our behavior is covered in Chapter 3. Environment generates triggers that impact us negatively. We think that we are in sync with our environment and that we can control it. This is wrong. Most of the time it is the environment that controls. In addition, environment is not static, it keeps on mutating by the minute. Also, the impact of environment is situational. As out situations change, the environment creates new triggers that impinge on us. The most pernicious environment is that which compels us to compromise on our sense of right and wrong. Anyone who has worked in an Organization with a 'win at all costs' culture will vouch for that. Since we do not understand the impact of environment on our choices, we fail to make the right choice.

The title of Chapter 4, ‘Identifying the triggers’ is a bit of a misnomer if you are expecting a bullet list of ways in which we can catch and tame the triggers. Author discuss feedback loop and its role in modifying our behaviour, thereby behaving like a trigger. A feedback loop has four parts, evidence, relevance, consequence and action. The evidence part of the feedback loop is nothing but listing all the triggers that could impact our behaviour. Then we can prioritize the same based on the next two criteria, finally leading to the required action. Next section of the article describes different characteristics of behavioral triggers. They are shown in the diagram below.:

Author expounds on the last two categories. Encouraging triggers are what we want. They provide short-term gratification. Productive triggers are what we need. They ensure that we meet our goals in the long-term. By combining these we have four combinations, four quadrants. These are shown below.


We should always try to receive triggers in the Encouraging / Productive quadrant. However, the triggers there including appreciation and praise are mostly external in nature. If we are not able to be in that quadrant, we should try to be on the right hand side of the quadrant which is the productive side. These are the triggers that help us what we need in the long-term.

How triggers work is the focus of Chapter 5. Every stimulus will lead to a response and the response will have consequences. That is the classic Stimulus --> Response --> Consequence loop. The author tweaks the ‘Response’ part of the above loop to three sub-components, Impulse --> Awareness --> Choice of behavior. This implies that for every trigger, instead of impulsively responding,  if we pause and respond, we have a bouquet of behavior choices. We do this analysis during big moments like meeting with the CEO. The trick is to make this a habit while dealing with every day triggers.

Chapter 6 takes a look at the challenge the all of us face. Why is it that we are able to make superior plans but are weak when it comes to execution? How can we bridge the gap between the planner that is us and the doer that is again, us. MG digs into the concept of Situational Leadership to identify answers to this dilemma. As per situational leadership theories, a leader should play different roles at different points in time depending on his assessment of the subordinate. The four roles played by a ‘Situational Leader’ are directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. MG finds parallels between the situational leadership and the planning challenge we face. According to this, the planner in us should play different roles based on the caliber of the doer and the situation faced by the doer. The doer should be supported by tools to ensure that he performs his actions effectively. An example is given of a client of his, Mr.Renee, who has a weakness of giving the same instructions to multiple individuals. This challenge was resolved by providing a cue card to Mr.Renee ‘Not to delegate the same task to multiple people’. Renee will have this cue every time he was in a high pressure situation (where he normally over delegates) and with this simple cue card, his behaviour was changed almost immediately.

Now that we know that environment has a major impact on our behavior change, we need to know how to handle environment. This is the theme of Chapter 7. There are three ways in which we can handle environment in the short term. One is Anticipation. We can plan for upcoming meeting, prepare for the impending presentation etc. However it is difficult to anticipate and plan for the smaller environment triggers that impact us every moment. Another strategy is Avoidance. One should try to avoid undesirable behaviour and environment where such behaviour is most likely to occur. Politicians are masters of avoidance. Sometimes avoidance could backfire. Example is of Alison Lundergran Grimes in US election for Kentucky state senator, who avoided the question if she voted for Obama, and that avoidance backfired on her. Third strategy to handle environment trigger is adjustment. We could tailor our response to the situation we find ourselves in.

Chapter 8 rounds off Section one with a concept called ‘Wheel of Change’. This is an interplay of two sets of factors. First set consists of all the factors that help us grow or hold us back. The second set consists of factors that help create change or help maintain status quo. The interplay of these two sets of factors lead to four options for us to handle our behavior.
Wheel of Change

First option is to Create New Behaviors. We could decide to treat people better, constantly pursue happiness etc. This is not a natural option because we always yield to inertia, especially if the situation is ‘Good Enough’.
Second option is Preserving an existing good behavior. This is not a glamorous option and we might not get credit for preserving. But this is a powerful option.
Third option is Eliminating. This is a very liberating option. We could identify some of our bad habits / behavior and decide to eliminate the same. The real challenge is to eliminate something which we like, for example, micro-managing, that gives us short-term high.
Fourth option is Accepting. Many a times it is difficult to accept a situation. But in the interest of future, it is better to accept it and move on.

