If you don’t have one of Mary Oliver’s books of poetry on your desk I recommend you pick one up. Set it right next to ‘Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass,’ and when you need a pause in your day — in between zooms or socially-distanced-masked meetings — to breathe — pick one of them up and read a poem. . .
“What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t
turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean
the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off
fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning…” — Mary Oliver
What is there beyond knowing? Many things to stay curious about — but — — -what isn’t beyond knowing this week are these 5 things that I added to my ‘Museum of Ideas for Business Thinkers’:
- We need upside-down thinking to make us better.
When we think in upside-down — inside-out — ways that challenge the norm, we stretch our brains and reimagining things becomes possible. We need to remember that our way — whatever it is — isn’t necessarily the right way — and we can adjust our thinking as we learn.
Here is one upside-down, inside-out view. . . Tim Leberecht of the House of Beautiful Business asks us if losers are the new winners in this essay ‘The End of Winning.’ Give it a read and allow yourself to feel uncomfortable for a few minutes. The top most highlighted quote I think says something profound about what we can aspire to:
“A humane society is one where we can lose without being losers. A humane company makes losing a part of its strategy. A humane person loses with dignity and class, and helps others lose when there is nothing to gain.
This — -inside-out thinking — — Leberecht’s thesis about losing — feels uncomfortable because it goes against our norm. I don’t agree with everything I’ve read in his essay… I’ll read it again a few more times because there is a lot to digest….but what I love about it is that it forces our thinking in new directions. Give it a whirl and see if it causes you to pause and rethink, or disagree and wander off into the rest of your day.
2. Peter Drucker put some thought into what Kierkegaard had to say.
Kenneth Mikkelsen shared a draft of a speech by Peter Drucker given at Bennington College. . . Or, How is Human Existence Possible? It is a worthwhile read. I’m a huge fan of philosophy. . . because it asks us to try to answer the biggest questions…which business leaders need to aspire to do. And Drucker confronts some of those here. He says this. . . ‘There is no individual, there is only the citizen.’
3. What’s up with women at work?
Naz Beheshti’s article in Forbes calls us to notice that ‘American women are at risk of losing years of hard-won progress in the workplace.’ (The WSJ says the same, “Here’s How the Pandemic is Affecting Women’s Careers.”)
Beheshti offers several suggestions to help: “Make work more sustainable by adjusting performance goals; Reset norms around flexibility; Evaluate performance reviews; Take steps to minimize gender bias; Create employee-friendly policies; Strengthen employee communication”. . . You might also check out these recent Gallup articles which relate to these workplace problems and needs and offer more advice: Performance Management Must Evolve to Survive Covid-19 ; Lead Your Remote Team Away From Burnout Not Toward It and Business Suffers When Your Employees Do.
4. When does efficiency stop yielding returns?
‘In Times of Crisis, We Need to Be More Resilient,’ . . . The Financial Times Andrew Hill interviews Roger L. Martin a top management thinker. Martin, gives a shout out to ‘integrative thinking,’ and he challenges efficiency-driven leaders to think again and suggests that we need bottom-up action as a part of our future solutions to rethink efficiency.
If you know me, you know that Martin is a favorite of mine — -I’m still thinking about the question he asked in an article last year, “When does efficiency stop yielding returns?” If we were stuck at a socially-distanced cocktail party together and short of something to say, fumbling with our masks etc., I would for sure bring up that question and have a conversation with you about it to distract us from all the awkwardness. . . That is to say, I’m up for tackling this question as a research problem if anyone is game to dive in with me — IM me please.
5. While we may need everyone to own bottom-up action. . . we need ‘changeless values’ to hold on to.
Vibhas Ratanjee reminds us that Leaders must know which solid ‘changeless’ values to hold on to.
And to close things out for today…. Mary Oliver. . .more of ‘What is There Beyond Knowing…”
“. . . and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly
to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.
But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing
in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.
if there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.”
Best wishes for a thought-filled walk through the wilderness this weekend as you contemplate your business challenges. (P.S. if you are city bound right now you can follow me on instagram for a ‘virtual,’ walk through the prairie and the forests. . .)
Thanks for visiting the Museum of Ideas.
Author’s Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn.