Thinking agility

This man had a flat tire next to the insane asylum. He jacked up his wheel, took it off, put the nuts in his hubcap, and put it up on his hood. They fell off into his grill, and he couldn’t get them out. He thought, “Oh, Lordy. What am I going to do?”

Across the fence one of the inmates was watching him and said, “Just take one nut off each of the other wheels and put them on that one, that way you’ll have three nuts on each wheel, and it’ll get you where you’re going.”

He said, “That’s a brilliant idea. Why, you’re not crazy. What are you doing in there?”

“I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”

Moral: In order to maintain a balanced view of the world, we need to assimilate information from people who have a different approach to life than we do. If we only tune-in to people who provide the sort of advice that we want to hear, we can make it impossible for us to develop our thinking abilities.

It is evident that one needs humility to learn from everyone, especially those whom we perceive to be beneath us in status or qualification. Confucius explains that Kong Wenzi was given the title of ‘cultured’ because he was ‘diligent and loved learning, and not ashamed of asking advice from those below him’.

The possibility of learning from everyone… reminds us once again that learning, for Confucius, is an active, lifelong and life-wide process that is intimately linked to real-life application.

By considering ideas that do not fit into our preconceived notions, we can give our minds the agility to simultaneously grasp diverse ways of thinking about a situation.

Leadership styles

The lion walked up to the mouse and roared, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The mouse squeaked, “You are, you are.”

Then the lion walked up to the fox and roared, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The fox barked, “You are, you are.”

Then the lion walked up to the elephant and roared, “And who is the king of the jungle?”

The elephant picked up the lion by the tail, whirled him round his head and dropped him in a bush. The lion poked his head out of the bush and said, “There’s no need to get in a bad mood just because you don’t know the answer.”

Moral: There is more to leadership than assuming that you’re in charge. This may impress mice and foxes, but is not always an effective management technique.

High-quality leadership involves leaders…

  • Being clear about personal and organisational goals
  • Monitoring their [team members’] achievements
  • Changing processes to [allow their team members to reach their goals]
  • Having a simultaneous ‘push’ to get things done together with a charismatic ‘pull’ [to persuade their team members that “they can do it”], and
  • Fully involving staff through consultation

True leadership means inviting other people to come on a journey with you. The journey may sometimes seem perilous and challenging, but ends with a sense of personal accomplishment and triumph for everyone involved.

Career growth and happiness

Career growth and happiness

It can sometimes seem that there is a conflict of interests between our personal lives and our career development. Perhaps career progression will only happen if we short change our personal lives, or maybe our personal lives will only work out if we sacrifice career growth.

All too often…, leaders and managers become so consumed in climbing the corporate ladder, or working to ensure that they do not move down the ladder, that lose focus of what is really important in life…

Can you really be successful in the office and at home? Can you be successful at both without shorting one or the other?.. Are you willing to sacrifice family for professional achievement? Some folks are.. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish had spent more time with my children when they were growing up.”?..

Is the price worth it? Assess your personal situation and decide where to place your dedication and determination.

Modeling and Benchmarking Supply Chain Leadership, page 87

Does there have to be a contradiction between career growth and achieving personal happiness, or is there a way to find harmony between these different facets of our existence?



One of the most important ingredients of a successful personal life, is the ability to be natural and spontaneous. For example, we often find happiness when we allow our thoughts and feelings to wander wherever they want to go. In our working lives however, we tend to assume a stricter and more self-conscious mode of existence.

Two of the factors that persuade us to leave our natural selves behind when we enter the workplace are:

  • Time pressure: In our personal lives, our feelings and thoughts develop at their own natural pace. In the workplace, on the other hand, our activities are timebound. Work must happen within its allotted time slot, otherwise the downstream processes that depend on our output will come to a stop.
  • Conformity: In our personal lives, we value self-expression and search for our unique individuality. In our work life, on the other hand, we conform to the ways of thinking, feeling and doing of the company that we work for, so that we can blend into the workplace dynamic.

The need to meet targets on time, and the pressure to conform to the company’s way of thinking, pushes us into a task-focussed frame of mind which can make us lose touch with our natural selves.

Children have a natural grace which asserts itself easily, but which is rarely seen in the sophisticated adult except in persons with a great natural sweetness of mind. Innocent moments are of greater value in the adult – they bring a more complex being and a wider knowledge into balance than in the case of the child – but such moments are infrequent of the difficulty experienced by a mature person in coming to terms with a complicated world….

The child shows an interest in the minute details of objects. He wonders at things and is fascinated by them. The cultivated adult, on the other hand, fails to observe much of what goes on about him, subordinates his activities to his interests, has little left to wonder at, and is too confident of his knowledge of things to find them fascinating…

William Blake, page 14

If we lose the naturalness that is essential to our personal lives, we are likely to make decisions that could adversely impact the relationships that are crucial to us.

How can we make sure that our natural freshness is not dulled by the daily grind?


Thriving from challenge

When we encounter pressure to perform, we experience a sense of uncertainty. “Will we be able to meet the challenge, or will we fall short?”

There are two ways that we can respond to this quandary. We can either feel exhilarated, and rise to meet the challenge that has been put to us. Or we can feel dismayed by the expectations that have been placed on us, and tense ourselves up to desperately try to meet our targets.

