Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

In Pursuit of Fearless

May 29, 2015

Rejection can generate resilience. And, resilience is an essential characteristic of effective people.

rejecthand

In Rejection Proof, Jia Jiang tackles this important issue, the very common fear of rejection. It’s an interesting psycho-social chronicle of his journey to  personal resilience. He distinguishes the vital necessity of allowing a rejection to take aim at ideas or requests but not self-worth. When we experience a setback, the trap we create is to internalize it as a personal failure. The reality is our idea was discarded.

Coping better with “no” requires new literacies in interpreting others. Jiang’s experiment shows it’s possible to shape a request for success; pick the right people and even convert an initial no to a different response. Social science and Jian’s personal journey found that rejection is mostly about the rejecter. The doubts, denial, avoidance, needs, panic and angst of your audience are primarily why most rejection happens. Recognition of and empathy for this can bolster your interpersonal skills.

Fitting In

Think about your teen years. Your peers (or tribe) were the overwhelming influence. Teens will do almost anything to fit in. At that stage, human beings are typically insecure. They lack identity, self-esteem, judgment, perspective and confidence. In error, we assume (because of age and experience) adults have conquered these concerns. The obvious implication is that capable manager-leaders must be self-aware while concurrently supporting others.

Why does inappropriate, unprofessional or rude treatment have such a deep impact? Exclusion or disrespect are a “slap in the face” that is processed by our brains the same as physical assault. The pain of rejection causes a chemical reaction in our brains. So, it comes as no surprise that people fear social rejection. Very often it is the fear of rejection that precludes any risk and deeply inhibits the potential for individual or social change.

Timing

Jiang’s book reminds us that timing matters. Too smart, too soon is the same as being wrong. An important way to think of rejection is simply as delay. George Bernard Shaw said “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” History provides countless examples of people persecuted or rejected for their thinking or actions. Later, we discover that the great ideas of good people faced an uphill climb because too many interests were upset or uncertainty was introduced.

Prevailing culture often resists interesting ideas, new strategies, fresh insights that diverse opinion and wise experience can contribute. Instead, a desperate, vigorous protection of control maintains the status quo. This is why change doesn’t happen. It helps explain why people, organizations and communities fail to make progress. It’s also why resilience is an important muscle to exercise!

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

In Pursuit of Ignorance

September 11, 2012

Charles Darwin, 1881

“Knowledge is a big subject. Ignorance is bigger…and it is more interesting,” says Columbia University neuroscientist Stuart Firestein. He claims exploring the unknown is the true engine of science. Ignorance, he says, helps scientists concentrate their research.

Firestein’s book, “Ignorance: How It Drives Science” argues that what we don’t know is more valuable than building on what we do know. He believes ignorance follows knowledge. Knowledge enables scientists to propose and pursue interesting questions. Rather than big tangles like the “How was the Universe formed?” Firestein favors the more specific. In the social and private sectors, this perspective has enormous merit for both routines and innovation.

Great Questions

Inquiry can catalyze learning and support change. In a recent proposal to an influential funder, we posed work with colleagues as applied research. The primary question: What early childhood learning investment works best with which kids? Why? This raises others:

  • When is the best time to provide intervention and enrichment?
  • How many opportunities are available in each intervention and enrichment opportunity?
  • What gains are made at what cost?
  • What proportion of 4-year olds are most at risk?
  • How are children distributed along a continuum of need? 

Thoughtful Ignorance

According to Firestein, “Thoughtful ignorance looks at gaps in a community’s understanding and seeks to resolve them.” A historic example underscores this opinion. Deeply religious Victorian society in the late 1800s was shocked by Darwin’s suggestion that humans and animals shared common ancestry. His “non-religious biology” asked some vital questions about the origin of the species and revealed  new, big ideas. Apparently, Charles Darwin was a prescient forecaster for Firestein. Long ago Darwin said: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Identify what you don’t know. Be willing to ask great questions; vigorously pursue discovery. These attitudes and practices yield improvements and change.  

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

New: The Logic  Model Guidebook (2013) just published by SAGE.

Let Thoroughbreds Run

October 16, 2011

 

People capable of “doing their own thinking” are critical to high-performing organizations. Inviting, understanding and encouraging them is a vital function in leading change. The staff  you select and the conditions they work in are factors you can influence.

The Capecchi Story

As a toddler, Mario Capecchi recalls his mother taken from their home in the Italian Alps and sent to a concentration camp. He was nearly four years old. His mother, a poet and antifascist who would not marry Mario’s abusive father, had expected troubles. She had made advance plans with a family nearby who took in Mario. However, before age five, Mario was on his own. For years he survived as a street urchin. Most of one year he was hospitalized – likely with typhoid. At nine, miraculously, his mother found him. One might guess this would shape a resilient character.

Determined to study molecular biology, Capecchi went to Harvard to learn from James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA. After some time, however, he decided that Harvard was not hospitable. The work environment limited him. Eventually, he landed at the University of Utah where a new department was being created.

In 1980, he was a grantee applicant with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – a government entity that provides resources for science research. Capecchi identified three projects. Two were likely prospects, the third was a huge leap. He wanted to show it was possible to alter a specific gene in a mouse’s DNA. The difficulty of this work was of enormous – like finding and changing a single sentence in eighty large encyclopedias. It was a daunting and improbable search and replace task.

The NIH responded to Capecchi’s third plan as far fetched; but offered resources for the solid, incremental proposals. Ignoring their guidance, Capecchi took the money and put it in his risky gene-targeting research. He gambled his staff, lab, reputation and career. In 2007, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on mouse genes.  When the NIH renewed his grants the expert panel indicated: “We are glad you didn’t follow our advice.”

Control Can Oppress

Experienced and secure leaders build great teams comprised of individuals that feel capable about the expectation and authority to carry substantial responsibilities. Skilled staff appreciate the chance to test themselves and others in delivering results. However, common complaints by talented people often include a supervisor, colleague or boss with a focus on control. The selfish need for control creates problems in trust, feedback, collaboration and other vital features of healthy culture and savvy processes.

What lessons does Capecchi’s story offer?

Sometimes, managing and leading simply translates to enabling bright people with audacious ideas. Expecting both brilliant and stubborn in talent is too high a bar. Don’t block. Encourage and inspire new thinking. Let your thoroughbreds run.

 –Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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