The Art of the Idea by John Hunt

I am constantly inspired by John Hunt’s simple wisdom, captured in his book “The Art of the Idea”. Hope it stretches your thinking.

“Anyone can have an idea. If we are all supposed to be equal before the law you’re even more equal before the idea. The right to see something from a new perspective belongs to us all and because it is a personal internal right we choose to exercise, no one can stop one from doing it.

Even the worst authoritarian governments can’t stop you from thinking. Free thought is what they fear above all else.
The most banana of republics intuitively know they are just one brave idea away from collapse. Ultimately they understand they will lose. No army, no torture room, no suitcase stuffed with unmarked bills can help them.

This raw power belongs to everyone. More importantly, the quality of its output does not depend on age, race, gender, nationality, qualification or profession. Sadly though we always diminish its force by trying to segment its potential. We tend to ask the same people in the same space to come up with something new.

It’s not that they’re inappropriate, it’s just that familiarity tends to breed…well, familiarity. They are hamsters in the same cage; at the very least, they need to be given a new wheel”

His book was originally published in 2009 ! Can we look to wise old men and women…or perhaps to the millenials?

RUACH – in Hebrew meaning ‘wind’ or ‘spirit’

Some thoughts on the leadership role of Boards of Directors:

I have been told of a lovely Hebrew word ‘ruach’ which, translated, talked to me of the power of the human spirit, of wind, of sailing and of soaring. It talked to me of human potential, of positive willing human energy with all its possibilities. Learn how to harness it and humans can really fly.

With a jet ski – fast and noisy, greedy for precious petrol – our strategic horizons are limited to a few kilometres.

But on a yacht we catch the wind in our sails and we can circle the world three times for nothing.

In a car – however expensive, with speed limits and bounds of safety – our strategic horizons are a few hundred kilometres a day.

When we use the free lift that air gives us when we fly, we can travel to the other end of the world … and back.

Our possibilities are unlimited, endless, infinite…

– With wind when we set our sails
– With the lift we get from air when we tip our wings
– With boundless human energy, ‘ruach’, human spirit
.
When the fuel is power – the power one has over another, our horizons are near and the costs are high.

If this somewhat lyrical proposition is true and we believe implicitly that it can be proven, then what is the leadership role of a Board?

Most importantly it must do all that it can to ensure that the craft is a yacht and not a jet ski, that it is an aeroplane and not a car.  And, if it is a yacht, that it has an auxiliary motor for “in case”.

And it must be seaworthy and airworthy. And the skipper or the captain and his crew must truly understand wind, airlift and human spirit.

All that, in our definition, is leading.

Is that all?

Unfortunately the answer is NO. We have a management role too. We have to be sure that all the passengers – the stakeholders – are aboard and comfortable. Since moving creates risk, and weather conditions are not always favourable, we have to ensure that all the serious risks are adequately covered – life-belts, lifeboats, parachutes, and marine insurance.

Sadly, but realistically, we have to acknowledge that even good experienced skippers make mistakes, take excessive risks and dangerous short cuts, and even cheat on the answers they give.

All this is called good corporate governance. We call it management.

A Board, which is truly leading and managing, is a good Board and deserves the fees it earns.

We use a lovely piece of anonymous poetry, adapted slightly.

When I reach the edge of all the light in my life and I step out into the darkness beyond, I need to know one of two things:
Either you will have created a safe place upon which I can stand,
Or you will have taught me how to fly
… or both

A Board that has created the rock of good corporate governance that is well managed, and leaders who encourage the team to fly, has done an almost legendary job.

Before you judge others

I collect pieces of writing that fascinate me.  Sometimes I don’t even know or remember how they reached me.  Even more frustrating is not knowing the source.

Here is one such mystery, but if it “gets” you as it has inspired me, then I’m happy.

Before you judge others or claim an absolute truth, consider that…

…you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum. As you read this you are travelling at 220 kilometres per second across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you”. The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human being have 46 chromosomes, two less than the common potato. The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colours you see represent         

We live in an exciting world of infinite possibilities; and infinite risks too.

At Learning to Lead we share all we know about how to stay fully alive amid all the complexities.

The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort and Connection

For my birthday last year my son Steve and his family gave me a very special book, “The Book of Hygge” by Louisa Thomsen Brits. The Danish delegates who come to the programs he shares with them, recommended it to him.

I still can’t pronounce the word confidently, but I can tell you that it has been a great read – a source of great wisdom.

Here is the definition of “hygge” in three paragraphs.

Hygge is a quality of presence and an experience of togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted and sheltered.

Hygge is an experience of selfhood and communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation.

To hygge is to invite intimacy and connection. It’s a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being, not having.

It has helped me take three or four more wonderful steps on my wisdom journey.

Thank you Cath, Steve, Hannah and Johnny.

Challenging the “culture cult”

I was fascinated to read a recent Harvard Business School Review …“We’re thinking about Organisational Culture all wrong” – Written by John Traphagan.

The first two paragraphs gripped me.

“A common thread in the study of organizational culture is the idea of culture as a unifying force that brings people together to work productively toward the attainment of organizational goals. In this approach, organizational culture is understood as a variable to be used in projects of social engineering aimed at creating unity and cohesion.

But that’s not really what culture is about, nor is it a useful way to think about organizations. Why?