The experience of uncertainty can vary: it can be an exhilarating challenge to be confronted and resolved – it is exciting and makes us feel edgy and alive, and delivers us a sense of satisfaction and mastery when we resolve [the situation]; or it can be anxiety provoking and stressful, making us feel impotent and unable to predict or control our world and what will happen to us in it.

…if we believe our resources to deal with the demand[s placed on us] are adequate, we feel a sense of [excitement that makes us meet the challenge head on.] if we believe our resources are inadequate, we feel a sense of threat that [makes us shrink away and ignore the challenge as much as possible].

Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology: Collection: Volumes 1 & 2, page 65

Being upbeat about the challenges we face, releases our inner aptitudes and enables us to grow from the challenge. If we feel overwhelmed, on the other hand, our feeling of inadequacy makes us close up, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Two ways in which a positive frame of mind provides us with the abilities that we need to win are:

  • Finding new possibilities: If we feel secure in our capability to ultimately solve the problem, then we allow ourselves time to look around for new ideas. If we feel threatened by the challenge, however, then we can’t afford to admit that we do not already possess the tools and knowledge needed to solve the problem, as this would make us feel more threatened. Subsequently we may try to force a non-optimal solution, using the knowledge that is immediately available, instead of looking for fresh insights.
  • Intuition: Intuition happens when we allow ourselves to park a problem in the back of our minds. Our subconscious then makes the connection between our understanding in other areas and the problem that we are faced with. If we agitatedly turn the problem round and round in our minds however, we will never experience the deep understanding that comes when our background thought processes are allowed to free-wheel.


High energy balance

If we grow to meet the challenges that we face at work, this releases energy that grows our natural vitality. The positivity that this creates provides strength and dynamism in our personal lives, which in turn becomes the the base from which we can approach new work challenges with confidence and optimism.

This positive feedback loop can become the gateway for us to operate at an entirely new level.

Waiting for inspiration and creativity

Waiting for inspiration and creativity

Sometimes we feel that however hard we try, we’re not getting anywhere. At other times, we suddenly find inspiration and achieve a breakthrough. To understand this sensation of uneven progress, it is worthwhile considering some of the ways in which we learn and find new knowledge.


Types of knowledge

In general terms, there are two ways that we know things. One way of knowing is when we feel that “that’s just the way things are”. The other way of knowing is when we have been taught information, which we accept as being true.


For example, the knowledge that a car is about to run you over, is not verbally expressed in your thoughts. If you look up while crossing the road and you see that you are in a collision course with a car, it is unlikely that the following will go through your mind, “It would appear that given my direction of travel and the car’s direction of travel, and considering our respective velocities, it is probable that the car and myself will collide in 3 seconds, which would result in severe injury.”


Instead, it is more likely that you will jump out of the way as fast as possible, without thinking about your high-school applied maths. This type of knowledge is sometimes referred to as tacit knowledge, it is “just the way things are”.


On the other hand, if you perform an experiment to see if the earth orbits the sun or if the sun orbits the earth, then it is likely that you will mentally think through your conclusion, “I have proven that the earth orbits the sun, and the sun does not orbit the earth”. This is because the earth’s orbit is not something that you experience directly, so knowledge of the earth’s orbit has to be expressed verbally within your mind, for you to be able to think about it. This type of knowledge is sometimes referred to as explicit knowledge. It is information that you know and are aware of, but it is not part of your life.


Most knowledge falls on a spectrum between these two extremes. To learn the piano, we need to learn some music theory, but practice extensively to get the feel of the instrument. On the other hand, studying science is mostly based on textual information, however doing practical experiments gives us a feeling for the underlying concepts.

Within business and Knowledge Management, two types of knowledge are usually defined, namely explicit and tacit knowledge. The former refers to codified knowledge, such as that found in documents, while the latter refers to non codified and often personal/experience-based knowledge. in order to understand knowledge, it is important to define these theoretical opposites.


Explicit Knowledge: This type of knowledge is formalized and codified, and is sometimes referred to as know-what. It is therefore fairly easy to identify, store, and retrieve… Explicit knowledge is found in: databases, memos, notes, documents, etc.


Tacit Knowledge: This type of knowledge… is sometimes referred to as know-how and refers to intuitive, hard to define knowledge that is largely experience based. Because of this, tacit knowledge is often context dependent and personal in nature. It is hard to communicate and deeply rooted in action, commitment, and involvement… Tacit knowledge is found in: the minds of human stakeholders. It includes cultural beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, etc. as well as skills, capabilities and expertise.


…tacit and explicit knowledge should be seen as a spectrum rather than as definitive points. Therefore in practice, all knowledge is a mixture of tacit and explicit elements rather than being one or the other.

Knowledge and reality

Since knowledge is an extension of our natural understanding of reality, all of our knowledge must be somehow linked to an actual feeling or perception which we have personally felt or experienced.


Theoretical knowledge cannot exist within our minds, unless it is somehow linked to a real life experience which is meaningful to us. Or in other words, all explicit knowledge must be rooted in our tacit knowledge, somehow.

