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The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations Read Today's Bugler       Read current Blogging News: BERT

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(April 24, 2007)

`I only took the regular course.'

`What was that?' inquired Alice.

`Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; `and then the different branches of Arithmetic-- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.'

Lewis Carroll,   Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 

In my twenties, I was enrolled in a graduate program in Applied Behavioral Science at Johns Hopkins. Built on a foundation of immersive training (like they do at the National Training Laboratory), the program taught the tools and techniques of "change agency". I took the head of the program as my mentor for a number of years.

He taught me several valuable lessons. Two come to mind.

He told me that people always complain. (Actually, he said "b*tch"). He said they complain and that is something that you can never change. People will always complain. The job of a leader, he informed me, was to change the content of the complaints. He believed that you could move people up Maslow's hierarchy.

So, if they were complaining about issues related to belonging and membership in a group, the prudent thing to do was help them move up they pyramid to complaints about self esteem. If they were complaining about self esteem, attention should be given to moving them to issues of self actualization.

I wanted to be a teacher, writer and management consultant.

He kindly told me that I would need twenty years of actually doing something constructive before I was qualified enough to teach, write or consult. While I am not known for taking the advice of others, this was a piece I swallowed in its entirety.

By letting go of the desire to educate and improve others, I was able to immerse myself in the details of my work. I learned how decisions are made and how organizations behave. I came to understand the way that organizations adapt and how they repel.

I also learned to make mistakes and profit from them. No one gets it right much more than 25% of the time. (Insert appropriate baseball analogy here.) Mistakes are tools that should be used to clarify the end game.

I wonder how to apply these lessons in a world where much of the information is  outrageously bad. I read stuff that is clearly written by people who have not had enough experience to actually understand the domain that they critique (I fall prey to that mistake myself). Figuring out the best way to communicate the fact that the material is erroneous is challenging.

I don't typically find that the author of bad information is interested in my view. That means that phone calls and emails are unlikely to work. So, I prod. Usually, I stick to the substance of the argument. Occasionally, I stumble and lose my cool.

But, enough about my style.

john at johnsumser.com . - . Permalink . - . Today's Bugler. - . Send To a Friend

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