Archive for November, 2015

Solving knotty problems

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Another item from the program I listened to yesterday that really resonated was a conversation about geo-engineering & global warming.  Author Oliver Morton, who wrote “The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World” , was asked whether it was a good idea to bet the future of mankind on this kind of technology.  [For the benefit of those, who like me, have never heard the term geoengineering it is the deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’s climate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.]  They were discussing whether the kind of project which affected the whole globe would require some kind of planetary leadership and safeguards, and if these might be more  challenging than the engineering required.  He said that rather than proceeding with the blind optimism and just hoping it all worked out, we needed to go forward with caution and awareness of all the challenges but with the possibility of success in our minds and hearts too.  This enabled us to at least consider how we might succeed. 

Twice today, when faced with a client who was wrestling with some very knotty problems that had so far defied all efforts to resolved them, I referred them to this statement, and suggested that in order to succeed, they at least needed to accept that the problem was soluble.  Famously, Alexander the Great, when faced with the Gordian knot, found one radical way to solve it…..

Black box thinking

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

I listened to a fascinating program today which talked about making and learning from mistakes.  Regular readers will be familiar with my thoughts on the importance of learning from mistakes and avoiding a blame culture.  It is said that the secret to being a successful entrepreneur is to fail often and learn every time you do.  It is a well known truism that if you have never failed then you have never really tried or lived!  Matthew Sayed, author of “Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success” says that in the airline industry, they are committed to investigating and learning from every single mistake so that they never need to happen again.  People’s lives are at risk and any failure is international news, so failure is very costly.  The key is that there is a culture of honest investigation and procedures are modified to make them more robust.  By way of contrast, in medicine it is very hard for a surgeon to say “Oops…I messed up”, so they hide behind the veil of medical complexity and “These things happen”.  Thus no one truly investigates as mistakes are brushed under the carpet.  In politics, policies are stuck to as a sign of strength and vision, and you can’t say, “They are not working, lets try something else”, this is deemed weakness, rather than wisdom.

I ask you, which environment would you sooner work in or be served by?