Explicit knowledge is [sometimes] presented as a universally comprehensible commodity, which can be stored in a knowledge archive, shared with colleagues or clicked across cyberspace… In an incisive essay entitled ‘Do we really understand tacit knowledge?’, Haridimos Tsoukas (2003) makes the crucial point that… short of a brain transplant, the capacity to know is not a transferable commodity: it is inherently personal and inherently tacit: ‘All knowledge falls into one of these two classes: it is either tacit or rooted in tacit knowledge’ (Polanyi, 1967: 195, original emphasis)… ‘The ideal of a strictly explicit knowledge is indeed self-contradictory; deprived of their tacit coefficients, all spoken words, all formulae, all maps and graphs, are strictly meaningless. An exact mathematical theory means nothing unless we recognise an inexact non-mathematical knowledge on which it bears and a person whose judgement upholds this bearing.’ (Polanyi, 1967).

A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Strategy, page 62

However, if we assume that all knowledge is rooted in our personal perceptions and feelings, it is difficult to understand how we can ever learn from anyone else.


The mentor’s knowledge is predicated on their own personal feelings and experiences. If so, how can we absorb the knowledge that they verbally transmit to us, when we do not share the feelings and experiences that their own knowledge is rooted in?


Borrowing intuition

In addition to simply transmitting knowledge, every good teacher develops a personal connection with their students. The teacher will enthuse their students with their own passion for the subject, and make them feel that they are part of a journey of discovery and exploration.

One can amass textual knowledge, but without that personal connection to the teacher, without the absorption of the teacher’s way of learning… – and especially without emulating his or her way of embodying what is taught, then [the student remains] not only ignorant but [worse, when they themselves come to teach, they are like a] sorcerer!


[A teacher who can repeat the words, but never understood their own mentor’s inner meaning] just mumbles magic words, produces some dazzling temporary effects, and the student is duped. We all have had teachers like this, I suspect, and know the unfortunate students… who imitate this magical mumbling.

Make Yourself a Teacher, page 74

A good teacher shows their students how the knowledge that they are teaching resonates within them. When a teacher shows how their knowledge lightens up their world, the teacher allows the students to borrow their perspective on reality, in order to absorb the knowledge being taught. “If it is meaningful for the teacher, then it must be true.”


In other words, the students use the teacher’s tacit knowledge as a basis for absorbing the explicit knowledge that they are being taught. It may take the students years to develop their own inner grasp of these foundational truths, however.




The “aha” moment of inspiration, occurs when our natural intuitions and our technical knowledge, align with each other. When this happens, we become able to feel our way through the complexities that face us, and find the simple but brilliant solutions that result from the synthesis of instinct and intricacy.


However, as long as we rely on the intuitions that were lent to us by our teachers, our own intuition cannot enhance our understanding of our academic knowledge. Only once we autonomously perceive the underlying truths of our learned knowledge, can we experience the convergence of tacit and explicit knowledge, that results in a breakthrough.

Designing the future

Designing the future

Being creative and thinking of new ideas, often requires unlearning the patterns that we tend to think in. Instead of looking for techniques to make us become innovative, we may find that we can be intuitively inventive as long as we are not hampered by our preconceived notions.

In order to free-up our minds, it is worthwhile considering the different modes in which we think, so that we can consciously direct our inventiveness.


Creativity and imagination

We normally think that the most important talent for coming up with new ideas is imagination, if we have a good imagination, then we can be the “ideas man”. However there is a precursor to imagination, which is our wish to be creative.

Innovation starts with the feeling that by applying our creative-will, we can somehow make the world a better place. Subsequently, we imagine the type of thing that could help people, according to our nature and field of expertise. We then select the most promising idea, and start working through the challenges of implementation.

The thing that fires imagination is our initial drive to be creative. This creative-will then finds its expression through imagination and practical application.

the image [that we imagine] is not a state… but a consciousness… the imaging consciousness… is spontaneous and creative… the image… in so far as it is primary and incommunicable, is the product of a conscious activity, is shot through with a flow of creative will.

The Imaginary


Division of labour

The phases of creative-will, imagination, resolution and development, are not necessarily done by one person. In a corporate environment, the general direction for advance may come from management. The product development team may be tasked with coming up with possible ideas and selecting the best proposal. The research and development department may be tasked with turning these ideas into practical reality. And the manufacturing division will turn out the finished product.

Innovation can occur anywhere within this chain of creative-will, imagination, resolution and development. For example, management may feel that the company should move in a new direction. The product development team may conceptualise a new product that breaks with existing norms. The research and development team may make a technological breakthrough. And the manufacturing division may gain unprecedented efficiencies.

However, the higher up the innovation-chain a fresh approach is applied, the greater the innovation will be. For example, if management decide on a new direction, the ripple effect of originality through the company, will be far greater than if a production manager makes a process more efficient.

Professor Ikujiro Nonaka of the Hitotsubashi University, gives the following example of how a fresh approach from high-level management, can filter down the chain of innovation, until it results in the creation of the knowledge that is needed to realise the management vision.

In 1978, top management at Honda inaugurated the development of a new-concept car with the slogan “Let’s gamble.” The phrase expressed senior executives’ conviction that Honda’s Civic and Accord models were becoming too familiar. Managers also realized that along with a new postwar generation entering the car market, a new generation of young product designers was coming of age with unconventional ideas about what made a good car.

