Thought Provoking but Obscure Articles from 2013 – 3: The Best of the Rest

To finish up while there is still time in January (and while I am still otherwise occupied in Southeast Asia), here are the last three topics: Creativity, Power, and Trust, plus as a special bonus what I discovered by tapping into Other People’s Lists.

Creativity

10 Myths About Creativity You Need to Stop Believing Now” (www.entrepreneur.com, October 2013).  Thinking about how to Add Value in life and career will invariably force us to face the obvious obstacle: “I’m not creative.”  We need to get over it, and this article by Martin Zwilling is just the thing to debunk 10 common myths we have relied upon for generations.  Once debunked, we can focus on where we can best be creative.  Not everyone is creative in the same way in every area.  Look at Picasso – he was clearly getting 0’s in cursive handwriting.

What It Takes for an Idea To Change Everything” (Businessweek, 17 December 2012).  This article appeared too late for me to include last year (and, no, that’s not why I’m posting this series so late this year).  About the development, actually the evolution of the bar code from concepts to fruition, this neatly summarizes the three simple but necessary conditions that helped this idea (and by inference, uncountable other creative ideas) to reach success.  Great info to tuck in the back of your mind as you step out into your new-found area of creativity.

Power

The Power Of Being A Realistic Optimist” (LinkedIn, 16 December 2013).
Given that most of us think we fall into one of two categories, pessimists or optimists, Winston Churchill’s bon mot, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” rings true.  This post by Andreas von der Heydt throws light on a third path that possibly many of us use but don’t recognize: the Realistic Optimist.  There is a great discussion about the characteristic behaviors of all three categories, lending support that the third leads to more successful +∑ (Added Value) outcomes, which makes William Arthur Ward’s observation, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails” all the more impactful, especially in the use and application of power, either personal or positional.

The Art Of Distortion” (Businessweek, 7 March 2013).  This is a rather tongue-in-cheek (but very tasty) review of Lanny Davis’ book, Crisis Tales, which apparently is more of a lengthy advertisement about the author’s crisis management and valuable PR services than a book.  The tales tell the story, which seems more to serve as additional proof of many of the Fundamental Principles so far presented in this blog.  To whit:

-The critic, Jon Lovett, remarks, “Davis … responded by suggesting I didn’t have all the facts …” (FP 6: Missing Information)

-“Davis laments that ‘no matter how hard you try, some people just don’t consider … being fair all that important’ ”  (FP 4b: -∑ players)

-“Davis ominously reports that he does not keep notes, not even as an aid to memory.  Who needs notes when you’re in command of the true facts?” (FP 7c: Some people don’t ‘get’ that they don’t ‘get it,’ and never will)

The tour de force, however, is the critic’s summation:

“In Washington there are many honorable people on all sides, young staffers earnest wonks, skeptical reporters, and furious activists.  Too often they’re set against a humming system of misleading reports and shady front groups, of lobbyists and hired guns who poison debates, sow mistrust, and provide cover for politicians (Ed.: seems all too –∑, yes?)  This machinery of misinformation has helped lead our country to dysfunction.  And, unlike Davis, we won’t spin our way out of it.”

Power is best served on a +∑ plate.

Corporate Power is Decaying. Get Used to It” (Businessweek, 21 February 2013).  An excellent discussion on the shifting balance of power, particularly economic power, and its consequences.  Some observations:

Trends indicate that “corporate power itself – the ability to influence the way consumers, competitors, and markets behave – is decaying. … In the 21st century, power is easier to get but also harder to use and easier to lose.”

“In some respects, these are heartening developments.  Just as the decay of power in politics has undermined authoritarian regimes, in business it has curtailed monopolies and oligopolies while giving consumers more choices, lower prices, and, in some cases at least, better quality. … The growing power vacuum also entails dangers. … It’s also created more opportunities for fraud and deceit.  When power is harder to use and keep, and it spreads to an ever larger, ever-shifting cast of small (Ed.: –∑) players, forms of competition that threaten the social good and the survival of industries (overly aggressive business tactics designed to bankrupt rivals rather than maximize profits, for instance) are more likely to arise.”

“We must also recognize that the decay of power creates fertile soil for those who seek to exploit the proliferation of actors, opinions, and proposals in ways that ultimately counter to the public interest…”

This looks to me like an economic counterpart to a common and important law of physics: The Conservation of Power.  However, this is really more a shift in the distribution of power, becoming less concentrated in a few who tend to have certain (self)-controls over how –∑ their behavior can become, and shifting to a larger, less visible population who ostensibly have no (self)-controls (or desire for them) what-so-ever.

