Wingman

One of the most valuable things we can do when we’re trying to find a way forward is to put our thoughts out there with somebody we trust.

Somebody who will challenge and look for our weak spots, with the intent of sharpening our argument, or our game.

I’ve been wrestling with a paradox. When we coach, we cannot have an agenda- we are in service of our client’s thinking. The moment we introduce our own thinking, uninvited, we are no longer coaches.

At the same time, part of our job is to introduce ideas and concepts that might move our client forward.

So, how do we square this circle?

My “sparring partner” today helped me see a route.

In what seems a long time ago, I was an officer in the R.A.F. During my time there, I was taught the idea of a “wing man“. The concept is as simple as it is powerful. When we are focused on a target, we lose peripheral vision. We are so focused on the target, we fail to see what is going on around us.

The wing man provides that. She looks out for us, and feeds back to us threats we may not see.

The biggest threats we are facing today sit outside of our immediate vision. We may achieve and celebrate short term financial goals, whilst at the same time not see the bigger systemic picture, wherein lie the issues that will take us out of the game.

All of us need a “wingman” or woman. I’m grateful for mine. Who’s yours?

Processing speed

Concentrating on how fast we process data is a dangerous and unhealthy trap. Rather like fast food, we don’t consider what we’re consuming, and fall foul of the carb rush.

Instant gratification.

We’re entering (if not already in) an era where processing faster is ceasing to be an advantage. Except, maybe on trading floors, where milliseconds enables us to take advantage in a passing, temporary trade. It doesn’t add any real value to the stock being traded.

In areas of rather more substance, the data is valuable but partial. It will tell us where we’ve been (though maybe not why), but is a poor indicator for anything other than the very short term of where we’re headed.

Like the carb rush though, it’s as addictive as it is unhealthy.

Data is great for those judged on their operational strategy. Lots of numbers, comparisons, forecast returns. We become seduced and blinded by the beauty of the numbers, and judge the strategy at speed. Read the executive summary, maybe scan the rest. Compare the numbers to alternative offerings, Judge. Move on.

The foundation of strategy though does not lie in the numbers. It lies in awareness, purpose, spirit, relationships, agility, imagination, reflection. All qualitative, not easily measurable, yet vital.

The reason that the vast majority of operations strategies fail is because they are not grounded in these softer qualities. A fast food diet with little real sustenance.

I find it a sobering thought that most of the stuff of operational strategy is moving towards algorithms. Much better than us flaky humans at analysing history and projecting it forward and removing the extraneous, outlying data that is the harbinger of change, but not renowned for it’s imagination or thoughtful questioning.

The qualities that will define lasting success in the next era will be our ability to think, reflect and imagine. If we don’t make time for that, as individuals and organisations, we’re likely to have the useful lifespan of fast food packaging.

To Be, or to Do?

Sometimes, a quote is so powerful it needs no embellishing.

Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.

He raised his hand and pointed.

“If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.”

Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed in another direction.

“Or you can go that way and you can do something- something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference. To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call.

That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?

“John Boyd – the fighter pilot who changed thar art of war” R. Coram.