“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”
– Albert Einstein
As I look at what all is making the news in the world today, I am struck by an interesting trend.
- No sooner did nations heave a sigh of relief that the war against Global terrorism viz.Al Qaeeda in Afghanisatan had been won, one is witness to the rise of other terror groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram in Iraq and Nigeria.
- Initially hailed as a path breaking positive development in terms of spread of people’s power and democracy in the Middle East, the Arab Spring now faces criticism for the collapse of Governance and societal structures in a large swathe of countries like Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria,Yemen and so on.
- As the US and Iran engage in serious talks around international controls on the latter’s nuclear plants and technology, Israel claims this is leading to a heightened risk of war in the region.
- As oil prices collapse and the oil consuming nations of the world rejoice, the funding of green technologies and their implementation for climate change initiatives takes a back seat.
What is it that, in spite of the best intentions and efforts of nations and leaders, the world seems to perennially lurch from one negative occurrence to another? Occurrences that seem to encompass every aspect of our existence- Terrorism, Threat of War, Governance, Climate change and what have you.
Strangely, I am witness to a similar trend as I shift gears and go down to my organisational and personal level.
- I implement an incremental volume based pricing strategy to gain a new business account. However information about this gets known to an existing customer who then threatens to shift business away if the same low pricing is not offered. The result: lower profitability even with higher sales.
- I recommend deviation from the company’s HR policy to help a staff faced with the settlement of high medical bills. Though I succeed with my recommendation, this opens up a Pandora’s Box of complaints about discrimination and how other similar cases got rejected in the past.
- Based on my directive, the sales team resort to focussed selling of identified products to maximize revenues. While this gets achieved, the sales of other products suffer leading to some Principals and suppliers getting upset.
Do you notice how, inspite of the best intentions and competence, solution to an existing problem somehow becomes the harbinger of a new problem? It is as if we are in the midst of situations akin to that of a worn pipe prone to leaks. As a leak is patched at one place and pressure is put back, the pipe cracks at another place and the leakage starts again.
So, what is it really that leads to well thought out problem solving strategies heralding a fresh bout of new problems?
Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, in their bestseller ‘The Three Laws of Performance’ (TLOP), have not only provided an answer but also a sustainable way forward approach.
As part of our survival instinct, we are conditioned to take aspects of our life experiences, of what worked and what did not, fears of what might go wrong and so on…and store them in a place so that we could refer to them, when needed, in the future. As we go through life, we keep on storing more and more such stuff in that place of ours. What do you think happens? Without us even realizing, our actions and performance get restricted to what is allowed by all that stuff we have stored from the past. We end up being on ‘safe rails’ and doing more of what we have always done. In effect we become blindsided to everything else which somehow was not in our past. Authors Steve and Dave refer to this human tendency as they argue that our thoughts, strategies and actions arise from the future as “given by our past”. They call that place where we store our past our default future.
Steve and Dave go on to explain why solutions implemented lead to new problems. They show us the trap we are liable to get into as soon as we envisage a solution. We remain blinded to the fact that the only solutions to a problem that occur for us in fact arise out of our default future where all our past is stored. This only allows us to do what we did in the past which in fact created the problem in the first place. We thus get sucked into the never ending cycle of problems, solutions based on the past…. leading to more problems
The TLOP holds the promise of getting us out of the above problem- solution trap. So how could we do that?
First, we uncover the default futures- all that past stuff that we hold onto, consciously and sub-consciously, that exist for us as well as other stakeholders and how that clutters our thoughts in the present. In effect we start understanding how this past driven default future actually impacts how situations occur- for us and others, and how that correlates to actions and performance. So as a situation occurs negatively for us, the actions and performance correspondingly suffer.
The TLOP further state that the way to dramatically upscale our actions and performance is to alter how situations occur for us. This can be achieved through use of certain kind of language. As we gain mastery over use of this kind of language, we are able to do two things. First, we are able to close past issues and upsets, remove these out of the default future where we had carried them into and put them back where they belong, the past. Second we begin opening up space for a new Created future, a blank canvas in which we can envision something radically new, something no longer constrained and dictated by our past.
A future that addresses the concerns of all.
A future in which everyone joyfully comes to live into.
A future that now no longer needs to follow the never-ending cycle of problems and solutions.
In learning…………. Shakti Ghosal
Acknowledgement: The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the future of your organisation and your life by Steve Zaffron & Dave Logan, 2011