The business decision that followed from the “Let’s gamble” slogan was to form a new-product development team of young engineers and designers (the average age was 27). Top management charged the team with two—and only two—instructions: first, to come up with a product concept fundamentally different from anything the company had ever done before; and second, to make a car that was inexpensive but not cheap…

Project team leader Hiroo Watanabe coined another slogan to express his sense of the team’s ambitious challenge: Theory of Automobile Evolution. The phrase described an ideal. In effect, it posed the question, If the automobile were an organism, how should it evolve? As team members argued and discussed what Watanabe’s slogan might possibly mean, they came up with an answer in the form of yet another slogan: “man-maximum, machine-minimum.” This captured the team’s belief that the ideal car should somehow transcend the traditional human-machine relationship…

The “evolutionary” trend the team articulated eventually came to be embodied in the image of a sphere—a car simultaneously “short” (in length) and “tall” (in height). Such a car, they reasoned, would be lighter and cheaper but also more comfortable and more solid than traditional cars. A sphere provided the most room for the passenger while taking up the least amount of space on the road. What’s more, the shape minimized the space taken up by the engine and other mechanical systems. This gave birth to a product concept the team called “Tall Boy,” which eventually led to the Honda City, the company’s distinctive urban car.

…the City’s revolutionary styling and engineering were prophetic. The car inaugurated a whole new approach to design in the Japanese auto industry based on the man-maximum, machine-minimum concept, which has led to the new generation of “tall and short” cars now quite prevalent in Japan…

The Knowledge-creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, page 11

Honda achieved a quantum leap forward because management’s encouragement to be creative started with no preconceived notions of what the company’s future products would be. This pure creative-will filtered down through the company’s echelons and allowed the engineering team to imagine an unfamiliar shape of car, which totally broke with the conventional wisdom of what a car should look like.


Dynamism and creativity

In order to be inventive, we can fire up our imagination and free ourselves from our assumptions about the way things have to be. We can allow our thoughts to lead us in whichever direction they go, and fight the feeling that the things that we have imagined could not possibly be right.

However, the degree to which we can channel our creative-will altogether, depends on our commitment to experiencing the pure joy of living in all areas of life.

As human beings, we are driven to grow and learn, to move forward… We are driven to reinvent our world and ourselves. Human creativity is intrinsic to our nature. Our desire to create is fundamental to our essence, central to what makes us human.

…The building of a house is an expression of our creative drive. The nursing of a patient is an expression of our creative drive. The teaching of a child is an expression of our creative drive. The raising of a family is an expression of our creative drive. The writing of a novel or of a book on economics is an expression of our creative drive. Our… expression is as diverse as we are unique, as varied as our dreams.

As such, our… expression is as abundant as the creative activity that brought it into being. We are as prolific as we are creative. The greater our creative activity, the greater its impact on our material world.

Economics of Fulfillment, page 58

Creativity and imagination are part of who we are. If we live in a fresh and energetic way, our creative-will will show us the way forward when conventional knowledge and know-how have drawn a blank.

Job specialisation and personal development

Job specialisation and personal development

People sometimes find that the dream-job that they once landed has now become a source of frustration and exasperation. As hard as they try, they cannot see how they can gain any personal development by continuing in their current position. What changed between their initial thrill of getting a job and their present feeling that they have bumped into a brick wall?

Learning from children’s books

Children’s books can provide simple lessons which resonate with our life experiences. Bob Graham is a popular children’s books author who encapsulates compelling life-lessons in his narratives.

One of Bob Graham’s storybook characters is a multi-talented dog called Buffy. When Buffy is fired for being too good, he is challenged to re-think life, reinvent himself and find happiness on his own terms.

This is Buffy’s story:

  • Buffy was a stage assistant to Brillo the magician, however Brillo found that the audience was cheering louder for Buffy than for himself, so Buffy was made redundant.

“OUT! and never come back,” cried Brillo.

  • With his last coins, Buffy bought a tin of dog food and a can opener from a supermarket. Then he jumped aboard a moving freight train that was heading into the countryside.

And while he slept, the train continued its rhythm:
and never come back.
and never come back.

  • In the morning, Buffy jumped off the train and went to find a job. However Buffy was unemployable because he did not fit into a slot.

Nobody wanted a dancing sheep dog.
Nobody wanted a tiny rope-throwing cattle dog.
Nobody wanted a plate-juggling kitchen dog.
Nobody wanted a guard dog who played the harmonica.

  • One day, exhausted, Buffy stopped in front of a statue in a town square. The statue was inscribed with the words “I am me. No more. No less”. Buffy decided that the world would have to accept him on his own terms.

“Then one day Buffy stopped. He put down his bag, wiped his brow and looked around him.
“I can go no further,” he said.
“I’m not a sheep dog, a cattle dog, a kitchen dog or a guard dog. So what sort of dog am I?”
“I am Buffy! And I will do what I do. And this time, the world shall come to me.”

  • Buffy started busking, and met Mary Kelly and the musical Kelly family. The Kelly’s acknowledged his unique talents and adopted him.

Now, each night after dinner, the music starts and each night the floorboards shake. Mary’s and Buffy’s feet beat to the rhythm of the jigs and the reels.
And Buffy lives up there, on the hill, to this day.

Buffy: An Adventure Story


Self-actualisation versus specialisation

When we get a job, we are excited because it took all of our persistence, hard-work and study to acquire the skills and knowledge needed for the job.

Nevertheless, as Buffy found out, most jobs require a specific skill set, and do not involve all facets of our personalities. Furthermore, the larger a company is, the smaller part every employee plays in the creation of the finished product, and the more specialised each job becomes.

Subsequently, the reason you may not find fulfillment in your job, is because your job is not you.

