The Quantum Mousetrap

Mark Eduljee's blog about Social Media Insights Intelligence and his FlightSim Movies

Posts Tagged ‘Root cause’

I want a Lollipop! NOW!

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Its Father’s day in the USA, and I’m supposed to want a lot of sweeeet stuff on this special day – lots of big lollipops…camping equipment, tools, a shop vac, a boat, a shop vac for the boat; a 10 gallon hat; my very own recliner; a 20 million BTU barbecue, an electronic insect killer. And binoculars. Dang, if only I had a billion bucks!

It’s times like this when I want to know what I need to do next.

As a Father I know that instead of wanting more, I need to instead:

  • Live a life that makes my forefathers proud…one filled with integrity, kindness, personal responsibility. Intentional thoughtfulness.
  • Persevere. Do my best. In whatever capacity life demands of me, at home, at work, at play. Whenever.
  • Protect and nurture my children as they take their rightful place in this grand universe of ours

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like lollipops. I’m also not suggesting we all eschew a normal life for two-dimensional banality bound by austerity and reflection.

What I am suggesting is that there is a time for wanting a 10 gallon hat, and a time to realize that what’s really needed are 10 gallons of water instead.

Here’s an example of Wants vs. Needs to illustrate my point:  We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching pictures of birds covered in oil from BP’s gulf gusher. And then there is that daffy CEO of theirs going, “blah, blah… I would like my life back”. That’s what he wants!! Did he somehow miss the need to show how BP plans to get the Gulf ecosystem back on its feet? What the @BeeP# !

Another one: Ever been in a gathering of friends, or in one at work, which was called to arrive at some needed decision, only to wind up sidetracked and talking about what everyone wanted instead, or how they wanted to solve it? What happened to the need for a decision?

The child who is always “wanting” and craving something never really outgrows us. Getting what we want is a comforting, reaffirming thing. We like it. We want it.

But here’s the question: Is getting what you want, good for you?

Worse: Does getting what you want blind you from seeing what you really need?

And does it come back to burn you?

This “I want” phenomenon knows no size, cultural, political, business or language barriers. Trace any failed attempt to do ANYTHING, and I’ll bet that you’ll find, at the center, a relatively small number of people enjoying their lollipops while the majority did not get what they really needed, and are left to suck their thumbs instead for comfort.

Consider a few examples of the profound effect that a “want” can have if not reconciled with what’s really needed:

  • Energy policy: Wanting to maintain the viability of the global fossil-fuel industry has de-prioritized and sometimes de-legitimized the undeniable global need for reliable, renewable sources of energy. The result: we launch increasingly risky ventures to try to reach diminishing fossil fuel reserves in increasingly hostile places, followed by a higher probability of increasingly larger environmental disasters. BP’s transgressions notwithstanding, why then are we all so surprised and angry when the Gulf is painted brown?
  • The Middle East: Wanting solutions to be grounded on historical precedent has held back the need for peace and stability across the region. The result: over 60 years of bloodshed across many borders
  • Human condition: Wanting religious and cultural continuity smothers the basic need humans have to experiment, learn, and grow. The result: suspicion, unequal opportunity, exploitation, hunger, poverty. The list of human beings in need remains long.

Here are some less strategic, everyday “I want..” examples, balanced against what’s probably really needed instead…

Instead of saying “I Want…” Think “I Need…”
I want a bigger house (or insert any noun here) Why? Ask yourself Why, and then follow up your answer with 3 more Why follow-up questions. If you can’t justify the increased investment imposed on you or your family as a result, then you do not really need this lollipop. Remember the housing bubble?
I want respect! I need to behavior in such a way which would cause others to decide/want to respect me. Respect is earned. Are you earning the right currency?
I want more money I need to save more so I can spend it on things that I need.
This is also another why times 4 exercise. Why more money? …To buy ‘x’.
Why do you need ‘x’? Because I want to do ‘y’ with it
Why is it important to do ‘y’? Because it makes me feels good!!That’s a weak argument for wanting more money. There are other ways to help you feel good if that’s what you need.
I want the government to be less wasteful and live within its means! I need to make a list services I use that I’d be willing to give up, first, before I point to how others need to cut spending.There will always be someone who sees your “necessary service” as a “waste”.  Drive solutions. Don’t buy sound-bite lollipops.
I want to lose weight I need to commit to eating only what my body uses.

