The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Possibility

DON’T STOP AT THE EDGE OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE

We are not rewarded for not knowing, write veteran consultants Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner in their fascinating book Not Knowing. We are not expected to  not know. People look for certainty in their leaders. But beyond the expectations of others, there is our own comfort, the authors explain: not knowing is uncomfortable, and it’s better to know. And when you don’t know, the answer, for the sake of ourselves or for the sake of those who believe in us, is to fake it. We pretend to know.

Another danger of the tyranny of certainty is, according to the authors, to have unwavering faith in the experts. For 1,400 years, the ancient Greek physician Galen of Pergamon was the ultimate authority in medicine; it wasn’t until the mid-16th century that Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius finally dared to question Galen, whose mistakes and discrepancies should have been apparent to all by that time (the authors note that a medical school professor holding up a human heart after a dissection would comment on the three ventricles as described by Galen, although there were clearly four in the heart he was holding).

Darkness Illuminates

In truth, the authors explain in the second part of Not Knowing, “darkness illuminates.” D’Souza and Renner tell the story of the tragic Burke and Wills expedition in Australia. Robert Burke and William Wills were the first men to cross the continent but died of starvation on their way back home. They died of starvation despite the fact that the Aborigines in the area had thrived for thousands of years and did everything they could to help the white men. But Burke and Wills didn’t want their help; they didn’t, in their opinion, need the people whom they considered savages to tell them what to do to survive.

Burke and Wills died staying at what the authors call “the edge” of their knowledge, refusing to go no further. It is the willingness to not stop at the edge that allows artists to create, scientists to discover and entrepreneurs to launch their enterprises. How does one find the value in the unknown, especially when in so many domains — areas such as business, politics or even social situations — not knowing is viewed as a weakness or a barrier?

The answer lies in what the authors call “negative capability.” This is the ability to “negate” rather than add: the ability to clear the mind rather than fill it. “This idea of negative capability,” the authors write, “is powerful because it captures the need for making space in the mind to allow new thought to take root. It clears the mind of existing knowledge, clichés or existing assumptions.” The concept also emphasizes that clearing the mind is as much a “capability” as filling it. Building on academic research, the authors note that silence, patience, doubt and humility are all examples of negative capabilities.

Empty Your Cup

In the final section of their book, the authors group negative capabilities under four headings (each earning a separate chapter):“empty your cup,” “close your eyes to see,” “leap in the dark” and “delight in the unknown.”

“Empty your cup” is a metaphor for seeking to make room in a mind that is filled with knowledge. Experts are rarely revolutionaries because their minds are already filled with what they think they need to know. Thus, it was a non-banker who revolutionized the industry with microbanks. Grameen Bank founder Mohammad Yunus didn’t know that it was wrong to do what he was doing, including lending to the poor instead of the rich and focusing on women instead of men. If his cup had been full, he would have known and abided by the rules, and never launched the microbank revolution that made him famous.

“Close your eyes to see,” is the art of observing, listening and questioning. Improvising, experimenting and embracing mistakes are some of the activities associated with “leap in the dark.” Finally, the authors encourage readers to “delight in the unknown” by, among other ideas, unleashing their curiosity and creativity and not being afraid of foolishness and play.

A learned mix of academic studies and scores of compelling stories from a wide variety of domains, this brilliant, inspiring book will have readers leaving their desks (figuratively, one hopes), finding their way to the edges of their own world, closing their eyes and opening their minds, and waiting for the ideas and insights that will come from “not knowing.”

The Wisdom of Oz

Why does the story of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion touch us? Like all great entertainment, their journey resonates. We see ourselves in the characters and likewise wish we possessed the power, the brains, the heart, and the courage to make our own dreams come true.

So what are your dreams? What do you want? Is it a promotion? Improving a relationship? Rescuing a child? Finding a new job? Saving a marriage? Getting a degree? Finding the love of your life? Making a difference in your community?

According to Roger Connors and Tom Smith, the answer is personal accountability. In The Wisdom of Oz, they claim that when you unleash the power of personal accountability it will energize you in life-altering ways, giving you a concrete boost that enhances your ability to think, to withstand adversity, to generate confidence, and to increase your own natural emotional, mental, and intellectual strength.

Among the principles they delve into:
• When you can’t control your circumstances, don’t let your circumstances control you.
• Every “breakthrough” requires a “break with.”
• Greater accountability is the most powerful choice you will ever make.

We have invited Roger Connors to join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, to explain how you can unleash the power of personal accountability. Register for Using Personal Accountability to Succeed in Everything You Do today and bring your questions for Roger to answer during the session.

New Summaries to Transform Your Business

Today in the United States, entrepreneurship and innovation are driving economic growth. Creativity, entrepreneurs and innovation are all important. Entrepreneurs have a passion for business and focus on their products. To develop these products, they need to apply creativity and innovation to their processes. Learn how ideas, talents, and skills are developed and transformed into commercial and social ventures with these three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

The_Responsible_Entrepreneur

by Carol Sanford

The Responsible Entrepreneur by Carol Sanford

Responsible entrepreneurs seek to transform industries, requiring them to think and do beyond what is require of business leaders. Carol Sanford provides the frameworks to build a business and to evaluate and direct investments to create the greatest benefit for all stakeholders. She presents the four archetypes for entrepreneurs to use to learn how to grow their businesses. The Responsible Entrepreneur is not just for entrepreneurs or investors, but anyone who wants to make a difference in their organization.

How_the_World_Sees_You

by Sally Hogshead

How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead

To set yourself apart from the crowd, you must develop your own personal brand. Sally Hogshead gives you the tools to describe your personality’s highest value to others in How the World Sees You. You will be able to create better relationships, grow your business, and become more valuable once you understand how to leverage how the world sees you at your best. How the World Sees You will guide you to make a great first impression always.

