September 24, 2009

Everything I know is wrong

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What would you change?

Great Big Spanner B/W

This morning, as I came home from the pool a mother and toddler walked…


Running feet

In the last five years I’ve run well over 6000 miles in marathon training. Over that period I’ve been completely sidelined with injuries for over 30 weeks and have run with niggling problems for maybe a third of the time.

There are two things I should point out about that last paragraph: motivation is not a problem, I run every day it’s remotely possible; and, these kind of stats are not unusual for a marathon runner.

Over those five years I’ve used 16 pairs of running shoes and a set of specially made orthotic insoles. Without going in to the glorious marketing-speak of individual running shoe models it’s a fair assumption that my equipment choices have made running easier and less stressful on my body. Right? Or, without all those shoes I’d be injured even more. Right?

Maybe not.

Over the summer I read Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, which promotes the idea that humans have evolved to run, and running shoes aren’t good for us. Apparently:

“there’s no evidence that running shoes are any help at all in injury prevention. In a 2008 research paper for the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, revealed that there are no evidence-based studies — not one — that demonstrate that running shoes make you less prone to injury.”

My assumption: I need running shoes. The reality: I don’t need running shoes.

Everything I thought I knew is wrong.

What assumptions do you have, impacting your organisational life every day, that stand on no evidence?

The Science of Motivation

Here’s a possible example. In his recent TED Talk on the Surprising Science of Motivation Dan Pink highlighted the ineffectiveness of extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses, most of the time. Despite much of this research being 50 years old, many (most?) managers still rely on the wrong headed ideas of how to get things done.

The key lesson:

“There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does […] If we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks we can strengthen our businesses […] and maybe, maybe, maybe we can change the world.”

What to do when everything you know is wrong

So much for running shoes and extrinsic motivators. What do you do when something comes along that challenges your assumptions? Instinct may be to turn away and go back to the devil you know. Try this instead:

Stop – just think about it for a moment, is it even remotely possible that what has always seemed true, is maybe not the whole truth? Does this new thing nudge up against problem that just seems a part of the woodwork? Be open to possibility.

Look – dig into the the data. Strip away all the personality of the issue, what does the cold steel of a few facts show you?

Listen – who else is talking about this? Can you trust them? Ignore the doomsayers, trolls, the collapsoconomists and anyone with a vested interest in the status quo. Somebody, somewhere is looking at the edges of this thing. Find them.

Listen again – this time to your gut.

If you do all this and the world looks different … act.

My running world looks different. I’ve ditched the shoes for now. I’m not running marathons barefoot yet (although some people do) and I’ve had to make friends with a my blisters, but I am running again. And funnily enough … I feel stronger.

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Managing Skippiness

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Previous article September 23, 2009

How to have a difficult conversation


Every manager has to deal with uncomfortable situations from time to time.

From giving constructive feedback to letting people go,…