  • You are multi-talented – but your job requires that you focus and refine one specific skill.
  • You are innovative – but your job requires that you do exactly the same thing every day.
  • You like relating to people in different ways – but your job requires that you should relate to people predictably.


Thinking out of the square

It is perfectly possible, that you will not find a job on a job board that requires all your skills and that involves all facets of your personality. Subsequently, some people are leaving the standard career path to look for greater versatility.

Rather than define their lives and self-worth in terms of a preordained, often constraining, career track, workers are creating their own patchworks of job experiences to suit their lives.

The Opt-out Revolt: Why People Are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers

It is also possible, however, that the risk of leaving the security of a standard career path, does not appeal to you. If so, how can you grow within a job that does not seem to require all that you have to give?

According to the Harvard Business Review, the answer is to make sure that there is always something happening in your life, outside of your working hours.

The bottom line: Satisfaction at work is influenced by factors such as benefits, pay, relationships, and commute length. But all of this boils down to two things being important, regardless of your circumstances: (1) having a life outside of work, and (2) having the money to afford it. If you have a job that grants you both of these, you might be happier than you realize.

If you lead a full and vibrant life outside of work, then regardless of the boundaries of your job, people will appreciate the warmth and humanity that you bring to your place of employment.

Although your job may seem limiting, if you carry on polishing your professional skills and growing as a human being, opportunity may knock in unexpected ways, just as it did for Buffy.

Growing by meeting new challenges depends on your ability to change

Growing from change

Traditionally, corporations, even very powerful ones, do not last longer than one or two hundred years. For example, the Dutch East India Company which for a while was more powerful than some European governments, was founded in 1602 and became bankrupt in the late 1700’s.

As the BBC pointed out in 2012

The past few years have seen previously unthinkable corporate behemoths – from financial firms such as Lehman Brothers to iconic car manufacturers such as Saab – felled by economic turmoil or by unforgiving customers and tough rivals.

Can a company live forever? – BBC News

Is there a fundamental reason that corporations cannot last forever, or will we see a future that contains 1000 year old Microsoft’s and Oracle’s that are indelibly entrenched in the world’s economy and work-style?

Self-contained universe

The larger and more successful a company is, the more likely it is to develop its own way of thinking, its own way of doing things and its own internal world of values and emotions.

…individual companies have their own respective corporate culture and values, and at the same time each company also has its own view of leadership, which is influenced by different organizational contexts embedded within the company.

The sharing of organizational culture and values gives rise to unique corporate systems, rules, and customs, and establishes the company’s own way of thinking and ways of viewing things in general, as well as [inducing] thought and behavior patterns… into employees.

Developing Holistic Leadership: A Source of Business Innovation, Section Synchronization of Leadership, by Mitsuru Kodama

By developing its own way of doing things, it is possible for a company to gain predictability and to enhance process quality. By developing its own culture and inner emotional environment, it is possible for a company to get employee buy-in, increase employee longevity and become known as a good place to work.

There is danger, however, in a company developing its own inner world of values and emotions. The happy self-contained corporate world may eventually become self-justifying and so lose touch with the external market reality. If this happens, the company can become uncompetitive, unresponsive to changing market conditions, and lose market share.

Is there a way to ensure that the internal corporate world will be used as a position of strength from which to respond to market challenges, rather than as an easy refuge from a market that relentlessly demands change and improvement?

Expecting the unexpected

Generally speaking, people want to hear things that will make them happy, and not things that they may find upsetting. For example, if someone thinks that they have their life worked out, the last thing they want you to tell them is something that challenges their plans. If you do tell them something that poses a challenge to their life plan, they may ignore you or forcibly reject your ideas. Having a clear life-plan gives people a feeling of safe predictability; demonstrating that this plan is impractical can make them feel threatened and anxious.

Similarly, when a company builds a cosy self-contained working environment, employees develop a feeling of security and predictability which is based on the ongoing viability of the corporate business plan. Subsequently, executives can be resistant to hearing anything that could cause them to have to rethink the business plan that forms the basis for the work environment in which they live, because this would make them feel anxious and worried.

A classic case of such short-sightedness was Kodak’s reluctance to recognise the imminent demise of photographic film, till it was too late.

In 1975, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the world’s first digital camera… After taking your photos with the camera, you could … display the images on a standard TV. He and his colleagues demonstrated this “filmless technology” to Kodak executives throughout 1976.

But Kodak had a blind spot when it came to anything that might disrupt the company’s profitable film business. Sasson reports the executive reation: “Why would anyone want to view his or her pictures on a TV? How would you store these images? What does an electronic photo album look like? When would this type of approach be available to the consumer?”

Sasson and his team did not have the answers. But by applying Moore’s law, the team came up with an estimate: In 15 to 20 years, the devices would be available to consumers…In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

When a company is large and successful, its size can be its worst enemy, especially when it is so dominant that it lacks serious competition. A company culture that drove success in the early days can become overly codified, rigid and ritualistic… Slowly, great companies can lose touch with reality.

The Connected Company, pg. 46 – 47

The Kodak executives did not want to hear about digital photography because this challenged the cosy world they lived in, within the world’s top photographic film company.


The ability to grow from a challenge relies on having an attitude of continual growth and freshness. If every day is new, you can use your previous accomplishments as a base from which to meet new challenges. On the other hand, if you expect not to have your daily routine disturbed, then even when warning signs appear that change is required, you will probably carry on doing the same thing as yesterday.

