Language against which the mind cannot defend

Last week I was privileged to be present when David Whyte addressed a group of leaders at Intel. Kudos to my colleague Lisa Marshall and to Intel's Business Client Engineering Division 'Mindful Engineering' series for making it happen

From the poet came the gift of this phrase; "Language against which the mind cannot defend"

It was a rich 90 minutes. It's remarkable to be with a poet who keeps himself connected and contributing to the corporate, technological world - an extraordinary human being.

He pointed out that such language is always based in vulnerability. And it comes, not from the strategic mind – the mind focused on what action might be best – but from a deep quiet. From the place most of us prefer to avoid: the one embraces our inevitable vulnerability. The example he gave was a question: a parent, having spoken somewhat thoughtlessly to a teenager, punished with shunting, reaches her with genuine humility, "Charlotte, what is one thing you'd like me to do less of, and one you'd like me to do more of'?” He was rewarded with uncrossed arms and a look in the eye. Something we in business must learn to do.

I believe with all my heart that only those who fully embrace the roots of commerce in vulnerability will make it through the current economic upheaval. In the Industrial Age, [short – perhaps 10 generations of the thousands in human history] business folk were happily tranquilized to believe that commerce could be secretive, and that one party could avoid vulnerability at the expense of the other. That dream is in its death gasps, at the effect of the Information Age.

Some good thinkers are onto the deep challenge this is for enterprises:

    “CEOs today are certainly enlightened enough to understand the new world. They know they are more vulnerable than ever. In quiet moments, they say, “I don't have the answers. This is pretty hard.” That's why I'm optimistic. I think this is the right time to rethink and change how business is done.”
      Source: Strategy & Business Thought Leader Interview with Dov Seidman

‘Having the answers' isn't likely; it's the questions that move us forward. My current favorite from deep quiet works very well to put an organization on track - it's the foundation for Core Promise:

What do people rely on you for, and what do you want them to rely on you for?

What will you do no matter what?
Try it – the mind cannot defend against the question.

Core Promise: a simple driver of high performance

I recently read Diamandis and Kotler’s Abundance: the Future is Better than you Think: a delightful account of diverse entrepreneurs stepping up to many of humanity’s greatest challenges. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, I recommend it for a great rush of optimism and a clarion call.

In the wake of their book, I took the challenge of upping my own contribution. I believe that organizations have a big role to play in creating a world that’s safe for our progeny. We're in a resource crisis, and something fundamental has to change at the enterprise level.

Here Core Promiseis a method I have used for years: a simple model for driving Stakeholder value with far less resource. I hope you will find this eBook both challenging and useful, and if so, that you will help me get it out to forward-thinkers looking to be a bigger part of the solution.

Many thanks to the generous colleagues who helped wring the model from inside my skin to make it accessible. Blessed are they who live in a learning community.

Business and the Brain: what can you rely on?

I’ll soon be heading off to a conference of Social and Affective Neuroscientists, to hear what they’re learning about the brain vis a vis culture, empathy, social Interaction, and health, plus a debate about mirror neurons. It’s a heady mix, to be sure. My meta-question is:

    What can we trust our brains to tell us?
    How do our brains bias what we perceive?

I’ll no doubt have new reflections to share next month.

Meanwhile, two rich books and an article have my neurons firing: Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, and from Sunday's New York Times Just the Facts, All of Them. Gilad Elbaz, a Techno-preneur turned social entrepreneur believes that knowing all the facts a) is possible and b) will set us free from the seemingly endless conflicts that squander our energy. Diamandis and Kotler provide abundant evidence of the power of innovation – past and present – to surmount seemingly insoluble problems. Kahneman chronicles brain research through 2011 to illuminate how our brains bias what we ‘know.'

All three bring what we know into serious question.
Thus: how reliable are the assumptions and assessments on which our business models are based?

All three would say, “not reliable.” Certainly we have plenty of evidence of that from the past four years.

Another interesting insight that emerges from Abundance and the Times article: base your business on what you’re absolutely committed to. I agree. As a Business Anthropologist, I have been reflecting for decades about what business people can count on. Here my friends the Social and Affective Neuroscientists have something important to offer: we can rely on people knowing who is committed to them.

Thus my suggestion for a business model you can rely on: build your business from your core promise.

It will certainly challenge your thinking. And that’s good, right?

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Are You Fit to Thrive in Any Economy?