In my previous post, I listed the three main events that drive my thinking. The analytical skill created by one of these events delivered effective solutions again and again, but it also created a serious downside. These experiences lead to the following question: Are the stress and the high pressures we are faced with in today’s world driving us, out-of-the-box thinkers included, to think inside the box?
Up to the turn of the century, it was relatively easy for me to get innovative solutions approved and implemented. With the increasing bureaucracy and complexity, this has become ever more difficult. While I had the support of my peers, approval had to be obtained from ever greater numbers of managers. Any of them could say ‘no’, bringing my initiatives to a full stop. This was where my analytical skill kicked in. It drove me to find more and more information, patterns and facts, and to have answers to any questions that may be asked readily available.
When I then presented a solution, it was accompanied by an overload of information. When somebody asked a question to which I had no answer, I analysed it. Apart from the information overload, the trouble was this: Communication happens quickly; analysis takes time. While the conversation moved on, I was still analysing. This is how I got disconnected from the managers I needed to get on board to move my solutions forward. The harder I tried, the more quickly I became disconnected. I thought the managers were not listening and that the problem was with them. The problem was, however, created by my analytical skill. I was thinking inside the box. This prevented me from seeing that the solution to this communication challenge had to come from me.
The communication problem became painfully clear. This happened when I was in a leadership class. I was asked to simultaneously translate for a German participant who had trouble following the conversation, which was in English. This shouldn’t have been a problem. However, I missed chunks of the conversation and couldn’t translate what I had missed. It turned out multiple tasks were competing in my mind. On the one hand, I was fulfilling the expected task of listening to what was said and translating it into German. There was, however, a third, unnecessary task I was pursuing: I was analysing the discussion and trying to find answers for questions that had not been asked. No matter how hard I tried to concentrate on the expected tasks of listening and translation, the analysing task took over again and again. There was nothing I could do about it.
Well into the class, another participant pointed me to a strange behaviour I was engaging in: sitting on the side-line and not participating in the conversation. Indeed, I was spending all my time analysing. Soon it became clear that this was the reason why I got disconnected in conversations. It was a harsh truth. It seemed every cell in my body was opposed to the consequence. This emotional experience opened the door to influencing the analytical task.
Near the end of the class, we went through an exercise in which we were expected to drop something. What I dropped was standing at the side-line. This way, I was able to keep my analytical skill intact but assign it a low priority during conversation. During a subsequent class, I had to translate again. This time, I was able to translate with ease and without missing chunks of the conversation.
Still, this was insufficient to re-connect me with the managers. After another inside-the-box thought process was identified and fixed, and an additional technique applied, I was able to reconnect with people with whom I had been unable to connect in recent years, managers included. The amazing thing was that this change happened within the space of 24 hours.
Does it work all the time? By its nature, communication is a complex challenge. What works in one situation may not work in another situation. Learning more communication skills, setbacks and on-going practice are all part of the game. All I can say is this: This journey already made a huge difference for me.
When combined with out-of-the box thinkers struggling to get their innovations accepted, these experiences lead to the following question:
Are the stress and the high pressures we are faced with in today’s world driving us, out-of-the box thinkers included, to think inside the box?
What do you think?