Weight in this case is a symptom, not a goal. Fix your need, and the weight issue will sort its self out.

I want you to like me I need to understand why it’s important to me that you like me.Find root cause. Address that. You will be liked as a result.
I want my team to meet its deadlines I need to remove barriers and provide leadership.Deadlines are a tactic, not a strategy. Focus on what you need to do to help your team be successful, not how you want them to meet dates.
I want better social media metrics Me too. So go fish.But seriously, first figure out what you need to accomplish from a business ROI perspective, then, gather the metrics you need to monitor and metric progress towards that objective.

Start with the end. Not the other way around.

How to recognize if what you want is a lollipop:

  • Crackling, crispy wrappers: Typically, wants wrapped in crackling crispy, noisy wrappers are really reactions to some sort of emotional stimuli – As an example: You have an older but still fully functioning smart phone which immediately begins to look like a brick after your friend buys the latest/greatest gadget. “Wow!! I want one too!”  Really?  What just changed from 1 minute ago?
  • Swirls of tantrums: These are great fun to watch…but a pain if you are on the receiving end of them. Bordering on the irrational, these wants are driven by the desire to project power. The best defense against these lollipops is time…try to let some time pass so that either conditions change, or a more calm state of mind can manifest
  • Lumps of misdirection: These wants are an attempt to drive a conversation or course of action that’s really designed to hide something.  They are easy to spot and hard to ignore. They create buzz and activity without results, so watch out for them. A dead giveaway is if the earlier expressed wants are quickly forgotten to be replaced with new flavors of the same want.  As examples: “I want to lose weight!” followed by “I want to lose only 2 lbs. a week”, followed by “I want to try the south beach diet. It really worked for Lauren!”, and then, “I want you to go on a diet with me to show your support, Please!”  Or how about a more National one … “I want you to be werry werry wowwid that there will be ‘death panels’”, and “I don’t want socialized medicine or a government takeover of my health decisions”… all wants that were screamed out during the recent health care debate in the US, but to what end? Misdirection aimed at highlighting and having needed discussions about inequities, escalating costs, and a Nation’s health crisis.
  • Sticky, icky, gooey causality: These are wants driven by the fear of unknown consequences. Since they often come from an uncertain state of mind, they tend to be reactive, ambiguous or without form. As an example, “If the decision is to kill that project then I want air cover while I attempt to continue to try to keep service delivery from being uninterrupted by its cancellation and the extra burden this imposes on my team”.  Say what??  You lose credibility and trust when you want these types of lollipops.
  • Traction taffy: These are wants that don’t really have any legs to stand on. They feel like they are getting you places but in reality you are bogged down, with no traction, going nowhere. The BP congressional hearing held last week was a classic example of taffy-in-the-making…well-meaning senators who wanted to pull Tony Hayward into answering their questions to help us all supposedly feel good about pointing our fingers at the bad guy, while he pulled the other way to avoid further damage. Lots of tug and pull and movement going nowhere. What is needed is leadership, not hearings, endless newscasts, or talking heads.

So the next time you find yourself beginning to say “I want…” think of a burning lollipop and see if you can separate your want from your need.  If you can, I’m betting that life will be sweeter. And your Father will be proud of you. I know mine would be.

And as a tribute to Him on this Father’s day here is a picture of us many lollipop moments ago. My Bro on the right, Dad and yours truly.

I now know that he wanted the best for me, but needed me to find my place in the universe. I think I feel Him smiling.

I now need to post this.

What do you need?

Flaming Lollipop image:


The art of creativity

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

To every educator, parent, manager, and person of authority, view this. It’s a 19 min clip from the TED archives.

Summarized, it’s a 2006 presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, and he makes “an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity”.

As with all things, this is generally true, but not entirely correct… some of the most creative ideas and products have come as a result of educated minds using knowledge to create wondrous (or hurtful) products, services, art, poetry, policy, philosophy, religion, technology etc. — Facebook being a relatively recent example of technical creativity, but, whether it’s a creative or destructive force is still open to debate ; )

Do you think you are creative? I’m betting that 90% of you reading this are probably nodding your heads. Sure, you’ve done creative things.  Aaahaa!! But has the level of your creativity been so profound as to fundamentally change the human condition? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, creative output does not have to be on a cosmic scale to be valuable. Does that make you any less creative in your own right? Certainly not.