What are the behaviors that I want to create? To preserve? To eliminate?  To accept?

Part 2 of the book covers chapters 9 through 13. In this part we are given practical guidelines on how to effect behavioral change. Chapter 9 talks about ‘Active Questions’. These question transfer the onus of behavioral change on to the responder. Active questions start with ‘Did you do’. These are externally generated. In the corporate environment, based on their response to these questions, an can be categorized as committed, professional, cynical or hostile.

Chapter 10, ‘The Engaging Questions’, take the discussion further. It identifies six engaging questions, that we can ask ourselves. Engaging questions transfer onus to the responder in a more profound way by starting the question with ‘Did I do my best to....’. The focus is on trying and not on accomplishing. The six engaging questions identified by MG are given in the following diagram:

Six Engaging Questions - Triggers: Goldsmith

Author rounds off the chapter by a discussion on how he has incorporated the engaging questions into his daily life.

The first part of Chapter 11 is a case study of Emily, who incorporated daily question to bring about significant behavioral change in her life. There are four advantages of asking daily questions of ourselves. One, they reinforce our commitment to our goals. Two, they ignite our motivation where we need it, three, they highlight the difference between self-discipline and self-control, and four, they shrink our goals into manageable increments.

There are three lessons that we learn through asking daily questions of ourselves.These are given in the diagram below.

Three Lessons from Daily Questions

Chapter 12 covers the need for a coach. As discussed earlier, every one of us has a planner and doer in us. Since the planner and the doer often work at cross purposes, we will need the help of a coach to guide you through the behavioral change process. Many people do not like being helped by a coach due to three reasons. One, their need for privacy. Many of their goals will be very personal and private in nature and they do not want to expose these private goals to a coach. Two, many a time, they do not know what to change. Third reason for not wanting a coach is that they did not realize their need for a coach. There are three advantages to a coach. One, we get better, two, we get better faster and three, as we become better, we become better coaches ourselves.

AIWATT, covered in Chapter 13, rounds off part 2 of the book. AIWATT is summarized in the diagram below:


Mr.Goldsmith suggests that we ask this question of ourselves every time we are faced with a decision to invest our time and resources on an issue. Answering AIWATT will help us clarify our priorities at that moment. This is a delaying mechanism. We can avoid many unpleasant situations if we ask AIWATT regularly. Mr.Goldsmith defined the concept from a Buddhist story of Empty Boat.

Part three of the book, covering chapters 14 through 20 talks about the importance of structure when it comes to significant and long lasting behavioral change. Chapters 14 and 15 cover the four key benefits of structure. They are,
  1. Structure limits our option so that we are not thrown off by externalities
  2. Help us identify areas where we need external help and support
  3. Instills rigor and discipline in ourselves
  4. Structure increases our chances of success and makes us more efficient in the process.
  5. Structure helps us make better decision under a state of ego / energy depletion.
 Chapter 16 covers the Influence of depletion in our decision making. In the normal course of the day, we are flooded with various activities that calls for depletion of energy. When we are in this depleted state, we tend to make more errors and wrong decisions. The chapter talks of Israeli Police officers who had to hear cases of parole of prisoners. This was a very intensive process. It was found that almost 70% of prisoners whose cases were heard in the morning time were released on parole, compared to only 20% of prisoners whose cases were heard in the afternoon. There was no difference in the profiles of these prisoners. Only that more prisoners were prone to get a positive decision if their case was heard when the officers high in energy rather than when they were in a depleted state. As mentioned in point 5 above, structure help us handle decision making under depletion.

Chapter 17 discusses a peculiar problem with structure. It is that structure is least available when we most need it. For example, suddenly you are thrust in an unfamiliar situation and you do not have any structure to support you. To handle such situations, author suggests a simple four point test that you take regularly. As you go into this situation, imagine that at the end of it, you have to answer the following four questions.
Structure Questions
 This exercise of pretending that you are going to be tested with these four questions will help you find structure in unstructured situations.

In Chapter 18, author takes the discussion on structure to the next level. He asks us to answer hourly questions to ourselves. These are short term in nature. Hourly questions help us handle special situations or difficult people and helps us take charge of our actions. Hourly questions create pre-awareness, commitment, awareness, scoring and repetition. Example given is of a person who handle the demands of visitors to his New York house. Prior to taking hourly questions he used to feel fatigued and unhappy at the end of the day. But by asking a hourly question 'Did I do my best to enjoy my friends', he changed his reaction to the visit of his friends.