Staying alert and being ready to meet life head on, will position you to surf the waves of change.

Skills diversification

Skills diversification

Generally speaking, career development can proceed in one of two directions.

  • Specialisation: You become an expert in your domain. As your expertise grows, people seek your advice and value your opinion. Eventually you may become an acknowledged authority in your chosen area.
  • Diversification: You acquire knowledge in disparate domains, e.g. medicine and IT. Using your overarching knowledge, you identify the opportunity to create new products and services by combining ideas from these domains. You then apply your cross-domain understanding to bring your ideas to fruition.

Diversifying your skills holds great potential; if there is a natural synergy between your existing skill base and your new-found knowledge, then you can make a bold move forward in your career. However, acquiring skills and knowledge that do not relate directly to what you currently do can lead to a dead-end. You could do a great course or read an interesting book, but end up with information that you are unable to integrate into your career.

How can you plan successful career diversification with the confidence that your new talent will be a brilliant supplement to your base competencies?

Interestingly, companies considering diversification face a similar quandary, and lessons from their decision-making process can be applied to individual’s career decisions.

Company diversification

According to the Harvard Business Review, when companies consider diversification, they should not simply look at the products and services that they provide and extrapolate from this base. Instead, they should go one level deeper and understand what the underlying organisational strengths are that make them good at what they do. Once a company has identified the strengths that enable it to deliver well, it can consider how these strengths can be applied to the operations of acquired businesses.

In other words, the true strategic assets of a company do not lie in the bricks-and-mortar of the business, because this can be imitated by competitors. Instead, the true strategic assets of a company are the ingrained organisational strengths, the flexibility and the determination that make the company good at what it does. Once these underlying strengths have been identified, the company can consider diversification based on the value they can add by injecting these strengths into the new acquisition.

Consider the case of Blue Circle Industries, a British company that is one of the world’s leading cement producers. In the 1980s, Blue Circle decided to diversify… It was, the company’s managers determined, in the business of making products related to home building. So Blue Circle expanded into real estate, bricks, waste management, gas stoves, bath-tubs – even lawn mowers. According to one retired executive, “Our move into lawn mowers was based on the logic that you need a lawn mower for your garden – which, after all, is next to your house.” Not surprisingly, few of Blue Circle’s diversification forays proved successful.

Blue Circle’s less focused, business-definition approach to diversification didn’t answer the more relevant question: What are our company’s strategic assets, and how and where can we make the best use of them?

One company that did ask that question – and reaped the rewards – is the United Kingdom’s Boddington Group. In 1989, Boddington’s then chairman, Denis Cassidy, assessed the company’s competitive situation. At the time, Boddington was a vertically integrated beer producer that owned a brewery, wholesalers, and pubs throughout the country. But consolidation was changing the beer industry, making it hard for small players like Boddington to make a profit. The company had survived up to that point because its main strategic asset was in retailing and hospitality: it excelled at managing pubs. So Cassidy decided to diversify in that direction.

Quickly, the company sold off the brewery and acquired resort hotels, restaurants, nursing homes, and health clubs while keeping its large portfolio of pubs. “The decision to abandon brewing was a painful one, especially because the brewery has been a part of us for more than 200 years,” Cassidy says. “But given the changes taking place in the business, we realized we could not play the brewing game with the big boys. We decided to build on our excellent skills in retailing, hospitality, and property management to start a new game.” Boddington’s diversification resulted in the creation of enormous shareholder value – especially when compared with the strategies adopted by regional brewers that decided to remain in the business. It also illustrates what happens when a company moves beyond a business-definition approach and instead launches a diversification effort based on its strategic assets.

To diversify successfully, companies need to look within to understand why they are good at what they do, and then use these unique strategic assets as a base for diversification. Similarly, you can make a quantum leap forward in your career by identifying your unique inner strengths, acquiring hard skills that these strengths can be applied to and then creating synergy between your base skill-set and your new-found knowledge.


Professor Gerald Grow is the professor of magazine journalism at Florida A&M University. He describes the personal qualities that provide the base for application of your professional skills as meta-skills, i.e. skill enabling skills. In a discussion concerning journalism he writes:

Every profession is based on both skills and metaskills. Skills are the activities people have to perform well – like reporting, writing, attributing quotes properly and avoiding libel. Metaskills are higher-order skills that enable journalists to use their skills effectively. Metaskills – such as critical thinking – are what make the skills effective. Without metaskills, skills are like a hammer in the hands of a child.

You can identify your personal meta-skills by thinking about what you are passionate about in your career. It is likely that these aspects of your work excite you because they correlate with your unique inner competencies and personal competitive differentiators. Once you have identified this career sweet-spot, you can think about which other knowledge areas would gel best with your meta-skills.

Your core business proposition

As soon as you begin a professional career or enter the business world, you enter a fight to establish your unique identity within the sea of available talent and commercial opportunity that comprises the modern business world.

The greatest success you can have lies in the development of your unique business proposition. Once you find the optimum combination of inner strengths and hard skills that is uniquely you, opportunity will naturally coalesce around you. Diversification can provide you with the skills and experience you need to realise your core business proposition.

In many cases, the core business proposition which is most appropriate to your own tastes, preferences and personality will arise by a fairly natural process from within your own experience of participating in the business world.

The point is demonstrated again and again by looking at the success stories of successful business people. For them, their core business strategy is not something which they devised from scratch by sitting at a desk and having a good think, but something which came to them as the result of their interaction with life.