Reactions to this will, as they have in the past, result in criticism of the free market system (itself morally neutral), rather than the identification of those –∑ actors who have a woefully thin and narrowly distributed moral foundation based on unhealthy values and principles and take advantage of it.

Top Dog:’ Unselfish Teamwork Is Overrated” (Businessweek, 14 February 2013).  A short review of the book Top Dog whose thesis is that healthy workplace competition is the key to success.  The argument goes that companies seeking team players will turn off top applicants who, rightly or wrongly, think they will miss a chance to stand out.  Unfortunately, the book misses a key element, which is that these ‘top applicants’ are more likely –∑ players who not only would not contribute to the team’s success but may in fact undermine it.

The review highlights that the book does provide “an indictment of American complacency over the last several decades, as well as the failures of an educational system that can be concerned more with self-esteem than with honest assessment.”

While identifying that team structure matters, there appears to be no evidence the authors recognize the impact of positive sum (+∑) goals and strategies on achieving success.  Their approach presumes a zero-sum (0∑) cultural environment.

As a consequence, this leads them into a discussion about those who do not thrive in aggressive atmospheres, drawing the inference that “for reasons to do with both nature and nurture, the noncombative set tends to be female.”  While I concur that nature (our DNA) and nurture (formation by clan and tribe) have a huge effect on who we are, failing to recognize there is missing information leads the authors into a cul de sac.  Fortunately, as a blind squirrel sometimes finds an acorn, they suggest that “what is perceived as timidity may be the accurate reading of risk.”  On the other hand, this could also be the perceptive ability to sense the missing information that may be the key to achieving a +∑ outcome, as well as assessing the risk in obtaining it.

Trust

9 Reasons To Lead In A No Spin Zone” (Forbes, 26 September 2013).  Trust is the glue that holds organizations together, and if we view any relationship of two or more people as some form of organization, then this includes everyone.  Mike Myatt’s post about truth is a great reminder of this simple but often forgotten foundational principle.  Some notable observations:

“Leadership not deeply rooted in a foundation of truth is leadership destined to fail.”

“If you have to manipulate the truth to gain an advantage, the advantage is not worth the perceived gain, for any advantage gained in deceit will surely come at a very high cost – the sacrifice of your honor and integrity.”

“It is incredibly difficult to recover from a breach of trust, and many never do.  While everyone makes mistakes, and most deserve a second chance, it’s just easier to tell the truth then to spend years attempting to rebuild.”

The 9 Reasons are great reminders of how important truth is.  If you can visualize each positive-sum (+∑) outcome, then embracing them should be a whole lot easier.

The Power of Trust in Business” (Switch and Shift, 19 November 2013).  A second excellent reminder on the importance of trust in business (as well as in other relationships), based upon the author’s experience with the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey.  That alone should arouse your curiosity.

Other People’s Lists

This year I noticed a much larger number of articles and blog postings that focused on ‘The Best From This Past Year’ lists.  I decided to recognize here those that were either very unique or insightful, or both.  They reminded me of a simple insight:

“What People Who Know That They Don’t Know and Go and Learn About It, Can Accomplish.”

In no particular order, here they are:

The 2013 Jealousy List: The 41 Best Stories (and One Book) We didn’t Write” (Businessweek, 18 December 2013).  “… A compilation of the great pieces of journalism in 2013 that left Bloomberg Businessweek’s staff sick with resentment.”  I figured that any article that was as honest as that deserved special recognition.  Enjoyable and informative read even if you don’t make it to the original articles.

The 12 Business Books to Read in 2014” (LinkedIn, 16 December 2013).  Adam Grant’s (author of Give and Take discussed earlier) list, which he apparently had prepublication copies to review ahead of time.  Somehow he had the time, also.

That’s it.  Enjoy.

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About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
This entry was posted in 02: Value Added, A Definition, 04: Games People Play, 06: Incomplete Information, 07: Getting It, 08: Observing, Listening, Learning, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thought Provoking but Obscure Articles from 2013 – 3: The Best of the Rest

  1. Jennifer says:

    Great post! Very interesting articles in it. Good words of wisdom. I especially liked the 10 myths about creativity since I’ve always considered myself an “inside-the-box” thinker. The article gave me encouraging words. Then, the topic on trust is so timely in our nation and culture when people are sacrificing their integrity for the sake of power; it appears people in “power” don’t realize anymore how the Truth will always prevail!

    Like

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