Chapter 19 discusses the problems of 'Good enough'. Many a time, we assume that our behaviour was 'Good Enough'. We enter into a paradigm of behaving 'Good Enough'. There are some situations that call for 'Good Enough'. Examples include the place to live, selection of college and even the selection of doctors (!). But there are some situations like your relationship with your loved ones, where 'Good Enough' is not good enough. 

The question is why do we behave in a 'Good Enough' way? There are four reasons. 
  1. When our motivation is marginal: We have marginal motivation when we do not have the skill to do a good job. 
  2. When we are working pro bono: We think that just because we volunteered to do something, we can do a casual job of that.
  3. When we behave like 'amateurs': We work excellently at office and sloppily at home.
  4. When we have compliance issues: Example of a patient who do not follow through with what the doctor has advised.
The key takeaway is that there is no excuse for doing something 'Good Enough'. If we are not able to do any excellent job of anything, it is better to stop doing that task and move on to something which we can demonstrate our excellence. 

Chapter 20 covers the success story of a client of the Author, Mr.Nadeem, who was able to change his behavior by following the process discussed in the book.

Part 4 of the book, 'No Regrets' covers two Chapters 21 and 22, Mr.Goldsmith discusses three reasons for him to write this book. First reason is to help the readers achieve long-lasting behavioral change in the readers. Second is to create better awareness in the readers about what is going on in the environment around us. And the third reason is to help the readers engage with their environment so that a positive, virtuous loop is created between the environment, the triggers that it generates and our response to the triggers. 

Finally, author points out that deciding to change our behavior is a choice. So is deciding not to change. Either way we have to decide and face the consequences of our decisions.

14 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter2: No Stomach for the second best.

This post is chapter 2 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1 of the book.

Chapter 2 is titled 'No stomach for the second best. How integration thinkers move beyond trade offs'.

While making a decision human being considers four important aspects.

One, what are the factors that are relevant to my decision? This aspect is called Salience
Two, what are the interrelationships between these factors / features? How do the factors influence each other. This aspect is called Causality
Three, how do I structure my activities to achieve what I want? This is called Architecture
Four, was the outcome satisfactory? What is the outcome that I am going to get? This is the Resolution

When decisions get more complex, we tend to get confused and mixed up in any one of the above four steps. For example, we might miss some key features of a decision. Martin talks about a couple who have a bunch of beer drinking, raucous truck drivers for company. In their quest for a low priced vacation, they missed this important factor (vacation companions) which was relevant to their decision.

Martin call this attribute of decision making, ie having multiple relevant features as 'Salience' of the decision. Salience can be identified by the sentence 'I wish I had thought about it sooner'.

'Causality is the term used to show the interrelationships between salient features. We prepare a 'Causal Map' in our minds.

The next step is to identify the sequence of activities to be followed. Author calls this the 'Architecture' of the decision. We identify various activities to be performed and sequence them. Sometimes we break the activities into groups and assign different people with responsibilities for different groups. While doing so we might miss out on the integration aspect of the architecture.

Finally, based on the salient features, identified causality between them and the selected architecture you have a decision outcome or 'Resolution'.. Based on the different combination of any of the above, there are different resolutions.

Decision Making Process
The question is, what differentiates integrative thinkers from conventional thinkers?

One, wider salience: Integrative thinkers identify more salient features. They take a broader view of what is salient.
Two, complex causality: Integrative thinkers do not flinch from considering multi-directional and non-linear causal relationships.
Three, big picture architecture: Integrative thinkers d not break a problem into independent pieces and work on each piece separately. They keep the entire problem in mind while working on its undivided parts.
Four, search for a creative solution: Integrative thinkers search for creative resolution of tensions rather than accepting unpleasant trade offs. They are comfortable with the delays, generating option at the eleventh hour etc. They are prepared to wait in their quest for the best solution.

The diagram below summarizes the differences between conventional thinking and integrative thinking for each of the decision making elements.


Book Review: Triggers: Author: Marshall Goldsmith

Book Review

The book, Triggers, that Mr.Marshall Goldsmith has co-authored with Mark Reiter is the third book written by Mr. Goldsmith following the success of his previous books 'What got you here won't get you there' and 'Mojo'. Marshall Goldsmith is considered to be one of America's top 50 thinkers. He is a world renowned expert in 'Adult Behavioral Change'.

