One thing’s for certain in this life: value’s all about scarcity. It’s hard to find, by definition.
So where ought we to look to find the hard-to-find?
Try this on for size.
For any given initiative, value lies, hidden, at the intersection of where we listen to what isn't being said and that one thing we can’t explain.
Where those two considerations meet: that’s where the juice is. Don’t take my word for it: every great investment advisor from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger to Howard Marks says the same thing:
You want to find value? Then you can't think like everybody else does—or look where everybody else does either.
Because, as night follows day, picking over the same data everyone else is is highly unlikely to produce anything of value. (There’s echoes of this wisdom in Einstein’s tongue-in-cheek warning that madness lies in doing the same thing over and over again—and expecting different results. That, too.)
There’s no upside in conformity, just as there's no benefit sitting at the end of the meeting room table with The Big New Project under discussion, not saying anything, in censoring yourself when you're at a meeting where you know you can bring value. (Not talking here about the value—maybe even the wisdom—of a Buddha-like silence—‘keeping your mystery’ as the great actors say.)
I’m talking about fear of rejection, of judgment, of being singled out: fearing the sarcasm, the eye-roll, all that negative stuff dysfunctional meetings produce: that terror.
Flip this all upside down and consider this: what all of us want more than anything else in our personal or working lives, either one, is to be validated, to be seen and heard.
Not to be passed over, ignored—not to be Ms or Mr Cellophane.
And amazingly, as Warren and Charlie and Howard will tell you, this is where the greatest value lives and breathes—when real live humans decide to be themselves and bring their best to an initiative. In that moment of non-conformity, great things emerge.
Problem is, organizations are hierarchies designed to induce conformity.
Now everybody would have you believe the opposite. (‘We’re all a family here,’ says the inauthentic CEO. No, we’re not. We’re all lost souls stuck in a non-responsive hierarchy…until we’re not.)
But that's the brutal fact.
Organizations aren't designed to be innovative, to thrive on change, to relish how they adapt and move forward.
And why is that?
Fact of Life No.1.
Most organizations are terrified about power from below. What, think for yourself? Huh?
Fact of Life No.2.
In complete contradiction to FOL No.1, those closest to the work know how work really gets done. Not the poohbahs. They're the last to know. (Hint: it’s way uglier than any CEO or director imagines.)
Fact of Life No.3.
If you want to induce change that actually goes somewhere and wins sustainable ‘traction’ in your organization, that change will almost invariably not be top down.
And that means, once more, with feeling: people have to be seen and heard. That’s where the magic lives.
Right there. Why?
Because when those closest to the work feel seen and heard and trust one another implicitly, utter magic happens.
'Underpromise' (a/k/a CYA) becomes ‘overdeliver.’ (‘I can’t believe the job Frank and Beth did on that new sales intelligence stuff. Who knew they had that in ‘em?’ Like that.)
Shared flow state is about the most empowering and productive human condition there is.
Because it's about creativity—and creativity is the one single behaviour which distinguishes humankind from all other creatures on this small blue planet. (Not my thinking: that’s Nobel Prize-winning physicist-philosopher David Deutsch talking at you.)
Our ability to create and more importantly, our ability to co-create is what moves the human race forward.
And the only way that's going to happen in a sustainable intelligent way in an organization is not through opting out, it's through being confident and trusting is that if you put the best of you forward, the folks around you will do exactly the same thing.
Hang on: what about resistance? What about Dave and Sue sabotaging that meeting last week? Well, resistance to change stems almost invariably about fear.
Why? Fear is our flight-or-fight lizard-brain focusing on survival. Great for wildfires, firearms incidents, protecting kids and the elderly from harm and other life-threatening situations—but, those aside, don’t we all deserve (and desire) more than simply surviving?
The best stuff of all happens when we move, consciously, eyes wide open, self-aware and focused on seeing and hearing our peers and trusting they'll do the same for us—from survive to alive to thrive.
Because that's where the best of life's to be had, right there.
Live and be well.