The Seven Deadly Skills of Competing, page 80


To optimise your career it may be useful to acquire new skills that synergise with your base proficiencies.  Try this five step process to unleash the inner vitality that can make your dreams come true:

  1. Identify what you are passionate about.
  2. Identify the meta-skills (personal strengths) that drive your success.
  3. Determine new areas these meta-skills can be applied to.
  4. Acquire hard skills in these new areas.
  5. Create synergy between your old skillset and your new skillset.

In summary: Take a step back, reflect, then take a step forward.

Why do I hate my job? – Looking for variety in your life

Why do I hate my job?

According to Google, “Why do I hate my job?” is a question that is being asked pretty often.

Google search - Why do I hate my job

Obviously though, you would not take have taken your job initially unless you thought you were going to like it.

What changes between the initial thrill of getting a job and the conclusion that you have emotionally parted company with your former dream?

Buffy : An Adventure Story by Bob Graham

Bob Graham describes one of the reasons people feel their job is not a good fit in a poignant children’s book about a multi-talented dog called Buffy.

Buffy - An adventure story

To cut a short story even shorter, the plot of the book goes like this:

  • Buffy is a stage assistant to Brillo the magician, however Brillo finds that the audience cheers louder for Buffy than for himself, so he fires Buffy.

“OUT! and never come back,” cried Brillo.

  • With his last coins, Buffy buys a tin of dog food and a tin opener in a supermarket and then jumps aboard a moving freight train heading out into the countryside.

And while he slept, the train continued its rhythm:
and never come back.
and never come back.

  • In the morning, Buffy jumps off the train and then goes to try and find a job, however no-one will give Buffy a job because he does not fit into a slot.

Nobody wanted a dancing sheep dog.
Nobody wanted a tiny rope-throwing cattle dog.
Nobody wanted a plate-juggling kitchen dog.
Nobody wanted a guard dog who played the harmonica.

  • Eventually Buffy stops in front of a statue, the words on which read “I am me. No more. No less”. Buffy decides that since he does not fit into a “job slot”, the world will have to accept him for who he is.

“Then one day Buffy stopped. He put down his bag, wiped his brow and looked around him.
“I can go no further,” he said.
“I’m not a sheep dog, a cattle dog, a kitchen dog or a guard dog. So what sort of dog am I?”
“I am Buffy! And I will do what I do. And this time, the world shall come to me.”

The world shall come to me

  • Buffy starts busking, and meets Mary Kelly and the musical Kelly family, who acknowledge his unique talents and adopt him.

Now, each night after dinner, the music starts and each night the floorboards shake. Mary’s and Buffy’s feet beat to the rhythm of the jigs and the reels.
And Buffy lives up there, on the hill, to this day.

Mary Kelly and Buffy

“Filling a role” versus “Who you are”

As Buffy found out, every job requires a very specific skill set to be applied predictably day after day.

Furthermore, the larger a company is, the more precise each process has to be. Every employee has to become expert in the role and responsibility that has been assigned to them, in order that their function will fit into the operations of the company as a whole. This sort of employment does not leave you with a lot of leeway to develop your personality or to apply the multitude of skills that you were born with.

Subsequently, the answer to “Why do I hate my job?”, is probably because the job is not you!

  • You are multi-talented – but your job requires that you focus and refine one specific skill.
  • You are innovative – but your job requires that you do exactly the same thing every day
  • You like relating to people in different ways – but your job requires that you should always be predictable.


Thinking out of the square

It is perfectly possible, that you will not find a job on a job board that will resonate with the unique skills and the unique personality that identify who you really are. Because of this, some people are leaving standard careers to look for greater versatility.

Rather than define their lives and self-worth in terms of a preordained, often constraining, career track, workers are creating their own patchworks of job experiences to suit their lives.

The Opt-out Revolt: Why People Are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers

It is also possible, however, that the risks of breaking with a standard career path do not fit the predictable life that you would really like to have. If so, how can you both find predictability at work, but also fulfillment in your life?

According to the Harvard Business Review, the answer is; “If you want to be happy at work, have a life outside it.”

The bottom line: Satisfaction at work is influenced by factors such as benefits, pay, relationships, and commute length. But all of this boils down to two things being important, regardless of your circumstances: (1) having a life outside of work, and (2) having the money to afford it. If you have a job that grants you both of these, you might be happier than you realize.

If you do have a life outside of work, you will be able to develop and apply the parts of your personality and skills that are not relevant in your job.  Leading a full life will enable you to reap the benefits of being happy at work together with financial stability in your non-working life.

The Kelly family


Personal growth is a natural process

What is the importance of personal growth and development?

What is the importance of personal growth and development?

If you google “What is personal growth”, you will get the following search result:

In fact, though, it is unlikely that personal growth has anything to do with reaching your goals by maximizing your potential. This is equivalent to saying, “To make this rose more beautiful, let me find out what I can use it for.”

When we look at somebody and say, “That is a wonderful person,”  what we are seeing is a person who has gone through a process of personal growth that makes their personality shine. This person has become a beam of sunlight to the people around them. We are not looking at somebody who has optimized the functional aspect of their existence.

True personal growth does not depend on external circumstances. Getting ahead in your career, making money, succeeding in sports and gaining academic qualifications all depend on external circumstances that are not in your ability to control. The athletic and academic abilities that you were born with and the earning capacity you have access to are external to your inner personality.