The book is published in India by Hachette and the paperback edition costs Rs.399.

As is the case with his books, the key theme of this book is to identify the triggers that can spark positive, lasting change in adult behavior. The book covering  22 chapters is divided into 4 parts.

Part One is titled 'Why don't we become the persons that we want to be'. As the title suggests, the objective of this section is to identify the triggers that spark both positive and negative behavior on our part and either support or impede our progress. Author starts off with two universal truths. One, meaningful change is very hard to do and two, no one can make us change unless we want to. Author identifies two kinds of triggers. Belief triggers are a set of beliefs that we hold that prevents us from making positive changes. Mr.Goldsmith has identified 15 belief triggers, including 'I won't give in to temptation', 'I have all the time in the world', 'I don't need help' etc. Environmental triggers are those millions of stimuli in the external world, few of which we are conscious of and most of which we are not even aware are impacting our behavior.

There are different kinds of triggers. Two key groups are Encouraging - Discouraging and Productive - Counter productive. Combining these two groups lead to four combinations. These are:
  • Encouraging / Productive
  • Discouraging / Productive
  • Encouraging / Counter productive
  • Discouraging / Counter productive.
We should always try to identify and strengthen those triggers that are both encouraging and productive. These triggers provide what we want in the short-term as well as providing us with long-term positive results. If that is not possible, our focus should be to strengthen 'Productive' triggers. 

One of the concepts in this book is the wheel of change. It classifies our behaviors in terms of whether they add or reduce value and if we need to keep or change them. The wheel has four sectors. 'Creating' sector deals with those behaviors that we should create new. 'Preserve' deals  with those which we need to keep. Behaviors in both these groups add value. We need to identify and 'Eliminate' those behavior that are reducing value. These could be all those bad habits that you have been wanting to get rid of for a long time. Finally, there are some behaviors and situations that you need to 'Accept'. Author gives example of how he accepted the fact that he is 'follicly challenged'.

Wheel of change - Marshall Goldsmith - Triggers
How can we put these ideas into action? Parts 2 and 3 gives us the methods of adopting the changes. There are two aspects to change adoption. One is to be aware of our need for change. We should 'want' to have to change. Second is to continuously engage ourselves in the change process. To ensure these two, author suggest that we asks ourselves engaging questions on a regular basis. Engaging questions start with 'Did I do my best to.....' thereby bringing in the aspects of 'self-ownership' and 'trying' into the occasion. In addition, we should also be asking hourly questions of ourselves to remind that we are on the right path as we go through the day.

Every moment, we are faced with situations where we have a choice to respond. So which are the situations where one should respond and and which are those which one should walk away from? AIWATT, rhyming with 'Say What' helps us take the correct decision. AIWATT stands for 'Am I willing, at this time, to make the required investments, to make a positive change on this issue?'. If the answer to the above question is 'Yes', one should engage, if it is 'No', one should walk away from it.

And finally, author emphasizes the need for structure in our lives. The concept of structure is not strictly defined in the book, rather, the idea is brought about through set of examples. Structure brings in both self-discipline and self-control, two basic requirements for ensuring long-lasting, sustained, positive adult behavioral change.

Part 4 rounds off the book by discussing three reasons why Mr.Goldsmith wanted to write this book. First reason is to help readers achieve long-lasting positive behavioral change. Second is for helping readers to be aware of their need of change and the third reason is to help readers engage in the change process.

Mr.Goldsmith had released concepts and ideas of the book prior to its release through a series of LinkedIn posts. So if you were a member of LinkedIn, you would have read those teasers before you read this book.

I had read the other two books of Mr.Goldsmith. That was some time ago. Still, I feel that this book did not impact me as much as his other works did. One of the problems that I felt was that this book lacked conceptual rigor and clear definitions. The word 'Triggers' was used loosely in my opinion. At various pages in this book you came across Belief triggers, environmental triggers, behavioral triggers etc. I was not very clear of which type of trigger I was reading about at any point in time.

Another area where I did not get clarity was the difference between behavior or habits. Were they the same? The author tries to bring in a subtle difference between them. For example, you trying to stop smoking is a change in habit. This book do not try to address that. But if you do not delegate properly, or tend to add unnecessary value, those are changes in behavior that you need to undertake, and this book tries to help you in your endeavor..

All in all, I will give three marks out of five for this book.

13 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter1: Choices, Conflicts and the Creative Spark.

