Apr 05 2016

I’ve been preparing for a talk I’m giving this Friday and struggling to clarify what my “take away” is. Most speakers say that we should be clear about what we want people to get from the talk and in many cases it is a clear “take away” that people can use in their normal routines. Whether it’s professional tools for better collaboration, innovation, problem solving or something more personal such as managing their time or how to deal with unruly children, etc. There should always be something to take away from these types of talks. Mine included.

I have figured out what I want people to take away from my talk on Friday. But it’s not going to be something tangible, they won’t be able to show it to anyone else. I am guessing my point will be lost on some, which is almost always the case. However, my message Friday, beyond the obvious topic of the talk, is that people need to, as Bob Emiliani said in a recent (Jan) blog post, “think for [themselves] and figure out what to do, with guidance from [the experts]”. He preceded that comment with the “perils of outsourcing our thinking to establishment leaders”.

As a consultant I am brought in to organisations to help them improve their processes, their systems & their leadership. In most cases there is an expectation of some significant learning by the local team. However, in most cases, the learning desired or requested is how to do ‘X”. Now that is not a bad thing in & of itself, but I would argue that the business world has become lazy when it comes to thinking. We want the answers given to us with minimal effort on our part to understand more than just the “how”. In many cases people don’t even want that. They just want the basic concepts & figure that is enough.

This rote learning of Lean is dangerous, and I’m sure this is not limited to Lean. The current answer to most questions these days is “ask Google”. Which is great if you just want some facts. If you want to understand something, to truly understand it, you need to put in the effort, to learn more than just the mechanics of how to do something. You need to understand why THIS something. How does it fit into the wider organisation? Into your current thinking? Your current processes? Etc.

This requires thinking for yourselves, figuring out what to do. You can use experts for guidance, they can show you the way & good ones will of course provide you with the greater understanding of WHY. But there are no quick wins that last, there are no easy answers to how to improve your business. You must put the effort in & that begins with thinking, understanding and formulating a plan that will work for your organisation.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can lead a person to knowledge, but you can’t make them think! What a shame!


photo credit: RODIN Processor via photopin (license)

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