How can we grow and become beautiful human beings that other people will look to for cues on setting their own emotional clock?

Here are 10 personal growth strategies that depend simply and purely on your willpower to become a greater person.


It is only possible for you to experience personal growth if you are your own person. Don’t be swept along with other people’s ideas and feelings. Come to our own conclusions about the way things are, and decide how you feel about the people and things about you.

Autonomy is the ability to use your own mind and to determine your thoughts and actions in your own way. It is the ability to be master of your own life and of your own thoughts and actions. It means being able to decide and choose for yourself. You are not the object of other people’s decisions and choices, and you do not accept opinions, standards of behaviour and established ways of life just because someone tells you to accept them. You accept them only because you have convinced yourself to accept them, because you have your own reasons to do so, and because you know that you can always reject them. You shape your own life.

Homo-Democraticus: On the Universal Desirability and the Not So Universal Possibility of Democracy and Human Rights ,page 403



Be aware of your natural surroundings, don’t get caught up in what you are doing to the extent that you forget about the world you live in.

Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future. A good illustration… is driving to work in the morning in a hurry. The decisive question is: ‘Where is the mind when the body is here? and there are three common cases…

The fourth case is the person who is aware, and who will not hurry because he is living in the present moment with the environment which is here: the sky and the trees as well as the feeling of motion. To hurry is to neglect that environment and to be conscious only of something that is still out of sight down the road…

Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Chapter 16


Maintain balance in your life; When you look for personal growth, you will find opportunities in many areas. Each endeavor you go for will have its own focus, but none of these areas should clash with each other or take over your life.

We cannot become so obsessed by a beneficial habit that we lose sight of other important areas of life.

Zen and the Art of Wholeness, page 216

Face yourself

Change self-defeating patterns of behaviour; Identify your weak points, what are you scared of, what is holding you back? Create a plan for resolving this inner conflict.

To identify your weaknesses, ask yourself these questions: What do you keep doing that you can’t seem to master? What do you least enjoy doing? What are the aspects of your personality that hold you back? What do other people identify as a weakness for you? …don’t feel compelled to list every weakness you can think of. Limit yourself to the ones that can have a negative impact on the achievement of your dream.

It’s Do-Able!: Power To Unleash Your Dream, Canaan Mashonganyika



Become a giver, not a taker. Get into the habit of giving to something each day which you do not personally benefit from.

How much love can you give? How good a friend can you be? The rewards you will gain by becoming a GIVER will reap for you true peace and a feeling of beautiful wholeness.

Walking on Sunshine, Suzy Harrison Ward


Find inner happiness; Your happiness should be spontaneous, you should be able to walk down the street and just be happy for absolutely no reason. Your happiness should not be dependent on any external stimulation.

‘Take a look,’ I said. ‘If you want to find inner happiness, go outside on a nice day with lots of sun and blue sky. Even if you stand at a window and look out over the city at the cloudless sky, like we’re doing now, you’ll eventually find happiness.

Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex, Anne Frank


Live in harmony; How can you increase the overall balance of good and beauty in the world?

The white man calls us “Wild Indians.” We were never wild, we were just natural. Traditional people, in harmony with the world around us. We do not isolate ourselves from other living things, nor consider one creature superior to another… [The Indians are not a primitive people,] they are a traditional people, that is, a “first” or “original” people… the inheritors of a profound and exquisite wisdom distilled by long ages on this earth. The Indian concept of earth and spirit has been patronizingly dismissed as simplehearted “naturalism” or “animism,” when in fact it derives from a holistic vision known to all mystics and great teachers of the most venerated religions of the world.

Two Black Bears: Chief of Navajos, Charles D. Taylor

Integrate your personality

Different parts of you naturally want to head off in different directions. Become aware of everything that motivates you, and of all the different directions your ambitions drag you in, then find inner unity.

Without [inner unity] we are likely to live fragmented lives, never quite fulfilling the unique gift to human history each of us is privileged to carry.

Empowering Leaders, David A. Ramey


To find out who you really are, step outside yourself and observe how you live and how you interact with other people.

Step outside yourself. Watch yourself going through your day as if you were the star of your own television show. You can make it a comedy or a drama. Hospitals are suited to both. Try playing a laugh track in your head when something preposterous happens — as it often does. The show also keeps you company as your colleagues go home and you’re left alone in the hospital. It turns the clerks, nurses, residents from other services, and even patients into a colorful supporting cast for your lead.

Hospital Survival: Lessons Learned in Medical Training, Grant Cooper


Tune into other people’s feelings, even if other people hide what bothers them, they will still appreciate if you identify with their concerns.

As we develop our capacity for empathy, we must shift from tuning in to our thinking to tuning in to another person’s perspective. As we begin this shift, many of us will struggle with socialized thinking habits that maintain our self-focused thinking…

When we start to tune in to other people’s perspectives, these old habits may cause us to experience some interference. Often we first struggle with the assumption that everyone thinks and feels as we do. This assumption occurs as we struggle to apply other people’s life experiences to the situation. First we must consider the other person’s life and then extend that consideration to the current situation. If we can extend our perspective in this way, we may discover that the individual’s experience is very different.

Developing Practice Competencies: A Foundation for Generalist Practice, D. Mark Ragg

You can cycle through some of these ideas, to see which ones work best for your own personal growth.