This post is chapter 1 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post. 
In business, we often look at decisions as series of either - or propositions or trade offs. However, exceptional leaders have the predisposition and ability to hold two diametrically opposite ideas in their heads and they are able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either of the opposing ideas. Roger Martin calls this 'Integrative Thinking'.

To develop integrative thinking, the author looks for a metaphor which can provide insight into the thinking process of integrative leaders. He lands upon the concept of 'opposable thumb'. Human beings are the only creature in the earth with the  capacity to put tension between the thumb and other fingers. By systematically developing their ability to use the opposable thumb, human beings are able to do things that no other creature can do, like writing, for example.

Roger Martin calls the ability of people to keep two opposing ideas in their minds as the 'Opposable Thumb'.

12 July 2015

RVO:Creativity Mental Block #10: I am not creative

This post is a continuation of THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post 

Whatever we think, happens !!!. That is the law of nature.

The world of self fulfilling prophesy is where thoughts and actions overlap.

It is often the case that if we think that we are not  creative, we are not creative.

Make sure to think that we are creative. Give oneself the license to play with our ideas, to fail and rise again, to change course, to play the fool, to ask 'what if' questions.

We should try and discover our creative styles. Identify 10 of our own creative tendencies. Find out when we are most creative and when we are least creative.

When are you most creative?

11 July 2015

RVO:Creativity Mental Block #9: To err is wrong

 This post is a continuation of THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post 

Our educational system teaches us that 'To err is wrong'. With this attitude we try to avoid mistakes by being too careful. However, this attitude can hurt us in  the imaginative phase of the creative process.

'The biggest job we have is to teach a new employee to fail intelligently' --- Charles Kettering

Learning from the 'Trial and Error' is a natural process that we learn when growing up As children we learn to walk by falling and trying again. The theory of 'Natural Selection' is a process of trial and error followed by the nature.

Errors tell us when to change direction. Negative feedback points to us where we are going wrong. We learn by trial and error, not trial and correct.

Most people do not change when they 'see the light' they change when they 'Feel the heat'. In the final section of the chapter author talks about three dangers of success

One, it tends to lock us into a pattern. 'It it is not broken, why fix it?'
Two, Success can create situations that undermine our original intentions
Three, it can lead us to our being over confident to the point of arrogance.

10 July 2015

RVO:Creativity Mental Block #8: Avoiding Ambiguity

This post is a continuation of THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post 

Ambiguous situations are both confusing and they could create communication problems. Due to this we are taught to 'avoid ambiguity'.

In the imaginative phase, ambiguity can help us by asking questions like 'what is going on here', 'what does this mean' and 'how else can this be interpreted'.

'If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you will be amazed at the result' ---George Patton

The author mentions the following sources of ambiguity.

One Paradoxes: Paradoxes are statements that appear contradictory but which on deeper thought, point to a truth. Paradoxes 'whack' us out of our narrow thoughts and forces us to question our assumptions. 'Seeing the paradox' is the crux of creative thinking since it is the ability to entertain two different , often contradictory ideas at the same time.
My favorite examples of paradoxes.
'When I came home, I expected a surprise, and there was no surprise for me, so I was surprised' --- Ludwig Wittgenstein
'Any company large enough to have a research lab, is too large to listen to it' --- Alan Kay
'The little I know, I owe it to my ignorance' -- Orville Mars
'I have such high regard for truth that I use it sparingly' --- Timothy Connor
'Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness' --- Cheng Tzu

One strategy to deal with ambiguity is to be our own Oracle. T/he purpose of Oracle is to delve more deeply into our intuition when dealing with a problem. To tap into your internal Oracle, you have to follow these steps.

Create a question to ask to Oracle. This question focus our thinking.
A way to generate random information. The random selection is important. A random piece of information, due to its unpredictability, forces us to look at the problem in a new way.

You should have an attitude that interprets the resulting random piece of information as answer to our question.

The author explains this approach in quite a detail.

Step one is to phrase our question clearly. To do that first we have to clear our mind, relax and focus our mind. Now form the question
Second step is to open our mind to things that have no connections to the idea that we are developing. Select something in the world at random.
Step three is to associate the random thing to your situation. Remember that there is a connection and it is our responsibility to find it. Be creative. Think out of the box. Be metaphorical

Yet another approach is to listen to our dreams. Dreams are sources of ambiguity. To unleash the power of dreams, the author uses the following technique. Before going to sleep, visualize the problem that he is working on without trying to solve it. Once he gets the idea in his dreams, he writes them down.

When we try to remember the dream, try to remember the following.