But here’s the question that’s really going to bake your noodle: Can you (or better yet, should you) hold your school or university responsible for not making you creative ENOUGH, or worse, squeezing the well-spring of creativity OUT of you? Hmmm…Is it a schooling or College problem? Or is it you? Can, and should, you hold yourself responsible for not unlocking, nurturing, growing your own creative potential? Or worse, allowing others to suppress it? Isn’t creativity just a state of mind?

Here’s a test… point me to one person you know, for certain, who is absolutely incapable of being creative. And I’ll show you the unicorn I keep as a pet in my back yard.

So what the difference? Why was Edison creative enough to solve the problem of night-time darkness, and the Wright Brothers insightful enough to stitch together a wood and cloth contraption that fundamentally made the world a smaller place to live in, while scores of humans “lead lives of quiet desperation”? (Thoreau)  BTW did you know that Orville and Wilbur owned a bicycle shop! They were not aeronautical engineers. Oh – wait- Aeronautic didn’t even exist at that time. Hmm…What were they thinking? Fly like a bird. Sheesh! Hey gear head! Just peddle your bike, will ya!

I think they made a choice…They made a conscientious choice to move, act, and think in creative ways. I am absolutely convinced through my own life’s experiences that one must first choose to exercise their right and option to become a creative person. I will not blame my teachers, parents, circumstances or…..

Here are 10 ways to become a more intentionally creative person.

  1. Banish fear: The primitive brain does not allow thoughts to flow when it is afraid – afraid of TRex, afraid of failing, rejection, ridicule. Whatever. Give yourself a break and trust yourself some more.
  2. You are not what others define you to be: I’m sure you can come up with ‘n’ number of notes from Parents/Teachers/Managers/Friends/Critics etc. about what they think or thought of you, or your capabilities or capacity to think, act, behave. Here’s what to do with that information (for that is all it really is) listen, digest, and then move on. Use their thoughts, opinions, reviews, or insights as a foundation for the next step, not as a wall to hide behind.
  3. You know more that you think you know: Really. Believe it. “Oh, I don’t know how to bake a cake for my Mother!”. Really? Are you telling me that you are incapable of finding the information, or a friend, to help you to get over that hurdle? Knowing is not only what you have in your head. Stop finding excuses.  ’nuff said.
  4. Dig to get to root cause: The Wright brothers asked the question: “What makes controlled flight possible”. That was their question. That was their root cause. It focused and channeled their creative energy and drive. It was what inspired them. To be “bird-like”. It was not “how do we build an airplane?” The result was an airplane, not the other way around.
  5. Manage frustration: Accept that being creative is a process. It takes time. Allow the process to run its course. Getting frustrated and impatient for the end only weighs it down. A calm brain can think, tap into its reservoir of knowledge, see options, focus, go deeper.
  6. Learn to be a bulldog: Don’t let go. Dogged persistence. Being creative will test your resolve. It demands persistence and commitment. Sink your teeth into it. And relish the feeling while you are about it.
  7. Give up. But don’t walk away. Seems to contradict the one above, but this is more strategic. When you find any of these laws breaking down, take a hike. Give yourself a break.  Go play a game of racquetball, feed the goldfish, wag the dog. Whatever. Take your mind off “it”. Give up and let your subconscious take over for a while. It will call you back when it’s ready and has an answer for you. It works every time.
  8. Identify needs, not wants. This is a big one… too often the drive to be creative short circuits because it goes something like this: Identify goal/wish/wants –> whoosh! –> get into problem solving mode. STOP! First, figure out what the real need is. Wants are emotion-based objectives. You can’t think clearly when emotion is involved. Needs on the other hand define the desired end-result.
  9. Begin from the end: See the end. Focus less on ‘how’, and more on ‘what’. Options and alternatives that were not apparent in the whoosh mind-set then become available. Walking backwards from the end releases unconventional/new/alternative/hybrid ideas. The result can be sheer brilliance. “Why didn’t I think of that!!?” … Why didn’t you!?
  10. Insert your own guideline here: Be creative.