 

Overfished_Ocean_Strategy

by Nadya Zhexembayeva

Overfished Ocean Strategy by Nadya Zhexembayeva

When resources are depleting rapidly, businesses need to make resource scarcity, also referred to as the overfished ocean, their top strategic consideration. In Overfished Ocean Strategy, Nadya Zhexembayeva shows how businesses can find new opportunities in what were once considered useless by-products and develop ways to rapidly refine these new business models. She offers five essential principles that define the Overfished Ocean Strategy, along with several examples of how companies across the globe are implementing this strategy effectively.

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

WHY YOU NEED TO ASK QUESTIONS

The reason that effective leaders ask questions, writes bestselling leadership author and speaker John Maxwell in his new book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, is that questions are the most effective means of communicating with people. They also allow leaders to unlock doors that would normally be closed, build better ideas, gain different perspectives, and break free of the “mental laziness” of comfortable, unchallenged mindsets — just to name a few of their advantages. As Maxwell explains, “If you want to make discoveries, if you want to disrupt the status quo, if you want to make progress and find new ways of thinking and doing, you need to ask questions.”

Questions Leaders Need to Ask Themselves and Their Teams

In the first part of Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, Maxwell focuses on what questions leaders should ask themselves and what questions they should ask of the team. Leaders, Maxwell explains, must ask themselves the tough questions if they want to be responsible and proactive leaders. These questions cover areas such as, among others, personal growth (“Am I investing in myself?”); motivation (“Am I genuinely interested in others?”); stability (“Am I grounded as a leader?”) and effectiveness (“Am I staying in my strength zone?”). Each question is an opportunity for Maxwell to explore key leadership issues. “Am I grounded as a leader?” for example, leads to a discussion of three important qualities that all leaders need to exhibit: humility, authenticity and calling.

In addition to questioning themselves, leaders must also question their team members. Good questions will show team members that they are valued and will inspire others to “dream more, think more, learn more, do more and become more,” Maxwell writes. There are numerous questions that need to be asked if leaders want an open, effective team. These questions range from “How can I serve you?” “What do I need to communicate?” and “What am I missing?” to “Did we exceed expectations?” “Did we add value?” and “How do we make the most of this opportunity?”

“I Told The Ding-A-Lings What To Do”

In the second section of the book, Maxwell presents the questions that leaders have asked him over the years. These myriad questions are expertly grouped into seven key leadership-related issues, captured as questions of course. These issues include “What must I do to lead myself successfully?” “How can I successfully navigate leadership transitions?” and “How can I develop leaders?” Each issue is then broken down into 10 more specific questions, which allows Maxwell to develop an insightful and concise tutorial on the issue.

One chapter, for example, is entitled “How do I resolve conflict and lead challenging people?” This is a recurring and often frustrating problem for many leaders. Maxwell breaks the issue down into specific questions related to resolving conflict and leading challenging people. For example, “How do you raise the bar when people have gotten used to settling for mediocrity?” “How do you motivate an unmotivated person?” “How do you deal with people who start things but never finish?” “At what point do you turn your energy away from dissenters and low performers and focus on those who want to grow?”

In some cases, the answers to these questions come in the form of other questions. For example, some people may not be aware that they are settling for mediocrity. Thus, questions such as “Are you reaching your maximum potential?” and “Would you like to do better?” can help people see possibilities that they had been ignoring.

For motivation, on the other hand, Maxwell offers straightforward advice beginning with, hire motivated people. He also suggests rewarding people for the desired behavior and giving people a reputation to uphold — that is, the more leaders validate people for the good things they do, the more people will want to continue to do them. Leaders must also understand the connection between relationships and motivation. One leader continuously referred to his staff as the “ding-a-lings,” saying such things as “I told the ding-a-lings what to do, but of course they didn’t do it.” His contempt was apparent to his employees, who were, not surprisingly, unmotivated.

As with his many other leadership books, Maxwell’s latest is clearly written, clearly organized and filled with insight engagingly captured through precise and illuminating questions.

Building a “Better” Company

Back in August, we looked at a recent business trend as evidenced by a surge in books about Purpose. Today I’d like to dig into a related trend just beginning to show up in books – The B Corporation.

A B-Corp is an organization certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Lab has been at the forefront of this movement and certifies each organization, a group which has topped 1,000 companies from 80 industries and 35 countries.

There is a B Assessment that a company can take to see if they qualify for B Corp status, available at BImpactAssessment, and the website BetterWorldBooks which brings together books in the field of sustainability, B corps, and similar topics.

The first book to come across my desk specifically about B Corps is The B Corp Handbook, written by Ryan Honeyman, himself a B Corp owner. Honeyman worked closely with over 100 B Corp CEOs and senior executives to share their tips, advice, and best practice ideas for how to build a better business, and how to meet the rigorous standards for–and enjoy the benefits of–B Corp certification.

This book makes the business case for improving your social and environmental performance, and offers a step-by-step “quick start guide” on how your company can join an innovative and rapidly expanding community of businesses that want to make money and make a difference.

The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence says it all:
We envision a new sector of the economy which harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit.

This sector is comprised of a new type of corporation – the B Corporation, which is purpose-driven, and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

As members of this emerging sector and as entrepreneurs and investors in B Corporations, we hold these truths as self-evident:

That we must be the change we seek in the world.
That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and the future generations.

This group holds to quite high aspirations and the movement seems to be growing. You can see what we’ve covered in this area through recent summaries of The Purpose Driven Economy in September, and The Responsible Entrepreneur coming out next week.