One, how did you feel in the dream?
Two, How d you feel about the dream?
Three, Who is in the dream
Four, Where does it take place?
Five, How do different people react?

Dreams are ways in which the subconscious mind is speaking to us.

'The way up and way down are one and the same' --- Heraclitus

Question: What is our source of ambiguity? Everyone should have their own sources of ambiguity. For author, it is the sayings of Heraclitus. We have to find ours.

09 July 2015

Inspirational and enduring lessons learned from a training....

I attended a training about 4 years ago. This was a training program spread over seven months. As is wont, immediately after completing each training session all of us were very inspired and ready to take on the world.
However, after a few days or weeks, the enthusiasm waned off. The reality of the daily drudge took its toll.
However I still remember three lessons that I learned from that training.
One, never give up on people. It is normal tendency for us to give up on our superiors or subordinates. 'No point in going to him', we say about our boss, 'he won't listen anyway'. 'He makes me feel angry and irritated', fumes a manager about his subordinate, 'he is not ready to learn. No point in giving him any counseling. It is a waste of Organization's time', he avers bombastically. Somehow, his time  is equal to the Organization's time.
We easily and quickly give up on people.
The trainer, flipped the script for us. 
"Imagine that your parents had given up on you", said he, "do you think you would be sitting in this room now?"
Food for thought.
"It is not true that you did do things that frustrated or disappointed your parents. But did they give up on you? Of course, not. They had trust in you. They backed you up. They counseled you, and cajoled you and shouted at you and advised you. Continuously. Without giving up. Without quickly writing you off."
"But us?", he waved a majestic hand across the hall, "we are quick to give up on people. We ignore them, neglect them and ignore them. All because, we felt that they won't improve, that they won't respond to our good words, that they are somehow 'incurable'. We give up on people easily."
"So the lesson from our parents? Never give up on people. They didn't give up on you. And you turned out to be fine specimens. You shouldn't give up on people who look up to you"
Two, work one level above our potential. Many of us are habituated to working at levels below our potential. We do our homework at the last minutes. We do our assignments at a level just enough to get good grades. We do our coding, just enough to remove all the bugs, user experience be damned. We plan our work exceptionally well and do a sloppy job of execution. Our documents are just passable, our presentations are full of quality content, but an eyesore, with no importance given to the looks and feel....
The list goes on.
Can't we do a better job at any of these items? Of course, we can. Aren't we capable of doing that? Of course, we are. Aren't we working below our potential? Of course, we are. Aren't we aware that we are working at a level below our potential? Of course, we are.
Every day we get up and go to office, spend eight (or nine, or ten or twelve) hours and come home tired. A tiredness that comes out of having worked below our potential. A tiredness of not having given it all. Tiredness borne out of the realization that we could have done much better, but we didn't.
Someone called it 'Bad Tired', as against tiredness faced by a student who gave it all and studied 15 hours a day focused on a goal. That is 'Good Tired'.
That was lesson two. Always try to work above our potential, at least at our potential and not below it.
The third lesson that I learned from the training is the importance of working as a team.I remember  a role play that we played towards the fag end of the training. We were divided into teams. Each team was an alien rescue team, trying to rescue someone in a faraway planet called 'Earth'. The mission of each team was to rescue the earthlings from impending disaster. Members of each team had different roles. There were Leaders, Strategists, Planners and Doers. 
The first team to save the earthling will be the winner.
Very competitive. 
The teams were discouraged / barred from talking to other teams. In fact they were actively encouraged to find fault with other teams.
There was a dashboard. Once in a while message from earthlings will pop up on it. 'We are suffering', 'We are helpless', 'Please help', 'We are drowning'.....Cryptic messages.
Here was the catch.The success depended on teams working together. The team which found this out first came out as the winner.
I have seen this scenario pan out in many ERP Implementations that I have worked on. We will have customer mails saying 'Our planning problem has intensified, please help', 'Payments are stuck, we need quick solution', 'Data is corrupted, please resolve immediately', 'We are not able to close our books', 'Our shipments are delayed'....
What about back in the office? Blame game. 'I need new people', says the project manager, 'I have raised the request with HR, they are taking their sweet time'.
'We need to travel to customer location, we are waiting for the visa. Travel team is taking too much time'.
'I had already escalated that things are not going fine. But management did not take any action'
Internal blame game galore. Delivery team blames the competency team for giving sub-standard resources, Competency blames the project manager for not being able to motivate the team, the team blames the project manager, project manager blames the customer, everyone blames everyone else....
All the while the customer is out there shouting for help....