Sparky Anderson, manager of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team during most of the 1970s, spoke on occasion about the great problem he had with his team. He claimed that the "Big Red Machine" had so much talent that he had a hard time deciding who should play each night. His problem was making a decision, not to be confused with the problems associated with things gone wrong, as when the automobile industry tracks "TGW", short hand for Things Gone Wrong. Guided by surveys, resources are allocated to problems, attempting to lower TGW until there's no problem. Under such circumstances, how much attention is given to activities without problems? What if, with awareness, we chose to shift our thinking from the category thinking of "problem - no problem" and, instead, use a continuum thinking approach, such as an automobile gas gauge reveals, on a continuum, the difference between a full tank and almost empty. In doing so, the near-problem of almost empty, which falls into the "I have gas - there's no need for action" category, is seen as a problem ahead, well worthy of immediate attention. To do so is to act before trouble, as placing a stitch in time.
The challenge is not to be blinded by a narrow focus on TGW (or bad parts, problem students, problem suppliers, and behind-schedule tasks, to name a few extensions of the TGW model) and, instead, appreciate the value of awareness of the difference between category thinking and continuum thinking. The latter offers shades of gray awareness, which takes more effort to discern, yet uniquely offers prospects for being proactive. Category thinking delivers surprises that automobile drivers, home owners, public officials, and program managers may want to avoid, or choose to accept, if the surprise is less costly than the added effort of continuum thinking. When it comes to replacing a light bulb in the kitchen, the use of shades of gray discernment to replace the bulb before failure is not likely to be a worthwhile investment of our personal resources. Replacing a smoke alarm battery before it dies is a far better investment. Far better is to have the shades of gray insight that cancer lies ahead and act before trouble to reduce the risk for cancer, a choice presented and accepted by Angelina Jolie, who acknowledged her decision in her NY Times op-ed piece. As with others who have been provided the ability to discern the shades of gray in our personal health and employ preventive surgery or a change in lifestyle to reduce the chances for cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, Jolie's Choice is a glimpse of what happens when we realize we can choose to act while all appears well. Such are the benefits of medical science and genetics research to provide society with shades of gray perspectives on the systems and processes within our bodies.
Think of the advantages to organizations as well, when firefighting is significantly reduced by employing shades of gray perspectives to monitor "good" systems and processes and, instead, the surplus resources can be allocated to countless opportunities to place a stitch in time to save at least nine. Decisions would be needed for which opportunity to pursue next. What a great problem to have.
If you're interested in exploring the limitless implications of improvements in teamwork in industry, government, and education, through better thinking about thinking, we invite you to join with peers at the In2:InThinking Network 2013 Forum in Los Angeles, California, from June 19th through 23rd, on the campus of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). This year, our ever timely focus will be:
"The Art of Reflection: Connect - Inspire - Act"
If you are not able to attend our Weekend Conference
, you are most welcome to attend any of our 18 Pre-Conference sessions
, all free, with the exception of a $40 material fee for one (N - What We're Learning About the Brain). Webcasting is also an option; find details at this link
Register by June 14th (new date) to reserve a residence hall suite at CSUN
Register by Monday, June 17th to attend any of our Pre-Conference sessions
Register by Saturday, June 22nd to attend our Weekend Conference
If you're not ready to register, but are likely to attend, please complete our RSVP Survey to help us with attendee estimates in our planning efforts.
For a glimpse of the excitement we offer, link here for a photo montage from our 2012 Forum. Link here for a complete list of our previous 2013 Forum UPDATES.
In2:InThinking Network 2013 Forum Team