Because culture isn’t just about unity; it’s also about division. Rather than a deterministic “thing” that shapes behavior and unifies people, culture is something people use, often strategically, to achieve goals. It can also provide a basis upon which people contest and counter certain ideas and values while accepting other values associated with a particular cultural context.”

I believe the author is right on the button. The real issue is how we behave towards one
another…and to our precious planet. There’s hardly a corporate of any size that doesn’t have a framed statement of either “Our Culture” or “Our Values”, or both…on the letterhead, the website, or framed and hung on the wall at reception.

Yet the behaviours both inside and outside don’t unify the players.

When push comes to shove, we play POWER against and upon one another.
We play like leopards….trained to play independently, for themselves. Not like lions who play in and for the pride.

The challenge we enjoy sharing is helping people learn that they have a choice. They can behave in a way that is divisive and costly, or in a way that creates unity and cohesion and high levels of sustainable energy, that enable them to THINK and THINK TOGETHER much better….the critical capacity for survival in our complex, fast changing and unpredictable world.

Leonard Cohen, the musician, philosopher and poet

Leonard CohenI have always been an ardent admirer of Leonard Cohen as a musician, a philosopher and a poet and I get tears in my eyes and love in my heart when I listen again and again to a recording of my granddaughter singing “Hallelujah” as a solo at her school concert when she was 10.

So his recent death saddened me and rekindled my interest in this remarkable man.

Here are two paragraphs from my recent reading about him:

He was born in 1934 and ordained as a Buddhist monk.  He wrote songs partway between philosophy and prayer – songs radiating the kind of prayerfulness which Simone Weil celebrated as “the rarest and purest form of generosity”.

One of his most beloved lines from the song “Anthem”, which took him a decade to write, remains what is perhaps the most meaningful for our troubled and troubling times:

“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in”.

It springs from a central concern of Cohen’s life and work, one in which he revisited in various guises across various songs – including in “Suzanne” where he writes “look among the garbage and the flowers / there are heroes in the seaweed”, and in the iconic “Hallelujah” with the words “there’s a blaze of light / in every word / it doesn’t matter which you heard / the holy or the broken Hallelujah”.

Profound!

And then even more telling for me at age 78 is this piece of his own writing, especially when I realise that he was only 4 years older than me!

“I always had a sense of being in this for keeps, if your health lasts you.  And you’re fortunate enough to have the days at your disposal so you can keep on doing this.  I never had the sense that there was an end.  That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot”.

Today I look around and see the mess the world is in.  The awful behaviour of humans to one another and towards our blessed Planet, which is the only one we have.  And I could throw up my hands in despair and give up our Energy teaching – but for the inspiring words of Leonard Cohen.

“There’s a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in”.

So, roll on next week …. and the next …. and let the light in!

Thank you Leonard Cohen.

The Jar of Life

Get inspired with this short film of a professor explaining to his class the importance of using one’s time wisely and setting priorities in order to have a fulfilling life.

Director/ Producer:
Meir Kalmanson

A QUATUM STRATEGY FOR A COMPLEX WORLD

Would you like to see the “BIG FIVE” so close up that you can almost touch them?

Well, we can go to the nearest Zoo to see them.  The signposts show the way to the Lions, the Elephants, the Buffalo, the Rhinos and the Leopards.  And they are all safely behind bars so it should be an easy non-threatening visit.  And we can even have tea and cake at the tea-garden afterwards.

Or would you like to see the “BIG FIVE” in the deep Bush?  Now that’s a very different proposition, with more variables than you can count on your two hands.

What if the vehicle breaks down?  We have some choices:

We can walk to the nearest road and hope for a lift.

We can sit in the vehicle and complain and blame until someone notices our absence and sends help.

We can try for a cell phone signal and make a call for help.

While we ponder our choices we might see a lion kill …. and we might be the kill!

We might reflect upon a termite mound and remember that we were taught how extremely complex they are in their architecture, and that inside the mound is an extensive system of tunnels and conduits that serves as a ventilation system for the underground nest.

Or we might come upon the web of a Golden Orb spider and be told that its silk is stronger than man-made steel.

So your strategy for the visit to the Zoo is completely different to your strategy for the visit to the Bush.  The Zoo is easy, fairly predictable and fairly safe.  The Bush is risky, unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

In the uncertain times we now live in you don’t have a choice but to have a robust strategy to cope with the risk, the unpredictability and the potential danger.

We live in two totally unpredictable worlds

cut_apple

 

 

Cut open an apple:

First question:

How many seeds are there in your apple?

A simple linear challenge – anything from 5 to 8.  A child can do it easily.

Second question:

How many apples are there in each seed?

That’s a different challenge!

It depends on a whole lot of unpredictable variables – time; money; water; space; soil fertility; diseases and pests – and, and, and ……

We are becoming more and more aware every day that we are living simultaneously in two quite different worlds!

The one is the world we know.  It is predictable, stable and safe.

The other is almost totally unpredictable, uncertain, full of infinite variables and potentially very scary.

We always have lived in both worlds of course.  But we couldn’t see the second, and it certainly didn’t challenge us until the absolute explosion of technology in the last twenty years. The Internet, Facebook, Apple, GPS, Google, IPads, smart phones and literally thousands of free apps have invited us – or forced us – to admit this exciting but infinitely uncertain environment in which we can “fly” or swim or sink!

The key to this challenge is the ability to THINK and to THINK TOGETHER.

High energy individuals in high energy teams do both really well.