leadership dot #2645: intellectual humility

In a brilliant Pinkcast, author Dan Pink provides some of the most powerful two minutes of content that I have seen in a long while. Pink shares four questions that help people to develop the skill of intellectual humility — the willingness to accept that what you believe may be wrong. These key questions allow you to question your own cognitive blind spots in search of greater understanding.

What I liked about how Pink framed the issue was that he turned “being wrong” into a virtue instead of a failure. He gave intellectual humility a positive spin and linked it to an identity that people would want to take on for themselves.

Atomic Habits author James Clear writes that “the ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”* The Pinkcast video helps people take on the identity of being open-minded, inquisitive, and yes, sometimes wrong.

I’d suggest using this video as a quick but potent way for facilitators to begin group work or for leaders to frame discussions that could prove to be contentious. It can give your team language to aid in constructive conflict with civility – something that every organization can use more of today!

*Atomic Habits by James Clear, 2018, p. 33


leadership dot #2640: dump the basket

I dumped my dogs’ basket of bones and balls onto the floor so I could wash the container. You would have thought that I gifted them with an entirely new selection of treats. Suddenly the same old bones acquired new allure and I think they played with every one of the items that they had ignored for months.

Does the same principle apply to you in other situations? Clothes that are emptied from the closet and actually seen may stimulate new wardrobe options without additional purchases. A metaphorical “dumping of the basket” to put all your publications and advertisements in one place may reveal themes you did not see in isolation. A new look at all the items in your refrigerator or pantry may trigger refreshed menu options.

Maybe it’s time to turn things over and see if there is something great hiding in plain sight.

leadership dot #2618: scavenger hunt

The thrill of shopping for new school supplies has turned into the stress of shopping for new school supplies. Why do we even bother?

While I was at Staples, I began reading the school supply lists. I have written before (dot #1192) about how the lists have expanded to incorporate general classroom supplies like plastic bags, dry erase markers and tissues. Now the supply lists have become so specific that I can’t imagine being a parent trying to find all the items that meet these specifications. It’s like a giant scavenger hunt only you have to pay to do it!

Some examples (with emphasis as written on the lists):

  • 8 2-pocket folders (without metal parts), preferably plastic, 1 each of: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and 2 others
  • 2 boxes CRAYOLA CRAYONS (regular, not fat ones) (boxes of 16 or 24)
  • 1 child’s Fiskar scissors, 5”, blunt tip
  • Vinyl, 3-prong bottom pocket folders, solid colors: red, yellow & blue
  • 2 dozen #2 TICONDEROGA brand pencils (no plastic wrapped pencils)
  • 1 one-inch WHITE 3-ring binder with clear plastic insert on the front
  • 8 book covers (non-adhesive or brown paper bags) If cloth – NOT red or magenta
  • Feathers (blue, yellow, brown, black)
  • 24 wooden #2 pencils (sharpened) NO MECHANICAL OR DECORATIVE PENCILS
  • One box C&H Sugar Cubes

I believe there is a rationale for the specifications but it seems to me there is less of a reason to send parents on the great shopping hunt to find the items. I know some stores and online retailers will pre-package the supplies but why not eliminate the middleman? Instead, students could be charged $X for supplies and be done with it. Rather than school supply drives – where inevitably well-meaning donors will contribute variations from the list – funds could be donated to provide “scholarships” to offset the fees of those who are in need.

What’s not in short supply is stress. Look at the amount of it you cause your clients and see if you can’t remove some of the steps in the process to meet your needs in a less burdensome way.

leadership dot #2503: not yet

When implementing something new or creating any kind of change there is a tension between wanting to be more ready and wanting to begin. It’s scary to launch when things are still imperfect but waiting too long can be a curse as well.

Researchers Amy Collier and Jen Ross have coined the term “not-yetness” to describe this not yet fully evolved or developed condition. “Not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not checklisting everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve.”

They write of not-yetness in the context of technology in distance education, but I believe the concept can apply to all manner of projects. We should embrace the beginning and doing as a method for discovery, without any expectation that what we undertake will have been totally understood by just thinking and not doing. If we become more comfortable with the idea of “not yet”, it opens a window to the perspective that we expect to learn more, that we acknowledge that things aren’t fully figured out and that we are prepared to have a few things wrong at the initial stage.

Not-yetness lets us off the hook of perfection and gives us permission to publicly begin.

What are you working on that is not-yet-developed but could be shared today?


leadership dot #2500: tourist

In the movie Columbus, where I first learned of the intentional architectural plan of Columbus, Indiana, one of the characters remarked on how thousands of tourists come to tour the buildings but many of the residents have not done so. “If you grow up around something, it feels like nothing,” he said.

I have witnessed the phenomenon in many places. Those in our river town don’t gasp in awe at the mighty Mississippi River each time they cross it. In St. Louis, many natives have never been up in the Gateway Arch. I grew up less than an hour from Chicago but have never been to the top of the Sears (Willis) Tower or to Navy Pier.

This weekend spend some time as a tourist in your own community. See the natural wonder with fresh eyes. Visit an attraction that others seek out yet you have not. Look up your city’s Visitor’s Bureau on the web and try out one of the places they recommend to play, shop or dine.

Actually see something that you have taken for granted for too long.

leadership dot #2493: crossing

Not long ago, I needed two people to help me cross this street. It was covered in a thick coating of ice and that, combined with the incline, made it impassable for me in my regular shoes. Even with assistance and slow, deliberate steps, we barely made it to the other side without all three of us falling.

I thought of this when I had to cross the same street again, only this time in clear weather. In about three strides I easily traversed the pavement and, had it not been for my harrowing crossing the last time I was there, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

While I wouldn’t wish ice on anyone, I think it’s good to have experiences that are easy under one condition and challenging in another. It helps develop empathy when we note that not everyone experiences the world in the same way or with the same abilities.

Where have you done something that varied depending upon the circumstances? Speaking is easy, except when you have laryngitis. Writing is effortless, unless you have a broken arm and need to use your opposing hand. Driving is routine, unless the sun is in your eyes or there is snow on the road.

Remember that just because we find something simple to do or understand does not make it universally so.

leadership dot #2488: remix

It seems that if a soundtrack becomes quite popular, the next step is for a collection of artists to release a remix album that modifies the core music into something similar but new. It happened with Hamilton and now with The Greatest Showman. Both musicals have remix versions on which famous performers alter the music to their own interpretation. It’s obviously the same song, but it’s also not.

Even though the original way of doing it was great, change is encouraged for the second album. The soundtrack music served one purpose and the remix album is free from the need to fit into the structured framework of the show. As a result, some of the songs are even better in the reimagined version.

I think these remix albums can be a metaphor for the type of diversity we seek to cultivate in organizations. Everyone is singing from the same songbook, but there is room for varied expression and significant differences. The underlying medley is preserved and shared in a personalized way.

Today, do one thing that encourages a remix of your organization’s music. What will that be?